Film & Video
2 min

Kristin Beck’s big purple heart

Coming out as a trans woman in the Navy at the Human Rights Watch Film Fest

Kristin Beck

Kristin Beck says the process of coming out as trans was more challenging physically and emotionally than any mission she performed during her service with the Navy.

Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story, directed by Sandrine Orabona and Mark Herzog, details Beck’s illustrious career as a Navy SEAL, her retirement and subsequent transition and coming out as a trans woman. The film is set to close the 12th annual Human Rights Watch Film Festival — a festival that programs eight documentaries about gender identity, women’s rights and other human rights issues.

Beck is a decorated Navy SEAL who served for 20 years and 13 deployments, including combats in Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia. By the time she retired in 2011, she had a Purple Heart and was participating in briefings at the Pentagon. In 2013, Beck came out as trans, first by posting a photo of herself on LinkedIn, and more publicly by appearing on Anderson Cooper 360Lady Valor went into production just months after Beck came out.

The reactions from her former colleagues when she came out also took her by surprise.

“I was very surprised at both the support and the negativity. Much of the team supported me right away, because they know me and understand that my new journey is just part of me. They understand that freedom and equality is what we defend and fight for as SEALs,” Beck says. “A few teammates turned their backs on me and totally cut me out. I was surprised by a few of them as they should have understood that my new fight for freedom was the same as when I was a SEAL.”

Magali Simard, a programmer for the Human Rights Watch Film Festival and TIFF, says Lady Valor is an important film for audiences to see and is a perfect fit for the festival’s mandate. Simard also applauds Beck’s recent announcement that she intends to run for congress in Maryland.

“We select films that often tackle very difficult subjects, yet what transpires through many of them is the human need to go on and to live as one should: freely. And in this case, openly too,” Simard says. “Ultimately, she is a fully realized person despite the difficulty to achieve this, and the film is very intimate in its treatment of it. The cultural and socio-political implications are numerous, and learning recently of Kristin’s run for congress in Maryland is yet another move to applaud.