A former Navy SEAL who became a woman after leaving the military says some of America’s biggest patriots are the transgender population.
“We value our liberties because we know what it means not to have them,” says Kristin Beck, 51, now a farmer living in Maryland. Beck spoke to PEOPLE shortly after learning that President Donald Trump had tweeted a new policy banning transgender persons from serving in the military.
Beck enlisted in the Navy as Christopher and eventually joined the SEALs, serving with the revered counter-terror Naval Special Warfare Group (DEVGRU), otherwise known as SEAL Team 6. She served as part of seven combat deployments and received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart (for being wounded in action).
During Beck’s time in the Navy, she never told fellow soldiers about identifying as a woman. She didn’t share that she had gravitated toward girls’ clothing and toys since childhood.
Only after leaving the Navy in 2011 did Beck start wearing women’s clothes and stop using the name Christopher. She became Kristin, and soon started taking hormone therapy to transition to female.
Beck says she initially viewed Trump’s tweets as a chain-of-command issue.
“I’m not sure he totally understands how the president interacts with the Defense Department,” Beck says. “There’s a whole process they go through, and this isn’t it. What he did in one series of tweets is, he gave directives, but no timelines, no execution.”
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“You’re dismissing people who are on active duty, who have a lot of experience and are valuable,” Beck tells PEOPLE. “You’re talking about linguists, senior level officers, people with a lot of expertise.”
Military personnel departments would have to scramble, Beck indicates.
“Are you going to pull them out of units all at once? This creates problems for the units,” Beck says. “There’s no timeline.”
The tweets also raise the question of personal liberties, Beck says.
“When I go into the Pentagon, I ask generals, ‘Who is the Statue of Liberty holding that torch for?’ “
“Is it just for the president?” Beck asks. “Congress? No, it’s for everyone, even people in prison. And as a transgender person, I have the same liberties as everyone else in the country.”
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And long before Trump’s latest social media campaign, Beck says the Pentagon and its branches have been studying the inclusion of transgender service members.
For now, the official policy allowing transgender people to serve remains unchanged.
“This was a couple of words in a tweet,” Beck says. “There is no guidance, no timelines — boom.”
Adds the patriotic former SEAL: “The President created way more questions than answers.”