Chris Beck spent two decades as a Navy Seal, fought in Iraq, worked in secret behind enemy lines and saw more death and destruction than most of us could handle. All the while, he harbored a secret: he identified as a woman trapped in a man’s body. After retiring from the Navy Seals (his unit went on to be the one to perform the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound), Chris decided to do something about this: he came out as transgender. Chris is now Kristin, and he has never been happier.
"So many people have said, 'Kris, for the first time in my life I've actually seen you smile,’" she told the BBC.
Growing up in a conservative household and spending the bulk of her adult life in the testosterone dominated world of the Navy Seals, Kristin endured a life of confusion and hardship from harboring her secret.
"People would see snippets of the real me but for the most part nobody really got to know me."
Kristin went through two marriages as Chris, which were doomed from the start.
"I was trying to live three lives," Kristin says. "I had a secret life with my female identity, I had my secret life with the Seal teams and then I had my home life and what I would show my wife and children or parents and friends.”
Since her sex change, Kristin has seen the emotional tenor of her life shift dramatically. Her time as a Navy Seal (all of it under the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy that prohibited members of the military to come out as gay), left her with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from "so much death, so much pain," which she dealt with using "beer, motorcycles, more beer."
Coming out as transgender has eased her PTSD symptoms. "I'm not as angry and I sleep better just because I'm happier," she says.
The Navy Seals Kristin fought with for years have been confused but supportive:
"My Seal team brothers said, 'you stood the watch in the field for 20 years and you did a great job. I don't understand it one bit but I support you 100% and I hope I can learn more about this and see you at the next reunion.'"
Kristin co-authored a book on her time as a Navy Seal and coming out as transgendered titled Warrior Princess: A US Navy Seal's Journey to Coming Out Transgender.