Sunday, November 3, 2013

Warrior Princess by Kristin Beck

The subject matter that Warrior Princess (A U.S. Navy Seal's Journey to Coming Out Transgender) addresses held the promise of being the "perfect storm" of reading pleasure, focusing on counter terrorism and transgenderism. Did Warrior Princess deliver the goods? On some level it did, but not nearly to the extent to which I had expected. While the Kristin Beck story was sometimes exciting, moving, gut wrenching and often painful, it fell short in some important ways.

Clearly damaged in early life by victimization, child abuse and the pain of deeply internalized gender dysphoria, Kristin still appears to be guilt ridden about her past marriages and especially for her failure to be a parent and role model for her two sons. Years of trying to please those closest to her and particularly her father, are still evidenced by the searing self-judgment that has often haunted her decision making process. As clearly communicated by her description of events, many of her actions are never good enough and she tends to become her own worst enemy. In these areas she is certainly not alone. Many of us experience regret and second guess ourselves.

However, the most important aspect that is missing from Warrior Princess is how Kristin is going to deal in real time with her continued anger problem, PTSD, potential suicidality, lack of boundaries and most urgently, her alcohol abuse, the later often both a trigger for anti-social behaviors and a form of self-medication. I don't believe these issues will heal themselves without some deep psychological care and substance abuse treatment, both leading to her taking more personal responsibility for her present state of mind and behavior. I would be willing to bet money that Kristin is currently getting such treatment, although the book contains no mention of this.

It was quite disconcerting to read about Kristin's disdain for and irritation with other traumatized vets, simply because they either did not experience the depth of her own hellacious deployments, or because she made the evaluation that they were exaggerating about their combat history, or just plain lying. For Kristin, it would seem that group therapy, which she seems to avoid like the plague, might bring with it the ability to learn empathy for others, and that is precisely what might benefit her at this point. That she literally socks a guy in the mouth when she uncovers his bogus military background is clearly questionable behavior. There obviously are other, less self-destructive ways that healthy women (and men) can deal with their rage. I'm sure that on an intellectual level Kristin knows this, but isn't it about time to walk the walk? To me, this type of behavior is a reflection of early childhood wounding, of which Kristin still appears to have copious amounts to process. One would hope she will address this and maybe talk about it more in a later update.

Initially, Warrior Princess seemed to be on the right track, but somehow the memoir veered off. Though somewhat lacking in the area of editing and having a certain choppy feeling to some of the chapters, this was a book that was interesting in many respects, but not nearly as much after the half-way point. Enter Dr. Anne Speckhard, Kristin's co-author, who apparently is a genuine expert on the subject of PTSD. However, when Kristin meets Anne and the later begins to relate her view of things, Kristin's story shifts and begins to morph into a lengthy explanation of the transgender phenomenon, obviously meant for the consumption and mollification of the general public. While this section includes data anyone can readily obtain on the Internet, it didn't really add anything to Kristin's tale and appears to be an attempt to try to "normalize," lend some "street cred," and/or wrap everything up in a neat little package. All this, while at the same time providing more length and girth to what would otherwise have been a relatively short book.

There are some redundancies afoot and Kristin twice quotes RuPaul as noting that it is most important for us to learn to love and accept ourselves first. I agree, and when that finally happens for Kristin, it probably will be evidenced by her generating more patience and understanding for her less driven, but equally emotionally and/or physically challenged comrades-at-arms and her willingness to delve deeper into her own feelings. Lastly, for her next book, there seems to be much more to say that was not said about her feelings concerning the loss of her family because of her gender transition.

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