On Wednesday, President Trump announced that the military is reversing the "pro-transgender" policy implemented by President Obama in 2016 and will no longer "accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity." In response, transgender former Navy SEAL Kristin Beck, formerly Chris Beck, challenged Trump to "tell me I'm not worthy."
"Let's meet face to face and you tell me I'm not worthy," said Beck, who was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Meritorious Service Medal after serving in Afghanistan and Iraq with the revered SEAL Team 6.
"Being transgender doesn't affect anyone else," Beck told Business Insider. "I defended for Republicans. I defended for Democrats. I defended for everyone."
What made Trump's announcement particularly galling, Beck told CNN, was his "disrespectful" decision to deliver it via Twitter.
On Wednesday, Trump announced that after consultation with military leadership, the U.S. government has decided against allowing transgenders to serve, citing "the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail." Here's the full announcement (formatting adjusted):
After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.
While serving, Chris Beck kept his self-identification as a female secret, thus not seeking medical aid from the military, as had begun to be offered to transgenders by the Obama administration in October 2016. The massive policy shift that was begun under Obama beginning in July 2016 included the military providing the medical services required for "transitioning," which can require hormone therapy, sex reassignment surgery, and psychological counseling.
While Beck clearly disagreed with the Trump administration's return to the long-standing "transgender ban," other veterans have spoken out in support of it, including wounded Iraq veteran J.R. Salzman, who posted a strong statement defending the policy. "Serving in the military is a privilege not a right. And it is sure as hell not a social experiment," wrote Salzman. "War is no place for people who are mentally, emotionally, or physically confused or in turmoil," he added.
Studies have consistently found severe psychological issues associated with gender dysphoria. A 2016 study found that among military veterans identifying as transgender, "90% have at least one mental health diagnosis, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression, and nearly 50% had a hospitalization after a suicide attempt or suicidal thoughts." An extensive 2011 study by the Karolinska Institute found that sex reassignment surgery rather than helping transgender individuals, resulted in worse psychological issues down the road. The study found that ten years after surgery, their "suicide mortality rose almost 20-fold above the comparable nontransgender population."
A survey of active duty troops published in January by the Military Times found that 41% found the new Obama pro-transgender policies "hurtful" to military readiness, while just 12% found it "helpful."
Though Beck's position on transgenders in the military is certainly debatable, what isn't is his heroism during his 20-year career in the military, as the following excerpt from a GQ profile highlights:
Over the course of his 20-year career, Chris would serve in the Balkans during the civil war there. He would serve during the first Gulf War; fight pirates across the Horn of Africa; drive into Iraq in 2003 ahead of the invasion. He would spend years on small firebases in Afghanistan, snatching Taliban leaders; operate alone in the tribal belt along the Pakistan border, wearing a long beard and Pashtun garb, convening with Taliban agents and tribal warlords. Though it’s certain he’s killed people, I’m not privy to the details, because I know that to ask such questions is to reveal something truly base in myself. But I know Chris would be awarded the Bronze Star with valor, the Purple Heart, the Meritorious Service Medal, and about 50 other ribbons and medals. He would dislocate a shoulder, shatter a kneecap, be hit by a rocket-propelled grenade on his fortieth birthday, break two vertebrae in his back on a boat near Somalia and complete the mission anyway, and fly home sleeping among the flag-draped coffins of 19 of his brothers.