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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
From Chris to Kristin; A Navy SEAL's Secret
Aired June 15, 2013 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Anderson Cooper.
In the hour ahead, you're going to meet somebody who has demonstrated bravery time and time again as a U.S. Navy SEAL, a person who served this country with great strength and honor for 20 years, and is now showing another kind of strength, living for the first time as the woman she has always felt she's been.
This is her story, from "Chris to Kristin: A Navy SEAL's Secret."
COOPER (voice-over): Christopher Todd Beck enlisted with the military in 1990, with the dream of joining the U.S. Navy SEALs, the elite unit with the reputation for being one of the toughest, the fittest and most secretive forces in the U.S. military.
Beck realized that dream, serving for 20 years with the SEALs in some of the most dangerous battlegrounds around the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan. A former Navy SEAL who knew Beck says he had a stellar reputation among his comrades.
By the time he retired from service in 2011, Beck had a long list of medals and commendations, including the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. But for 20 years, while Beck was fighting for his country, he was also fighting an inner battle, a battle over his gender identity.
Chris Beck wanted to live his life openly and honestly as a woman, which is what he started doing after he retired in 2011. Chris Beck is now Kristin Beck and lives her life openly and honestly as a woman. She's currently on hormone replacement therapy and feels like she's becoming the person she was always meant to be.
It's been a long journey for Kristin to get to this point. She's written a book about her experience called "Warrior Princess," hoping to help others. The book comes nearly two years after the Department of Defense repealed its don't ask, don't tell policy, allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, but gender identity has nothing to do with sexuality.
Transgender men and women are still banned from service. The 20-year decorated combat veteran would not be allowed to serve in the military as she lives her life today.
(on camera): How far back have you felt like this?
KRISTIN BECK, FORMER U.S. NAVY SEAL: I would say since grade school.
I remember in third grade especially that I would look over toward my sisters and I would always want to be my older sister, Heather. She was kind of like that shining example, and it was always like, I wish so much that I was more like that.
And it was always just something deep inside of me that just I felt that way.
COOPER: A lot of people don't understand that gender is different than sexuality. What was the feeling? Even as a child, what was the feeling?
BECK: That's -- it's so hard to explain.
And I think that's why there's still so much controversy, even within the medical -- medical doctors and everybody else and psychologists. And everybody has -- there's always like this debate. And it's always very gray. It's very odd.
It's a chemical makeup within ourselves that actually make the X and the Y and everything else and how it breaks apart, but -- and then that produces a man or woman. And these chemicals can be mixed in an untold, I infinite amount of ways.
And I hate to speak for all transgender, but I'm speaking for myself as transgender, but I think a lot of other people feel the same way. It's just something that you can't say. It's in my brain, it's my heart, it's my soul, it's in something within me.
COOPER: But even in third grade, it's something you felt?
BECK: Yes, definitely.
COOPER: Even -- did you know what it...
BECK: I didn't know what it was. I could never name it.
I couldn't -- I didn't even know it was -- what do you say, cross- dresser, transgender, transsexual? There are so many other terms that we have grown through. And it's so misunderstood. I think out of the entire community, the LBGT community, that is so open and so misunderstood.
And we're growing to a point when people are starting to understand. But it's still -- being transgender is still such a misunderstood thing. And I think it's difficult for even us to explain it. And I think that's why my book, "Warrior Princess," kind of starts talking about some of the anguish and how far it goes back.
COOPER: As a teenager, did you did these feelings continue?
BECK: Yes. It's like when I'm sitting with a bunch of guys and we're just hanging out. And they see a girl walking. We're in a mall and she's walking by. And they're all whistling and they're saying, wow, she looks awesome. And that -- I'm going, yes, she's awesome. But I'm looking at her -- she looks awesome because I'm looking at her hair or makeup or how she looks, or I want to wear her shoes.
And it's like, I wish I could be her. And so it always like every thought I have is not what I would say the -- quote -- "man" would think, but I'm still in this -- I was stuck in that body for so long.
