WASHINGTON (AFP) - A decorated former US Navy Seal is now living life as a woman after undergoing hormone therapy and has revealed her transgender identity in a new memoir titled Warrior Princess.
In the eBook published on Saturday, Kristin Beck recounts her inner turmoil while serving in Seal Team 6, which she retired from months before the unit killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden at his Pakistan hideout in 2011.
Ms Beck's book is dedicated to those fearful of declaring themselves transgender and comes more than two years after Congress repealed a ban on openly homosexual troops serving in the American military.
But transgender men and women are still barred from service and activists hope the memoir could help lift the prohibition.
The book went on sale Saturday on Amazon.com and has the subtitle, "A US Navy Seal's Journey to Coming out Transgender," with a cover photo of Beck looking like the quintessential SEAL warrior in the field, complete with bushy beard, dark sunglasses and a camouflage uniform.
To Beck's surprise, former comrades have reportedly sent in messages of support and encouragement.
"Brother, I am with you ... being a Seal is hard, this looks harder. Peace," one commando reportedly wrote her.
Other Navy Seals, including some involved in the Bin Laden raid, have written memoirs under pseudonyms describing dramatic battles along with anecdotes of camaraderie and frustration with Washington's bureaucracy.
But Ms Beck used no pseudonym in writing about a 20-year military career, including 13 deployments around the world, in which she struggled with her gender identity and gradually recognised she was meant to be a woman.
"I am now taking off all my disguises and letting the world know my true identity as a woman," Ms Beck wrote on the LinkedIn social media site, after changing the name on her profile page to Kristin from Chris.
Ms Beck co-authored the memoir with Anne Speckhard, an adjunct associate professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School, who said the ex-commando fought to conceal his angst for years.
"Chris describes his despair throughout this book and his desire to die honorably by serving our country and fighting terrorism - to keep us safe and so that he wouldn't have to wrestle anymore with the emotional pain that stemmed from the lack of congruency between his gender identity and body," she writes in the book.
"After multiple combat deployments - more than many Seals ever encounter, Chris returned back alive to fight this deeper battle in his soul and grappled with the moral and social decisions of living in secret or to transition into her true self." Retirement from the military came as a relief in 2011, opening the way for Beck to live openly as a woman.
The memoir is dedicated to those who identify as transgender.
"I do not believe a soul has a gender, but my new path is making my soul complete and happy," Ms Beck wrote.
"I hope my journey sheds some light on the human experience and most importantly helps heal the 'socio-religious dogma' of a purely binary gender."