ST. PETERSBURG — She came to the door of the gray, two-story home in a knee-length skirt and light blouse. Her dark hair was straight and parted on the side. It hung below her shoulders. She wore sandals, and her toenails were painted strawberry red.
Her name is Kristin Beck. She is 45.
Until not so along ago, people knew her as someone else: Chris Beck, a decorated Navy SEAL with a Grizzly Adams beard who, amid a 20-year career, survived seven combat deployments.
Beck, who has lived in St. Petersburg for four years, retired in 2011 and soon began her transition into womanhood. She teamed with a Georgetown University adjunct associate professor of psychiatry to tell her story in a self-published book released last weekend: Warrior Princess: A U.S. Navy SEAL's Journey to Coming Out Transgender.
"I am overjoyed that people of all walks of life are reading it and attempting to understand our community," Beck said Thursday in a text message to the Tampa Bay Times. "We are all humans and we all deserve dignity and respect, but most of all happiness."
Beck has declined interview requests that have poured in from around the world, but she appeared Thursday night on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360.
Several chapters of the book focus on her father, whom she says paddled her for almost any reason and seldom showed love. She longed to be her sister and, even as a child, secretly wore female clothing.
Beck also acknowledges going through a pair of divorces and fathering two boys.
"He loves his children," it reads, "although he's ashamed that in serving his country nonstop for 20 years as a Navy SEAL, and in his wish to avoid dealing with his own issues, he missed most of his sons' lives."
Warrior Princess, only available online, is at times a challenging read. Typos and grammatical errors appear throughout. Some sections read like the diary of a soldier, others seem as if they were taken from a therapist's notebook.
But Beck makes clear that the book has a primary purpose: to destigmatize the choice she's made and that of others like her so, hopefully, the community's high suicide rate will decline.
"It took great courage in the last years to decide to live authentically and become Kristin: the woman who so needed to live," the book's preface reads. "It also took great courage to share what's in this book — to put a very personal struggle out to the public, hopefully to help others come to a place of love and acceptance. It's so easy to judge and condemn, especially without at least trying to understand."