So I started being able to disguise it and just being like, OK, well, if I say something like, wow, she has really cool earrings, and I'm sitting around with a bunch of guys in the mall, then I get beat up. So for a long time, it was just something that you always had to like suppress and put in that bottle. And I got very good at bottling it up.
COOPER: That's got to be incredibly difficult and painful.
It's -- you grow up with it in -- for so long. And you just get so used to just living through that despair, that -- it's an anguish that you just keep holding inside you. And I know that it's a similar story that we all have, that you hold onto it and you don't do it for a year.
And you're -- when you're looking at the girls and you whistle like all the other guys and you're trying to do that, and I'm riding around on my motorcycles. But then, about a year into it, after being in that disguise, then you're kind of like, oh -- it just breaks out.
Then I have to go run out to Victoria's Secret and buy something, and I wear it for a couple of days and kind of like decompress and back, oh -- it's like that.
COOPER: I don't think most people can imagine what it's like to feel like you are in disguise, to feel like you are not in the body you were meant to be in, that you're not the gender you're meant to be.
Do you feel that way always? You would feel like that all the time, constantly?
BECK: It is a constant.
But, as you suppress it and as you bottle it up, it's not like on the surface. So maybe I can put it back a few different layers, so it's not like you would never notice it because I can push it so deep. But then it does kind of like -- it gnaws at you. So, it's always there.
But it's always -- it's always there. But you just push it back.
COOPER: It's got to take a toll.
BECK: It takes a huge toll. It destroys a lot of people. And it's that turmoil and anguish. And I know that there's a lot of my friends have that, you know, the same problem. And they're always struggling with it and trying to balance it, and that it destroys marriages, it destroys families and your job, because you're dealing with it so much that, when you're in that disguise sometimes, maybe it spurts out as anger or something else.
You know, it's not -- you have that bottle, and it's in there so tight.
COOPER: How would you let off steam, let off pressure? You said you would go to sometimes Victoria's Secret?
BECK: Yes. I would go to Victoria's Secret and buy something because it's easy, because I could say, yes, close to Valentine's Day was the best day to buy stuff at Victoria's Secret, because there's a lot of guys there buying stuff for their girlfriends.
So, you go and say you have a girlfriend. And she's about -- well, she's about my height and she weighs a little bit less than me, maybe like 10 pounds less. And so you give them dimensions and they bring the clothes. And they're ladies and they are always so polite.
And that was the best thing about Victoria's Secret, because a lot of guys go in there and buy -- buy stuff for their girlfriends. So it's not totally uncommon. So, I would go buy a couple things and then bring it home and wear it. And then you have to purge, because you can't have anything laying around or anything even close. So you hide a few things.
COOPER: What do you mean purge?
BECK: It's -- you buy a lot of stuff and you have like these really cool shoes or this really good stuff that makes you feel, you know, more closer to how you would like to feel, closer to that, you know, that spark, that spirit.
And you feel good about yourself. But then you can't expose yourself or you can't take the chance that anybody else would ever see this, or you can't let it be there too much because then you get too comfortable with it and then it spills out. So you have to get rid of everything.
COOPER: Someone might find it.
BECK: Yes. Or you get too comfortable with that, and you fall into that.
COOPER: You let down your guard.
BECK: You let down your guard.
So the purge is something that probably every cross-dresser and transgender and everybody else, you have to like -- it's like a reset point where, OK, I'm not doing this ever again. And you're like beating yourself up so bad, I can't do this anymore. Society has beaten us down so much for so many thousands of years. And I think it's the same similar with the LBGT community, that it's always been such a suppressed and such a stigma attached to that, which doesn't always make any sense. It's like it's in nature. It's so deep within you that we have been told not to.
I wanted to be a SEAL because it was like the toughest of the tough.
Girls night out. Every time I walk out my front door, it's a challenge. It's a mission.
BECK: I am Senior Chief Chris Beck, currently in Afghanistan.
