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A former Navy SEAL lives openly as her authentic, transgender self

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‘Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story’
by Megan Smith

MV5BMTUyNDQ3NjcxMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODkyMjQ0MTE@._V1_SX214_AL_Kristin Beck has braved unimaginable situations. She’s a decorated retired Navy SEAL who served 13 deployments—most of which were voluntary—in numerous countries. Now, she braves a new journey into the unknown—living openly as a transgender woman.

In 2013, Beck came out publicly during an exclusive interview on Anderson Cooper 360. Since then, she’s been inundated with e-mails of support, including some from transgender viewers sharing similar stories. She also receives a massive a

mount of hate mail, she says, which sometimes hurts worse than the numerous injuries she acquired during her time in the service. Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story, directed by Sandrine Orabona and Mark Herzog, takes viewers along for the ride (literally) as Beck travels the country in her RV motor home to visit family, attend speaking engagements, and to further her self-discovery.

Her feelings of being different started at a young age, Beck explains in the film. She would fake being sick in order to stay home from school to paint her fingernails and dress up inher sisters’ clothes—her own personal “vacation,” she says.

2 Chris
Photo of Chris courtesy of Kristin Beck.

Intimate interviews with Beck’s father, brother, and youngest sister at their family home in small-town New York reveal varying levels of understanding and support for Beck’s transition. While her youngest sister is very supportive, even helping Beck manage her e-mails and calendar, her brother and father seem to be having a more difficult time with the change. However, their support is apparent, despite things like Beck’s father misgendering her by using incorrect pronouns throughout most of the film. “We’re brothers, and I never saw a girl in him,” Beck’s brother says. “She’s the same, just dresses different.”

Beck’s mother and two other sisters declined to be a part of the film. As Beck says, her mother sees her transgender identity as “just a phase.” We also learn that Beck is divorced, and has little contact with her ex-wife and two children—something that deeply saddens her.

Her service family, however, has—for the most part—stood behind her. As one of her Navy SEAL friends says, “Once a SEAL, always a SEAL. That sister is my brother.”

But Beck is nothing but understanding when it comes to those who cannot quite grasp her transition. She’s still figuring out what it means to be transgenderas well, she says. For her, hearingothers say, “I don’t understand it, but I support you,” is a great start.

In Lady Valor, Beck exemplifies courage and authenticity—giving new meaning to the American values for which she fought so valiantly during her time in the service: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Available November 11 from Wolfe Video (wolfevideo.com) and CNN Films

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Megan Smith

Megan Smith is the Assistant Editor for OutSmart Magazine.

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