Kristin Beck worries about the safety of other transgender women, but not so much for herself.
“Once a week, one time per week a transgender woman is killed,” says Beck — formerly named Christopher — a tough, retired Navy SEAL who still battle trains former co-workers. “Between 50 and 60 women are killed per year for not being Barbie. Because we’re not Barbie, we’re allowed to be killed? And nobody really cares. And that’s something that needs to stop. They don’t kill Barbies. They kill girls like me.”
Beck, who for years risked her life fighting foes like the Taliban, is on a new mission: raising awareness for men and women whose birth bodies don’t match their gender identities.
“I just moved very recently to the Washington, D.C., area, so I could be closer to the Capitol, closer to Congress, to continue my advocacy work for equality, for transgender equality,” said Beck, who relocated from her home in Tampa. “Civil rights activist, that’s my new title.”
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Beck, 48, has another new title: TV star. Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story about her former life, transition and new start airs at 9 p.m. Thursday on CNN.
Even as a child, Beck knew something was different: Young Christopher secretly dressed as a girl when the rest of the family wasn’t home.
“I never had a label because I never saw it,” says Beck, who is divorced with two sons. “I thought I was the only person in the world who ever did this. I was alone. That’s common among transgender people. You just think you’re all by yourself, there’s nobody out there who would ever identify with me. Nobody would ever love me. I’m not worthy because I’m a frickin’ weirdo.”
Beck is perhaps the least politically correct LGBT politician in Washington. And she doesn’t care.
“I’m Kristin Beck every day. I’m not flamboyant. I try not to be too loud. I’m just a regular person,” she says, frustrated that the media fixates on beautiful transgender women like actress Laverne Cox, who in May appeared on the cover of Time.
“I’m proud, it’s awesome,” Beck says. “I love everything Laverne is doing. But it’s still not a regular person. It’s not the girl from West Virginia who dresses like she’s driving a bulldozer. A trans girl who’s driving a bulldozer is not being represented. What you’re representing is that Barbie mentality that we all need to fit a certain image, and everyone else doesn’t count.”
Beck says she’s anything but Barbie.
“Try to walk around the airport and not have everyone looking at you. Try to get punched in the back of the head when you’re walking down the street,” Beck says. “The Barbie models, they don’t have to worry about that kind of stuff. They’re Barbies. Everybody loves Barbie.”
Sandrine Orabona, co-director of Lady Valor, greatly admires Beck.
“She could have lived a private life. The fact that she’s choosing to be in the spotlight or out there, that’s her personal choice because she feels like she fought for the ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Then she looks at what’s going on, and she feels she still has to do that,” says Orabona, who grew up in Coral Gables and graduated from University of Miami’s film school in 1997. “She operates with grace … and she’s made a career of diplomacy, not just in Washington but in the middle of a dusty desert in Afghanistan.”