Transgender Former Navy SEAL Fears Discrimination in Job Search

After coming out, Kristin Beck's new mission is to stamp out discrimination - and get a job.

(Paul J. Richards/AFP via Getty Images)

Beck lost her government job just two weeks after publishing her book "Warrior Princess: A U.S. Navy SEAL's Journey to Coming out Transgender."


She once took part in the most dangerous missions on Earth, and was part of the unit that took down terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden. But what she now worries about is discrimination in a job search.

Former U.S. Navy SEAL Kristin Beck says that after coming out as transgender, her new mission is to stamp out intolerance based on gender identity – and to get a full-time job.

On Wednesday, both of Beck's goals inched a little bit closer as the Employee Non-Discrimination Act passed out of a Senate committee. In more than half of states in the U.S., it is still legal to bar someone from a job based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.

[READ: 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Still Applies to Transgender Service Members]

The legislation now heads to a Senate vote for the first time in 17 years.

Beck, who is looking for a full-time consulting job, says she lost her government job just two weeks after she came out through her book "Warrior Princess: A U.S. Navy SEAL's Journey to Coming out Transgender." The decorated Iraq and Afghanistan veteran and former member of the elite SEAL Team 6 was later hired back to the job in a lesser role, as a part-time consultant, and has not been able to get a full-time job.

"Right now I'm relegated to making recommendations to people who don't know how to use systems," says Beck. "But I'm the same person. I have all the same experiences, all the same education. I have had hormone therapy, and lost a little strength, but there is virtually no change about what I can do."

In 2011, the National Center for Transgender Equality released a wide-ranging report on transgender discrimination – and the picture it painted was sobering.

[PHOTOS: America’s Elite Navy SEALs]

The report found double the rate of unemployment for transgender people. Some 90 percent of those surveyed had experienced harassment or discrimination at work. Nearly half said they had either been fired, not hired or denied a promotion because they were transgender.

"Even when trans people have jobs, they are usually dramatically underemployed. Or they have to take jobs that are different before what they had when they came out," said Mara Keisling, the founding executive director of the center. "When transgender people lose their jobs they almost always lose their whole careers."

Although Beck is still looking for a job, there is one place she says she hasn't faced much discrimination: from her former frogmen.

[ALSO: Father of Killed SEAL Takes To Capitol Hill To Call For Benghazi Special Committee]

"I did special operations for 20 years. People kind of knew that I was a pretty hard operator," she says. When she came out, Beck says many SEALs were shocked, or thought it might be a publicity stunt.

"But when the shock wore off, a lot of them started warming up. I got a lot of support," she says. "Once you're part of a community, it's like that."

Many of her colleagues also asked Beck questions about what her transition entailed and what it meant.

"They said: 'Are you this, are you that?' " she says. "But I said: 'Those are just labels. I'm still your old brother.'"

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