COOPER (voice-over): This is Chris Beck in June of 2010, shortly before he retired from the military, shortly before his life changed dramatically.
Chris had served in some of the most dangerous combat zones in the world with one of the toughest units in the U.S. military, the Navy SEALs. Beck enlisted in 1990. SEALs who knew him say he quickly developed a reputation as a good comrade and a fearless warrior.
The tough training for SEALs is legendary, but Beck excelled. That's him taking down a target in hand-to-hand combat, diving underwater to practice approaching ships from below. That's him doing a backflip during parachute training.
Commander Steve Rutherford knew Beck when they were both with the Navy SEALs.
CMDR. STEVE RUTHERFORD, FORMER NAVY SEAL: He had a reputation for doing the most dangerous and most challenging things, to being the furthest out in the field that you could go, operating in very small units at a time.
COOPER: For 20 years, Beck served with the SEALs all over the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan. One of his primary jobs, surveillance -- he grew a thick beard in order to blend in with the population, earning him the nickname the "Caveman."
RUTHERFORD: He has done the very -- the hardest jobs. He's volunteered for the hardest assignments. All of the jobs that nobody else wanted to do, he volunteered for the most difficult missions.
BECK: On, off, it's really easy, on off. Don't mess with this one right here, this one right here on the bottom and this one, because this is the actual sight itself. So, be careful of that. And then you have got a brightness control.
COOPER: Beck worked his way up to became a senior chief on his SEAL team.
BECK: So, you guys can load as many mags as you want and shoot to your heart's content. But it's up to you to load your mags and take care of that.
COOPER: But Chris Beck kept a secret from his fellow SEALs, one he felt he couldn't share even among the men he served with and fought with, men he called his brothers.
Former Navy SEAL Brandon Webb says the SEALS are a tight-knight community where reputation means everything.
BRANDON WEBB, FORMER NAVY SEAL: Being in the SEALs, it's an alpha male world. And here you have one of the most -- toughest, male- dominated units in the military, and someone -- it takes a lot of guts for someone like Kristin to come out with this.
COOPER: Chris Beck, now Kristin Beck, retired from service in 2011 and is living her life openly as a woman. Her Navy SEAL past is still a part of her, her battle scars testament to her dedication in the field.
BECK: I'm 80 percent disabled. I fell off a ship. We were trying to board it. I fell off the ladder from about 18 feet up, and I landed on a on the boat down below and cracked a couple of -- I also had an accident where I broke part of my scapula.
I broke this wrist. I have broken a lot of my fingers. I consider myself very lucky. And I put up with all that pain as my payment for my freedoms. So I paid for my freedom to be able to live my life.
COOPER (on camera): Why did you want to be a SEAL?
BECK: That's a tough question.
I wanted to be a SEAL because it was like the toughest of the tough.
And so, for me, having my inside little kernel of me and my femininity, it was like I have heard people say before I escape in hypermasculinity. And I have heard that term thrown around. And it was like, I kind of look back and go, yes, I didn't know what I was doing.
I didn't know the term hypermasculinity. I didn't know anything. But it was like -- it was more of those layers being put on. And that is a huge, thick layer.
COOPER: So there was part of you that felt if you could become a SEAL and be in the toughest of the tough, that feminine side of you would disappear?
BECK: Yes. I could totally make it go away if I could be at the top level and be -- I could -- maybe this would go away. Maybe I could cure myself.
COOPER: You really thought that? (CROSSTALK)
BECK: Yes. And I think that's probably -- it's just the society pressure and family pressure and everything else, as more people -- I tell my sisters and a couple of other people, and it was always like, keep it secret. And, oh, my God, I can't believe you're doing that.
And there's -- I had no role models. I had no one to look up to. And -- you ask that today. I would look around and I would say, name one transgender hero. And some people will say RuPaul. And RuPaul is an amazing person, done a lot of good stuff, but RuPaul is a drag queen.
