Kristin Beck, a former member of SEAL Team 6 who is now a transgender woman, says the decision by President Donald Trump to ban transgender people from serving in the military would cost more in lawsuits than the savings Trump touted in medical and other costs.
Beck insists that transgender personnel in uniform now pose neither a distraction nor a money problem.
"It is a matter of leadership," said Beck, 51, who earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for valor during 20 years of service. She lived in St. Petersburg and served at U.S. Special Operations Command, headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.
"As a leader, I could take a Muslim and a bible-thumping Christian and have them work together with no problems. They would serve with honor together and do a great job."
The president's announcement via a Wednesday morning tweet, at a time when Defense Secretary James Mattis still had the issue under review, "is a terrible decision," said Beck, who was recently in St. Petersburg to attend a screening of a documentary of her life and an event at the Veterans Art Center of Tampa Bay.
The surprise announcement disrupted ongoing efforts in the military to integrate transgender people, Beck said.
"There was a lot of work to try and make this happen," she said. "A lot of good leaders were working to make sure there was no effect to morale or readiness or combat effectiveness."
Beck, now living in Maryland, said she hopes Trump will allow transgender personnel in uniform to continue serving.
If not, she said, the decision that transgender people have no place in the military will be spark lawsuits by those already serving.
"You are talking about potentially billions of dollars," Beck said, pointing out that individuals might sue for the money they would have earned while in uniform plus funds earned in retirement. "That is a waste of money."
Beck said concerns about transgender people serving never really came up while she was in unform.
"It didn't become an issue until I came out in 2013."
Contact Howard Altman at [email protected] or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman.