When you think of a transgender person, you think of a man who's always been on the girly side, who loves dresses and makeup and the softer side of life. You definitely do not think of a bad-ass, macho, male Navy SEAL. But a new biography, Warrior Princess, is blowing that stereotype out of the water. Former U.S. Navy SEAL Kristen Beck is transgender. After serving 20 years as a man in one of the toughest jobs out there, she decided to come out as a woman. Chris became Kristen. Now retired from the SEALs, she's undergoing hormone therapy and preparing for gender reassignment surgery.
This was not something Kristen discovered about herself after she retired, either. Her biographer Anne Speckhard says, "Chris really wanted to be a girl and felt that she was a girl and consolidated that identity very early on in childhood." So Kristen had felt that she was female for a long time. And yet, she pursued this extremely masculine career that goes way beyond just a job and is more a way of life. Her colleagues always considered her a "guy's guy."
But for Kristen, it wasn't so much that she was playing a guy, as just turning off her female side and going asexual. Her biography says:
For years Chris had turned off his sexuality like a light switch and lived as a warrior, consumed with the battle -- living basically asexual. For Chris the other SEALs were brothers and in the man's man warrior lifestyle, even if he had wanted to entertain sexual thoughts, there really was never any time to be thinking too much about sexuality.
Still, I think Chris/Kristine's story forces us to totally reconsider what makes a man a man, and what makes a woman a woman. What does it mean to Kristen to feel like a woman on the inside? I think the answer is different for everyone. Kristen has grown out her hair and wears dresses now. But I bet she still enjoys feeling strong and powerful. We may not be able to relate to Kristen's whole story, but I think it broadens our ideas of what being a woman is all about.
What do you think is "essential" to identifying with one gender or the other?
Image via Amazon Books