Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Transgender former Navy SEAL returns to St. Pete for documentary, veterans art reception

For Kristin Beck, who is returning to St. Petersburg this weekend to take part in St. Pete Pride and events at the Veterans Art Center of Tampa Bay, life has brought a series of huge changes.

The former member of SEAL Team 6 who earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for valor during 20 years of service is now a transgender woman and no longer in uniform. After serving at U.S. Special Operations Command, Beck — a onetime St. Petersburg resident — entered politics, mounting an unsuccessful challenge last year to U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland. And two years ago she remarried, to a woman in the Air Force.

But some things have remained the same.

Toward the end of her military career, Beck worked at the Pentagon's Rapid Reaction Technology Office as a conduit between operators and the people who design weapons systems and other special operations tools of the trade. During her time with the SEALs, she invented a mission-planning tool still being used by SOCom.

As a civilian, she is still working as a consultant on systems like plasma weapons and underwater drones.

"People call me for advice," Beck said. "I come into a company, consult for a week or two, they suck my brain dry and leave me alone."

Still, the transition to life as Kristin hasn't been easy, she said. Calls and emails to the Pentagon go unanswered. There are death threats and stalkers. And that's on top of being on a jihadi hit list thanks to her many deployments to combat zones.

Beck said she is concerned that Defense Secretary James Mattis will decide not to allow transgender people to serve in the military and may even rescind the actions taken by President Barack Obama to allow gays to openly serve.

Efforts to talk to the Trump administration about the issue have been unsuccessful, Beck said.

"I got nothing back," she said. "Crickets."

The foray into politics left much to be desired, said Beck, who said the run for Congress would be her last such effort. Instead, she wants to continue consulting and, more importantly, working to help other veterans.

Which brings her back to St. Petersburg.

In addition to a showing of a documentary about her called Lady Valor: The Kristin Story, she will be the star attraction at an artist reception and book signing at the Veterans Art Center Tampa Bay gallery.

An artist in her own right working with oils and acrylics — "I paint a lot of angry warrior stuff" — Beck said the center helps veterans transition into civilian society.

"The reason I am coming down here is for the veterans art center," she said. "It is a really big deal. Anything you can do, write in a journal, paint, do pottery, break glass and glue it back together, is better than sitting around your house."

Veteran suicides remain an epidemic, Beck said, which spurs her continued interest.

"You do that many deployments, see that much stuff, have that many friends die on the battlefield, it is not easy to forget," she said.

Despite all the changes, Beck said she is "100 percent the same person" she always was.

"Odin hung himself from the Great Tree for nine days to gain wisdom,'' she said. "I walk this journey searching for the same spiritual wisdom."

There will be a reception tonight hosted by the veterans arts center at the FreeFall Theater, 6099 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg, from 6 to 7 p.m., followed by a screening of the documentary.

The artist reception and book signing takes place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Veterans Art Center Tampa Bay Gallery, Gaslight Square, 6798 Crosswinds Drive N, St. Petersburg.

Both events are free. For more information, contact Scott Macksam at (813) 504-3092 or email [email protected]

Contact Howard Altman at [email protected] or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman.

Transgender former Navy SEAL returns to St. Pete for documentary, veterans art reception 06/23/17 [Last modified: Thursday, June 22, 2017 9:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Florida education news: Free speech, Schools of Hope, student voices and more


    FREE SPEECH: The University of Florida reluctantly hosts white nationalist activist Richard Spencer for a rally officials are encouraging students to ignore. Campus president Kent Fuchs, who tried to prevent the activity from taking place, Troopers prepare for Richard Spencer's speech at the University of Florida. Gov. Rick Scott has declared a State of Emergency for Alachua County ahead of the event.

  2. How old is too old to go trick-or-treating on Halloween?

    Human Interest

    Brandi Eatman guesses the boy was at least 15 years old.

     Costume accessories at House of Make Believe at 1055 N Hercules Ave. in Clearwater. [CHERIE DIEZ | Times]
  3. Report: West Pasco channel dredges could cost up to $13.5 million

    Local Government

    NEW PORT RICHEY — The cost of dredging a dozen coastal canals serving seven west Pasco communities could reach nearly $13.5 million, according to a consultant's report.

    WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times
 A consultant recommends that Pasco County consider a dozen canal dredging projects in west Pasco's coastal communities at a cost that could reach nearly $13.5 million. [WILL VRAGOVIC, Times 2011]
  4. Records show Hernando Beach fire chiefs defrauded taxpayers of thousands

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The three former chiefs of the defunct Hernando Beach Volunteer Fire Department, arrested in September, are collectively accused of defrauding the taxpayers of Hernando Beach, Aripeka and Forest Glenn of tens of thousands of dollars.

    David Freda, a former Hernando Beach fire chief, has been charged with organized fraud. He recently was fired as Brooksville’s fire chief.
  5. Money dries up, bringing questions and new leadership to Tampa nonprofit


    TAMPA — A new leader has been installed at one of East Tampa's leading nonprofit agencies following reports that money is going out faster than it's coming out.

    Tampa Hillsborough Action Plan founder James Hammond, left, attended an awards ceremony in February with Jeanette Bradley, right, who recently wasd removed as chief executive of the charity Hammond founded, the Tampa Hillsborough Action Plan. The group was honored for innovation at the WEDU Be More Unstoppable awards. [AMY SCHERZER | Times]