She's an amazing actress, actor, performer. But I'm not a performer. I want a normal life. I want to be the lady just down the street from you that you would never know was transgender. I'm just the lady down the street. I go shopping. I do this, I do that, and I live my life as a normal woman down the street. I'm not performing. This is my life.
COOPER: So for 20 years as a Navy SEAL, 20 years in the Navy, there was a core of who you were deep down inside, but you had all these disguises layered on top of it?
COOPER: So, no one really knew the real you.
BECK: No one ever met the real me.
COOPER: All the people you served with, as close as you were...
COOPER: You're also in this incredibly secretive community. You're in this incredibly masculine, traditionally thought of as masculine military community, the Navy SEALs. And so that's got to add a whole other layer to it.
BECK: Yes. A huge layer.
So, I always looked at as kind of like that onion. So, I have the skin on the onion, you peel take back and you keep having as many layers of the onion as you can, but then deep down inside the middle of the onion is where my female persona was hidden.
COOPER: Did you like being a SEAL?
BECK: Yes. It's amazing. I mean, can you imagine being in a group of people where life and death is the -- every day, you know, we do it all the time. And your trust and your camaraderie and the tightness of that, it's nothing like anything I have ever seen.
COOPER: There's nothing else like that bond.
BECK: Nothing else like that, I don't think, and especially when we start going to war with these guys and we're bleeding in the same sand or bleeding -- we're going to the jungles over there and fighting in a couple spots, and the places I have been, Bosnia and all over Africa and a few spots in Afghanistan and Iraq and all the other places I fought in these wars, and these different conflicts.
You can never compare that to anything else.
COOPER: And yet you couldn't tell these -- you couldn't tell your brothers, your brothers in arms who you really were.
BECK: No, not at all. It was so deep that I sometimes -- I was scared for 20 years maybe. I don't know. That's the hard thing to explain. But I had to put it -- I had to suppress it so far.
Now, I did it here at the house. When I was off, out, I had weekends. So, on the weekends, I would decompress, because I was away from the stuff, but then there would be six months that we were on a deployment or whatever, and I wouldn't do anything and stayed away from it.
COOPER: It's got to be so -- just sad to think that for 20 years, you have to -- that you have this incredible bond with these people you're fighting with, and you want it to be the closest bond imaginable, and yet you can't really let yourself be yourself.
BECK: It's definitely tough. It's -- we say it's strength and honor. That's one of the things when we shake hands. When we shake hands, we say strength and honor. That's still what I gave true. I gave true brotherhood. I did my best, 150 percent all the time, and I gave strength and honor and my full brotherhood to every military person I ever worked with.
And I feel that if there's any transgender person that is in the military right now, there's a lot of them right now, probably, in the service that are doing the same thing, and you would never know that they are transgender or anything. It's just too bad because they're doing a great job, and nobody even knows it.
COOPER: Do you think some of the people you served with or maybe even people who didn't really know you, but have now heard your story, maybe feel you weren't being honest with -- with the people you were fighting with?
BECK: I have had that. Yes, I have had that actually told to me straight to my face, that I was lying.
I was like, how was I lying? And I said, I'm still doing a job and I'm still doing this.
COOPER: Everybody knows that SEALs are incredibly strong. In my opinion, to do what you're doing now requires a whole different kind of strength.
BECK: I have seen that comment quite a bit. And two of my SEAL team brothers, they said it's a whole different type of courage. And I look at it, and it's not something I look at myself or I say, you know, I'm courageous. I never thought about that way. But there have been a lot of people that say that. And I guess it is. But -- and the only reason I did this a little bit more public than I wanted to originally was pretty much what I wrote in the beginning of the book, was I found that the population in America, the suicide rate is between 1 percent and 2 percent. The transgender suicide rate is between 50 percent and 60 percent.
The teenage transgender, teenagers kids in high school, their suicide rate is just -- it's just like that. Half attempted or were able to follow through with it. The hatred, the prejudice, and the bullying with these kids, they're so young. They even don't know what they're doing, and they're uninformed and they're afraid.
