After President Donald Trump took to Twitter last week to announce a militarywide ban on transgender personnel, one former Navy SEAL lobbed a warning at the White House.
“You just smacked the hornet’s nest with a baseball bat, and there’s going to be a lot of people who are going to start to come out of the woodwork,” Kristin Beck, a transgender war veteran and Purple Heart recipient, said in the latest episode of “Women Rule.”
Beck, whose past deployments included tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, expressed deeper disappointment in Trump, saying that his ban showed “hate” and “bigotry” toward those serving in the armed forces.
“They’re a soldier, they’re serving their country. Treat them with dignity and respect just like you would want to be treated yourself,” she said. “It’s not very difficult.”
Despite Trump’s tweets, the Defense Department has yet to act on the ban. And just last week, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, told top military officers that there would be “no modifications” to the military’s transgender policy.
Still, Beck sees it as a potential flashpoint in the 2018 midterm elections.
“If this goes through and these people — all of my friends, brothers and sisters — if they end up getting kicked out or it turns into something of the worst-case scenarios, it’s going to be a fight,” she said.
In the wide-ranging “Women Rule” interview, Beck also relayed stories of her more than 20 years as a Navy SEAL — and how she hid her transgender identity until after her retirement from combat.
“I wasn’t male or female. I wasn’t anything,” the veteran told POLITICO’s Luiza Savage about her time in the armed forces. “I was just a SEAL.”
Read below for highlights of the podcast:
2:00 Beck tells the story of how she found out about Trump’s tweet banning transgender individuals from serving in the armed forces.
“This was just out of the blue,” Beck tells “Women Rule.” “I was just so disappointed in the leadership — at any leader that would just come out like that and just slam and close that door to so many people.”
6:00 The war veteran discusses the transgender community’s response to the ban and what it could mean for the 2018 midterm elections.
“If we can achieve this one goal for open service for the military, this would be huge for the entire community. And I think, really, for all marginalized Americans,” Beck says. “This is the fight.”
She also weighs in on the health care costs of transgender officers and lays out the “worst-case scenarios” of what will happen to those military members.
10:00 Beck discusses her motivations for being in the Navy SEALs and what being a SEAL had to do with her transgender identity.
“If I’m in a uniform and my hair is cut … and I’m marching and I’m doing all this stuff, I’m able to put aside any feelings about myself,” she says. “I was a SEAL, that’s all. So, everything else went away. I wasn’t male or female. I wasn’t anything. I was just a SEAL.”
15:00 A former SEAL Team 6 member, Beck talks about feeling vulnerable walking down the street after she transitioned.
“You automatically are afraid something’s going to happen because there is a strange aggression,” she says. “I know that I was treated differently from Day One, and especially because — I mean, I was looking like a dude in a dress.”
She also relays how her fellow SEALs reacted to her transgender identity.
20:00 Beck weighs in on women serving in combat roles.
“I’m in favor of the door to the military to be wide open,” she says. “Come in and sign up. We’re going to give you the tests. We’re going to test you physically and mentally, and then that door is wide open and you pass the tests, come on in.”
25:00 The war veteran responds to one common refrain in defense of Trump’s ban — the assertion that “the military shouldn’t be the place for doing social experiments.”
“If you take a room and it’s a room this size,” she says, “and grab a guy from New York, a guy from Texas, somebody from California — somebody from all over the country, all different walks of life, different races, different religions — and stick them in that one room and they can live there with their hair buzzed off and get along and do these jobs, isn’t that a little bit of a social experiment?”
30:00 Beck explains how she came out publicly as transgender in 2013 — while she was working as a contract employee at the Pentagon.
“It was like a breaking point,” she says, “where I was just like, ‘I’m retired, and I fought for happiness, I fought for liberty, and I don’t live it.’”