An Open Letter to Congressional Republicans, From a Queer Vet

Dear Congressional Republicans,

My name is Caitlin Fairchild, and I’m an Air Force veteran and a college student. I served for seven years active duty with two tours under Operation Enduring Freedom, one of which actually on the ground in Afghanistan being shot at. I am a woman combat vet, a lesbian, and a transgender woman, having separated before the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the ban on women in combat, and the Defense of Marriage Act. I’m telling you all of this to tell you that even with those policies intact (and the still existing ban on transgender service members), there have always been gay and transgender service members as well as women in combat.
All of this is to say that for all of your rhetoric of supporting our troops, you have been in many ways more of an obstructionist force for not only the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines in service, but the veterans who are out now. This applies not only in your voting on issues that deal directly with military matters, but in how you handle the nation as a whole in ways that affect us as well. Let me begin with some older examples and work my way forward.

Transgender Service A few years ago, when I was getting near the end of my enlistment, I had a sit down talk with my First Sergeant, and he asked me some questions about what I wanted to do with myself. We discussed it, and while it came out that I loved the missions I did, he remarked that I didn’t seem happy in the Air Force. While Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was being repealed, as a transgender individual, it would not affect me, so I couldn’t very well tell him that it was more a matter that the Air Force didn’t want me.

He and I discussed it as much as we could, and I was forced to decide between continuing with a job that I loved, or separating and being true to myself, finally being happy for the first time in my life. While many of you and the members of your party were fighting to keep the policy in place, you were fighting to keep thousands of veterans like me in a situation where we were forced to have to make decisions like that. It affected our daily lives, and that included our job performance.

Around that same time, we were having the debt ceiling crisis of 2011. We were all being told that as essential personnel, if the government shutdown did occur, we would still be reporting to duty. However, if this shutdown occurred, it would be likely that we would not be receiving pay for however long the shutdown went on, and for possibly longer until the fiscal situation in Washington had been settled and trickled down through all channels. This crisis was caused by members of your party refusing to raise the debt ceiling, instead wanting to cut the budget.

Looking to more recent examples over the battle over marriage and the Defense of Marriage Act, you have again been target gay and lesbian service members, denying their spouses the same benefits of heterosexual partners, and trying to deny them recognition. There is a lot of argument from you about the “sanctity” of marriage. I would like to point out that the definition of sanctity is “holiness, saintliness, godliness.” In other words, it is a religious term. The first amendment to the Constitution states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” prohibiting you from bringing religion into legislative matters.

As much as many of you like to tell us that this is a Christian nation, founded on Christian principles, most of our founding fathers were actually Deists, who rejected all forms of religious dogma. Thomas Jefferson is famous (or infamous) for having literally cut out all mentions of miracles from a copy of the New Testament and retitled it The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. Stop bringing religion into matters of marriage, economics, and the military.

gop-cry-babyMy final example I will give though is the recent shutdown of the government. You have all thrown what is the equivalent of a toddler’s tantrum over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare. You had your chance to sit down and discuss it, to work out a compromise. When it passed both the House and the Senate and went to the President and became signed, it became a law. When the Supreme Court ruled that it was not unconstitutional, that should have been it. You all have a duty as legislators to uphold the law of the land, not hold the nation ransom because you didn’t get your way.

Your decision to shut down the government has not only affected the 800,000 federal employees who were deemed “non-essential” and are now furloughed and out of work until you get your way, but also the many veterans like myself who are currently attending school using G.I. Bill benefits. Some of us received our monthly housing allowance on this Tuesday, October 1st when the shutdown hit. Others did not. We’re already being told that this may affect our benefits in November.

Maybe I expect too much here however. I mean, I am addressing the party that had a presidential nominee who alleged that healthcare will kill people (Rep. Bachmann/MN), another presidential nominee who wanted to violate article VI of the Constitution and require a special loyalty oath for all Muslim members of office (Herman Cain), and the man who thinks that putting 800,000 people out of work, embarrassing the nation in front of the world, and endangering our economic rating is his idea of fun (Rep. Schweikert/AZ). Not to mention the video and hot mic incident with Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul being caught saying “I think we’ll win this one” and being surprised at Democrats not wanting to negotiate this whole thing being a law already.

Ladies, gentlemen, you’ve let this go on long enough. It’s a law. Quit trying to hold our nation ransom because you lost. Try to be decent human beings. Try to show that you don’t have to be extremists to be conservatives. I was born during the first term of Ronald Reagan, and I know how much the Republican Party looks up to him, idolizing him as a great leader of the party. He would not be elected in today’s GOP. The thing that was great about Reagan was that he wasn’t afraid to actually reach across the aisle and work with his opponents. Nor was he afraid of letting the Federal government have power in the right places. He was a proponent of states’ rights, but he knew that there were times when the Federal government needed to have power too. Let this be one of those times, and pick your battles. Quit saying you support our troops while actively harming them with your every action.

Sincerely,
Caitlin Fairchild

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