COOPER: What's it like to -- to go outside now as you? Is it -- I imagine part of it's liberating, and there's got to be also fear.
BECK: Yes. Just like I said, I want to be the woman down the block, so I want to represent well. I don't want to go out there and not be good.
That would be disrespectful to all of us. It would be disrespectful to women. It would be disrespectful to the LBGT community for me to go out my front door and not present myself as good as I could.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're going right in the same freaking hole.
BECK: So, I put three in one hole, so the weapon is shooting pretty good.
BECK: Come on.
COOPER (voice-over): It would be an understatement to say that life is a lot different since Chris began living full-time as Kristin.
BECK: All of the stuff that women go through every day.
We wake up. You have to do all your makeup and try to look pretty and presentable. And it's a lot more work than anybody would ever imagine. So, now I'm ready for the day.
I got a lot of dresses and skirts and different things in the last few months or last six months. When I first started shopping, I would go to Victoria's Secret to make believe I was buying things for my girlfriend. And now, because I'm a full-time woman and -- I'm buying things for myself. It's liberating.
And just like any girl in the entire world, I have a pretty good shoe collection. If I have to compare if I like my guns or my shoes better, I would have to say I like my shoes better now.
When you have a really pretty dress on, it empowers you and it gives you that confidence. So my body armor I wear now is a very pretty dress and some of my heels. So it's kind of funny how that changes.
COOPER: The changes she's embraced have her focused more on wardrobe than warfare these days. But her military experience is never far from the surface.
BECK: That's the beauty about this weapon. It's so simple, not a whole lot of moving parts. We got it all back together now. Ready to go.
COOPER: For work, Kristin supports herself with the skills she mastered as a Navy SEAL
BECK: We're driving up the 275 North to go to a shooting range. We're going to do some shoot training with Jim here.
COOPER: She's a paid firearms instructor through a security firm and also trains a local police SWAT team free of charge.
BECK: I just feel that the weapon should be treated with respect and used properly. And then it would actually make a lot more peace in our world because the bad people or criminals know they can't get away with taking advantage of people.
This type of training, I see it as a service. It definitely conservative what I did in the Navy SEALs and what I have done my whole life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. So you got all...
BECK: I'm ready.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're good.
Let's lock and load. Going hot. Still shooting real high. I don't know why you're so high. Let me take a shot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just wondering if it's off. Probably not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, they're going right in the same freaking hole.
BECK: So, I put three in one hole, so the weapon is shooting pretty good. I think we're good. OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Let me try...
BECK: Now you have got to get more accurate, because I just showed you the weapon. It's not the weapon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I know that.
BECK: Perfect. That was good. How does that feel?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It feels great.
BECK: Pretty awesome. That's good shooting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That feels great.
BECK: Going to do it again?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
BECK: Right in the bullseye. So there's the end of our training.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
BECK: Mike, thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been a pleasure. Remember, ladies night is Monday night after 4:00 (INAUDIBLE) for free shooting sports. If you would like to come, more than welcome.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pleasure having you folks.
BECK: That's good.
So we're going to go to the motorcycle shop, and we're going to check in with one of the mechanics that I do a lot of work with and see how the project is going.
COOPER: A long-time motorcycle enthusiast, Kristin built a bike from the ground up, including parts made of old weapons. That exhaust pipe, part of a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.
She ends the day taking us to her favorite bar.
BECK: It's a girls' night out. Girls' night out.
COOPER: Most of the friends she has today knew her as Chris but have stood by her in her new life as Kristin.
BECK: It's just not cool to judge people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love you.
BECK: You're going to make me blush.
COOPER: Just stepping out of the house these days dressed as Kristin is an act of courage.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you nervous?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A little bit?
BECK: There's a lot of prejudice out there. Every time I walk out my front door, it's a challenge. It's a mission. You want to make sure that I represent all of us women in a good way. This is my life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BECK: I passed a few gentlemen and one of them turned around and yelled a very derogatory term and hit me in the back of the head and kind of knocked me out on my feet. I was pretty much right down. I got right down on the ground and all of them started kicking me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Have you had people see you and say you're not a woman?
