HRWFF 2015: Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story
Christopher Beck retired from the United States Navy in 2011 after 20 years of service. During his time as a Navy SEAL, Beck was involved in the first Gulf War as well as tours of duty in Bosnia, Serbia and Afghanistan. Not only was Beck present for the fall of Saddam Hussein, he was also sought after to teach Seal training maneuvers from Australia to the Philippines. However, Beck toughest challenge was on a battlefield closer to home when attempting to live openly as a transgender woman.
Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story focuses on Beck’s life after he publicly came out as a “Kristin” on social media and during a CNN interview with Anderson Cooper in June of 2013. Receiving many requests to speak to groups, and at conferences, Beck quickly emerged as a role model for transgender men and women. Kristin’s family, who lives in small town Wellsville, New York, is accepting of her change for the most part. Nine months after coming out, her father still refers to Kristin as “he”, but refuses to turn his back on his child. Beck’s mom, on the other hand, sees this as a temporary phase and doesn’t understand why her child couldn’t just be a gay male. Her mother’s views are not as painful as the fact that the decision to live openly as a woman results in Kristin’s estrangement from her two boys. Still hurt by the decision, they refuse to speak to or see their father at all.
Directors Mark Herzog and Sandrine Orabona use a mixture of archival footage, including Beck’s SEAL training, and interviews to bring layers to the film. Their narrative captures the overall divide in public reaction to Kristin’s decision, they use negative comments posted on Kristin’s website as examples of the harsh criticism she endures. While several of Kristin’s colleagues have embraced her – even those who don’t understand the change are civil – there are some who choose to vent their venomous bile from the safe perch of their computer keyboards.
Despite the hateful comments occasionally thrown her way, it is clear that Kristin is much happier now that she can truly be herself. Her former SEAL teammates remark that they could always see that Beck carried around a heavy emotional weight. Taking 14 tours over the mandatory amount, Beck frequently charged into situations with reckless abandonment. Though she may have been overcompensating outwardly for her internal struggles, Kristin considers the singular act of being a US Navy SEAL as the motivating factor that to kept her going until the courage rose to truly be the person that she was meant to be.
If there is one minor flaw with the film, it is the fact that it avoids the technical details of regarding Beck’s transition. There is no discussion of what is actually involved. In one scene the Kristin is shown going through a bag of pills, most of which she takes for various SEAL related injuries, but there is no mention of whether any hormone therapy is as part of the transition.
Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story is an engaging story about a person who has a history of tackling tough challenges head-on. Living openly as a transgender woman, Kristin Beck is a beacon of hope for all those, especially young people, who are struggling to find their own identities.