President Trump says allowing transgender people to serve in the military would bring “disruption” that could stand in the way of the “decisive and overwhelming victory” our armed forces must strive for. Apparently, he doesn’t think transgender Americans are capable or worthy of defending our nation. But he’s wrong. Thousands of patriotic transgender Americans already put their lives on the line every day to keep our country free. We’ve been doing that since the 1700s.

I know: I was one of them.

From the time I was 5 years old growing up in Manitowoc, Wis., I knew I was transgender. I just didn’t know what it was called. From a very early age, I always thought I should be wearing my younger sister’s clothes, and sometimes, when I was home alone, I did. When I graduated from high school, I joined the Wisconsin Army National Guard and my local sheriff’s department as a reserve deputy. I hoped joining those male-dominated institutions might help me deal with the certainty I had that I was a woman, not a man. It didn’t, but I had no better ideas: I didn’t know anyone else out there had any idea what I was going through. It wasn’t until I was 25 and read about Renee Richards, a professional tennis player who had to sue the U.S. Tennis Association to be allowed to play as a woman, that I realized I wasn’t alone.