COOPER: Have you had people say terrible things to you?
BECK: Yes. I've been in the malls, and it's the pointing and snickering and making comments.
I look OK, but I'm definitely not as pretty as a natural woman, somebody who has lived with this her whole life. I'm living with it now inside of me. I'm trying to have it out, and I'm getting better. But I'm still -- it's obvious.
COOPER: Is it something you actually work on, sort of your mannerisms, how you sit?
COOPER: I mean, how do you go from being 20 years a Navy SEAL, the way you would sit as a SEAL to, you know, the way you're sitting right now is as a woman sits?
BECK: I would say to any of the guys out there, if you put a skirt on, you automatically sit like this.
COOPER: Like that. There's not a lot of options.
BECK: But it's something that I probably have to think about a lot more. Let me step back maybe a couple of years after I retired. So after I retired it was...
COOPER: You retired in 2011.
BECK: 2011, yes. So in 2011, I started -- I went out in public a couple of times and I started kind of, you know, going out the front door. Actually, I always went out the side door. But it was -- it was a very scary thing.
COOPER: You went out the side door of your own house?
BECK: Yes, I would go out there and quickly jump in my car and drive. And I'd try to drive from here, because you're as safe as I am in the house, and run to the car, open the car door up and drive away and go to a safe haven. And where is the only safe haven I can go? So I go down to George's Alibi or Flamingo just down the road.
COOPER: Is that a bar?
BECK: A gay bar. It was a gay bar. Because the people there they open up their arms, and say, "I'll tell you what, it's tough." That first time, and I never did makeup before and I had this really ratty wig and it was not very -- not very pretty. But I went down there and it was fun, because one of the drag queens kind of took me by the shoulder, and she was way taller than me. She said, "Hey, your name is Chris, and we really need to help you out."
COOPER: She was giving you makeup advice?
BECK: Yes, you don't do lipstick all over your face like this. So I got a few lessons and I got better, and it was something that -- think about a young girl growing up with her mom, and she's playing with her makeup when she's -- when she's in grade school. All the time I missed, I had to catch up on.
So I'm going through my growing up period and I'm going through my puberty period, trying to cram it all into like a month of sneaking out of my house and running down there and talking to them and learning more little things, looking through magazines and trying to do what I see -- I don't want to disrespect women or my community. So I try to look good.
COOPER: I think about any other Navy SEAL who has served 20 years and retired honorably and, you know, served our country, they walk down the street and were known to be a Navy SEAL, they would immediately get respect. And I'm sure people buy them meals. I'm sure people give them the respect that everybody deserves.
Do you feel like you get the same amount of respect as -- as a Navy SEAL who served 20 years?
BECK: I get the entire opposite. So when I was a SEAL team guy and I had my SEAL team clothing on, whatever that is, or if I had a symbol or a T-shirt on that had a logo or something, walking down the street, it's instant respect. A military man, and holding his chest high and walking good.
But when I put the dress on, now it's like the total opposite. Now it's a disrespect. It's like what is that person doing? That's -- that's gross. It's this, it's that. Then you get the snickering and pointing at. So you automatically go from being the superman into being the lowest of the low. And getting beat up. I got jumped in Tampa. I was walking...
COOPER: You got attacked?
BECK: I got attacked, yes, yes.
COOPER: What happened?
BECK: So I was walking down the sidewalk, and this is not very long ago, six months ago, so it wasn't very long ago. I was looking pretty good. It was after I had a lot of those lessons about not to do my lipstick all over my face. I didn't look bad; I was doing OK.
But as I was walking down the sidewalk, I passed a few gentlemen, and one of them turned around and yelled a very derogatory term and hit me in the back of the head, and kind of knocked me out on my feet. I was pretty much right down, I got right down on the ground, and all of them started kicking me.
