As a male Seal Team member, Kristin Beck gave twenty years of her life “fighting for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” As a transgender woman, she discovered she didn’t leave that fight behind her on the battlefield. Her struggle to claim these rights for herself is the subject of Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story, a documentary that will be shown at the Niles Discovery Church on June 8 at 1:30 pm. The free screening will be followed by a discussion led by Robyn Kuslits, herself an eight-year veteran in the U.S. Navy and a transgender woman.
Directed by Sandrine Orabona and Mark Herzog, Lady Valor covers Beck’s training and life as a warrior as well as her later trials putting together a female civilian identity. Aware from an early age of the feminine persona she felt she had to hide from everyone, Beck’s decision to become a Navy Seal almost seems an overcompensation, the ultimate rough and tough male identity. Trying to embrace the role wholeheartedly, Beck developed a reputation for utter fearlessness that she later acknowledges was due to being so unhappy she did not sometimes care if she lived or died. After retiring from the service, she made one more attempt to “fit in” by getting married and fathering two sons. While her wife was “wonderful” and Beck deeply loved her boys, traditional family life was not a sustainable choice.
What happened to Beck’s life after she made the decision to begin living as a woman is the suspenseful, sad, inspiring story that makes Lady Valor so thought provoking. The misunderstandings, bigotry, and estrangement from some in her world are offset by the support and fellowship of others. The film was made in the early stages of her transition and the emotions of Beck and her friends and family are sometimes raw. Beck herself emerges as more matter-of-fact than stoic about her journey, without self-pity and with tenacious hope. “I want some happiness for myself,” she says, and pretty much everyone who sees Lady Valor will be rooting for her.
The Second Saturday Documentary Series is co-sponsored by Niles Discovery Church and the San Jose Peace and Justice Center. Learn more about the series at bit.ly/nilesssds. This screening is additionally co-sponsored by Compassionate Fremont and the Fremont LGBTQ Task Force.