The secret is out, and you guessed it right, I’m a female—a female veteran who has served honorably in the United States Army. But at times during my service, I felt more like a liability, an inconvenience to the gender bias that still exists in laced-up combat boots. My boots did not scream female, only what was in them.

Toning down my femininity was not unusual. Hair brushed back, no makeup, my eyes were not seen, while blinking to break up any thought or possibility of interest.

By default, I was the weaker sex. That was what one could believe, assuming that my hips and thighs placed me at the back of the line.

I shot my weapon with gender-neutral bullets, killing all preconceived notions and assumptions, showing up to fulfill my obligations, but don’t mind me and my breast. I’m just here to do push-ups and sit-ups.

I sit and listen to the words left unspoken, made through gestures, demeanor, and head nods. Equal but different, haven’t we heard those words before? Standards should be based on the mission and not gender. Generally speaking, I can fight you like a girl but kill you like a man. Man down!