Then as I was waking up from, you know, getting hit in the back of the head, I was kind of getting up as they were kicked me. And then they stopped kicking me and they just ran off. So it was tough.
COOPER: That's got to feel terrible, not just the physical attack, but...
COOPER: ... just the lack of respect.
BECK: Yes. It's -- it's the ultimate prejudice against a person is to look at them and because of something their outside appearance is not like you, that you attack.
So they don't know what's inside of me. They have no idea who I am. They don't know what my name is. They see some outer covering. They see a dress. They see that person. And because they see that outside, they attack. What's inside of me, they never consider what's in me. I'm a human being.
Why would you attack another human being because I'm wearing a dress or I have long hair or makeup on? Or I'm white or I'm black or Hispanic or anything? I have an outside, something that's different from you, and you attack. It's the ultimate prejudice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: You faced the worst dangers anybody could imagine during your multiple tours overseas. What scares you now?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Are you happy with the way you are now, the way you appear, the way you feel? Or I mean, do you want to -- are you planning to have surgery? Are you -- are you not sure yet?
BECK: The -- the journey I'm on right now, I just recently came out. I'm starting to live my life as a full female. I live -- this is my life.
COOPER: So 24 hours a day...
BECK: Twenty-four hours a day. We call it living full-time. So I'm full time. I'm on hormone replacement therapy right now. I haven't done any of the cosmetic or anything else. This is naturally me. I've done some hair removal for getting rid of my facial hair. That's pretty much all I've done. So what you're seeing right now is my natural me, and I'm not happy with it.
COOPER: You're not happy with it?
BECK: Not at all. Because when I walked down the street six months ago I got jumped by four guys.
COOPER: So you feel you don't look feminine enough?
BECK: Not enough. I want to go to the shopping mall, and I want to be like women on the street. Like that's my -- just kind of passing.
COOPER: So you want to pass as a woman, not necessarily as a transgender woman?
COOPER: You want to pass as a woman?
BECK: Yes. I want to be as presentable as I can, and I still look at it as a respect thing for myself. So I don't dress like this for anyone else.
COOPER: What are you hoping that this book achieves? Because it seems like you're straddling two worlds that often don't really meet.
COOPER: I mean, the military world, not just the military world, but the SEAL world and, you know, the transgender world, and you're sort of -- it's the first time I've ever heard of -- I mean, I know people who are active service who are transgender or gay or whatever, but to somebody to be so public and open up that kind of dialogue.
BECK: The reason I wrote this book and the reason why I'm doing everything I'm doing right now, all I want to do is try to bring some of these people to understand what a transgender is and that we aren't contagious and we're not dangerous and we're not asking for anything else.
Just like I said, I'm not asking for you to like me or love me or do anything. I just want you to not even tolerate me; I don't care. But don't beat me up and be prejudiced against me. And don't -- don't snicker and point at me. Don't spit on me. Just leave me alone.
COOPER: A lot of people don't understand what transgender is, and you know, gender is different than sexuality. So who you're attracted to has nothing to do with your gender. Do you consider yourself heterosexual? Do you consider yourself gay? Are you attracted to -- are you attracted to men? Which would mean you're heterosexual? Are you attracted to women?
BECK: I'm a transgender individual, and I'm a human being. I'm very attracted to human beings. COOPER: So you don't want to put a label on yourself that way?
BECK: I don't think I can label it. Just like somebody growing up and they start realizing what their life is or what they're doing or how they feel about things, I'm a human being and I'm attracted to humans. I'm attracted to intelligence. I'm attracted to wit and humor and happiness.
COOPER: You must have been so lonely for so long. I know you were married twice.
COOPER: You have two kids. But still, did the people you were married with have any idea of this part of you?
BECK: It's -- that's probably part of the next story.
COOPER: Are you scared now?
BECK: Yes. Yes, I'm very scared.
COOPER: Of what? I mean, you faced, you know, the worst dangers anybody could imagine during multiple tours overseas. What scares you now?
