A retired Navy SEAL Team 6 hero who is transgender had a message for President Donald Trump after he announced the US military would bar transgender people from serving.
"Let's meet face to face and you tell me I'm not worthy," Kristin Beck, a 20-year veteran of the Navy SEALs, told Business Insider on Wednesday. "Transgender doesn't matter. Do your service."
Beck said Trump's abrupt change in policy could negatively affect many currently or wanting to serve in the military. The RAND Corporation estimated in 2016 that there were between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender people serving. Many of them just want to serve their country like everyone else, Beck said.
"Being transgender doesn't affect anyone else," Beck said of the transgender ban. "We are liberty's light. If you can't defend that for everyone that's an American citizen, that's not right."
Beck is not just your average service member. Born Christopher Beck, she served for 20 years in the Navy with SEAL Teams 1, 5, and, eventually, the elite 6. She deployed 13 times over two decades, including stints in Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. She received the Bronze Star award for valor and the Purple Heart for wounds suffered in combat.
"I was defending individual liberty," she said. "I defended for Republicans. I defended for Democrats. I defended for everyone."
In a series of tweets, Trump said the decision was based on the costs of medical services that transgender service members could use. But "the money is negligible," Beck said of the transgender ban. "You're talking about .000001% of the military budget.
"They care more about the airplane or the tank than they care about people," Beck said. "They don't care about people. They don't care about human beings."
When asked about potential problems with unit cohesion or war fighting, Beck said those were not issues that would arise from transgender service members, but from leadership.
"A very professional unit with great leadership wouldn't have a problem," Beck said. "I can have a Muslim serving right beside Jerry Falwell, and we're not going to have a problem. It's a leadership issue, not a transgender issue."
More from Business Insider:
- Mattis and US military leaders are trying to get rid of the worst parts of military service
- 69 years to the day after the US desegregated the military, Trump announces plan to bar transgender service
- This long-forgotten unit was the predecessor to Delta Force
- Chelsea Manning blasts Trump announcement on transgender military members as 'cowardice'
- There are already thousands of transgender people serving in the military — and what happens to them now isn't exactly clear