By Matthew DeFalco
Last week began as a normal week for the tens of thousands of LGBTQIA American service members. Until it wasn’t. Some woke up in the morning and exercised with their comrades, put on their uniforms with pride, and went to work. Others worked through the night in dangerous combat zones around the world, protecting and defending the rest of us, here in America.
And then, something happened that they won’t ever forget.

The President of the United States announced on Twitter that their services were no longer needed.

Even though they are fully trained and qualified American service members, they would no longer be allowed to serve in the American military because of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. The reasons given do not match the intent of this administration.
The reality is that Donald Trump is on the wrong side of history. He won his election last November by tapping into fear and misconception and hatred, and this is part of the same strategy. Our military represents our diverse citizenry. The president is using thousands of transgender American patriots as a political pawn to motivate his base the only way he knows how to do so.

Transgender Americans are already a vulnerable group in American society.

Regardless, if President Trump’s latest shenanigans end up being implemented by our military, hate crimes and discrimination against the LGBTQIA community will likely increase. Those who seek to commit such atrocious acts probably feel empowered by a president who shares their views.
Via Twitter, the president’s explanation included two arguments: 1) That allowing transgender Americans to serve will cost our military too much, and 2) that doing so will be harmful to our military’s readiness for conflict. A recent study paid for by the Pentagon, conducted by the Rand Corporation, and apparently ignored by our president, shows the opposite. Allowing transgender Americans to serve will cost an additional $2-8 million dollars per year. That’s it.

Allowing transgender Americans to serve is not a financial burden for our armed forces.

Closing Guantanamo Bay would save about $80 million dollars, yet this president isn’t interested in saving taxpayers money there. Let’s also remember that this president has already spent more on traveling in his first half of a year than President Obama did in both of his four-year terms combined. This president doesn’t seem to be interested in those cost savings, either.
This has nothing to do with saving money. The same study by the Rand Corporation showed that allowing transgender Americans to serve would “not be a significant burden” on our military’s conflict readiness. Furthermore, diversity is an organizational strength, and undermining the diversity of our military actually harms our military’s readiness for conflict. Not that it will be a surprise to many, given that this administration started Day 1 with lying about crowd sizes at his inauguration, but the president again is not telling the truth to the American people. We deserve better.

In 2008, I left my home in Las Vegas to serve in the Army.

I ended up deploying overseas in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and the Global War on Terrorism. Instead of serving when he was a young man like myself, Donald Trump decided to use his father’s wealth to obtain five separate deferments from the draft during the war in Vietnam. He doesn’t know what it means to serve, but I do. So do many transgender Americans who have put themselves in harm’s way for our country. President Trump, how dare you do this to our patriots. As an Army veteran, I am ashamed of our commander in chief… And I am ready to fight back.
They say this generation is lazy. They say that we are entitled, and that we live in our parent’s basements. What a farce. To those who would say this, I ask you, take a moment and think about where we are as a society and where we were at the turn of this millennium. Incredible transformational change has taken place, and it’s been led by young people. Young people are stepping up to fight for civil rights, protect our communities, fight our wars overseas, and drive technological change.

Donald Trump represents all that is wrong with our country.

While this is certainly a sad moment in our history, we should not fret about our future. So long as we ensure it, the end of his reign is near. This is still our country. We are the soldiers and the veterans, the police officers and firefighters and paramedics, the teachers and the students, the diverse American working class, the young mothers and fathers raising the next generation; this is our country. When it comes time to vote, we sure as hell better do so. Everything that we have fought for is under attack: Our families, our communities, and our country.
Think about what this must feel like for those patriots who are personally affected. I encourage you to join me in offering support to our transgender friends and family. Show support for organizations that work around the clock to protect LGBTQIA civil rights. And then organize your community like never before. The midterm elections in 2018 are just 14 months away. Let’s get America moving in the right direction again.

Matthew DeFalco is a UNLV alumnus, a veteran of the United States Army, and a Wildland Firefighter. Mr. DeFalco was a candidate for Henderson City Council in 2017, and he lost in the primary election by about one-half of one percent of the total votes.
Cover photo courtesy of Incirlik Air Base, U.S. Air Force.