BECK: Acceptance. Being liked. And having -- you know, being loved. Having people accept me and not be ridiculed and not be, you know, pointed at or anything else. It's very scary. I don't know what's going to happen.
COOPER: What do you hope happens?
BECK: I want to have my life. I want to live in peace and happiness. I fought for 20 years for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I want some happiness.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BECK: For transgender people, you -- you almost hate yourself when you look in the mirror.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: When you look at pictures of yourself as you were in Afghanistan or in the SEALs, what do you see? That guy with the beard, what do you -- what do you see there?
BECK: It's a different person now. That's been put away back into that -- right now that entire person, that bearded, you know, guy in the SEALs is now inside of that small little spot way deep in the center. And now I have all these pieces of the onion of my female side surrounding that SEAL team guy.
COOPER: The person that -- Chris, the person in those pictures, is that -- that's not the real you?
BECK: That's the real me. The guy in the beard, the guy on the SEAL teams, that was the real me. The guy that rode the motorcycle, that was the real me. The guy that's wearing this dress this right now, is me. I'm a woman now. This is my life, and it's all me.
COOPER: But you felt -- even back then when you were in the SEALs, you felt you were a woman, that you were meant to be a woman, and that you were -- you know, it's a cliche to say you were in the wrong body, but that's sort of the most commonly-used phrase. That's sort of the way it felt?
BECK: The way I felt was exactly that. But that doesn't change the person that you are, it doesn't change your mind. It doesn't change your experiences. It doesn't change the wisdom that you've gained from all of your endeavors through life.
COOPER: And it doesn't -- it doesn't change your service?
BECK: It does not change my service. It doesn't change anything about me. Because I'm doing this now, it doesn't make me more. It doesn't make me less. It doesn't make me different. I am the same person.
COOPER: The thing, though, that I just keep coming back to is that, to have those feelings from the time you're -- that you recognize in third grade (ph), maybe even before that, to have those feelings and at the same time instantly know "These are feelings that I have to -- I have to hide and control and mask," that's -- no -- not many other people have to -- who don't have those same feelings have to mask who they really are, and it really -- it's got to take such a huge toll on you.
More than being -- more than being gay and because, you know, it's not -- it's not being gay. It's different than being gay. It's masking a core of who you are, your gender.
COOPER: From the earliest age. That's got to be so smothering.
BECK: It's a torment. It's a struggle. It's something that you have to somehow come at peace with, within yourself.
For transgender people, you've -- you almost hate yourself. When you look in the mirror, you just -- what you see is that reflection. What you're -- what you're trying to see is that reflection from inside of you. But because we're human beings and we have this vision, I have these eyes, I only see this outer covering.
COOPER: Do you regret joining the SEALs? Do you regret spending those 20 years not giving voice to the deepest part of yourself?
BECK: I do not regret being in the SEALs. I don't regret anything I've done in my life. Some things I've done, I wish I could have done some things different. I think everybody has things they would do different.
But for me to regret my wisdom and my experiences and my -- the brothers I met along this journey would be -- that would be disrespectful. So I do not regret being in the SEALs.
COOPER: And you hope that -- that the SEALs you served with, and other SEALs who are serving now, who maybe never even met you, you hope they still view you as a person who lives with strength and honor?
BECK: Yes. Yes, I do. I hope that they can look at me right now and understand I don't want to be in the public. I did feel that it is something that was right because of what I've seen and I learned about our community, the LBGT community, that this could bring a huge group of people that are going to be more educated now. Because I am, and that's such a far widespread area, going from super masculine Navy SEAL to a transgender female. That's a pretty wide jump.
And if I can bring some of this together and I can build a bridge between these groups, just some understanding, some education, that is the true reason why I'm even here right now. Otherwise, I would much rather be in the gray and just disappear and never be in the public.
COOPER: And just be the woman down the street?
COOPER: Like it or not, Kristin Beck is much more than that. One day, though, her wish may come true, for herself and so many others who just want to be themselves.
Thanks for watching.