US President Donald Trump is barring transgender people from serving in the military "in any capacity," citing "tremendous medical costs and disruption."
Trump's announcement Wednesday morning on Twitter did not say what would happen to transgender people already in the military.
TRT World's Jon Brain reports.
After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow......— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017
The president tweeted that after consulting with "Generals and military experts," the government "will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the US Military."
....Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017
"Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail," he added.
....victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017
"Call the White House"
At the Pentagon, members of the staff of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis appeared to have been caught unaware by Trump's tweets.
A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Captain Jeff Davis, declined to answer questions about what Trump's tweets mean for the current policy, including whether transgender people already serving in the military will be kicked out.
"Call the White House," he said.
The White House press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump's decision drew immediate angry responses from groups that represent transgender service members.
Matt Thorn, executive director of OutServe-SLDN, which represents the LGBT population in the military, said thousands have been serving in the US armed forces without causing any issues.
"It's an absolute absurdity and another overstep," Thorn said. He threatened legal action if Wednesday's decision is not reversed.
Victoria Rodriguez-Roldan, director of the Trans/Gender Non-Conforming Justice Project, National LGBTQ Task Force, said Trump "has stood against the trans community with this decision and is harming lives for the sake of political gains."
"The military is often the last resort for people who can't find jobs because of discrimination," Rodriguez-Roldan said. She said the transgender community "will not stop fighting" for justice.
Undisclosed numbers of transgender persons
Already, there are as many as 250 service members in the process of transitioning to their preferred genders or who have been approved to formally change gender within the Pentagon's personnel system, according to several defence officials.
The Pentagon has refused to release any data on the number of transgender troops currently serving.
A Rand Corp. study estimated that there are between 2,500 and 7,000 transgender service members on active duty and an additional 1,500 to 4,000 in the reserves.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi slammed Trump's ban on transgender people serving in the military as "vile and hateful."Army Reserve Captain Sage Fox began taking female hormones and began living as a woman after being deployed to Kuwait as a man. After notifying her battalion commander, whom she says expressed support, Fox received a set of orders informing her she had been placed on inactive status, a step from discharge. An independent commission has concluded there "is no compelling medical reason" for the US armed forces to prohibit transgender Americans from serving, according to a report set to be published Thursday. March 13, 2014. (AP)
A different kind of history
In a statement, Pelosi pointed out Trump's decision came on the same day in 1948 that President Harry S Truman signed the executive order desegregating the military.
The California Democrat called Trump's action "a cruel and arbitrary decision designed to humiliate transgender Americans who stepped forward to serve our country."
She said a study commissioned by the department found the cost of providing medically necessary transition-related care would be $2 million to $8 million a year, a small amount from what the Pentagon spends on military care.
According to The Washington Post, the military spends up to $84 million a year on erectile dysfunction medicines. The news organisation pointed out this was "10 times the cost of annual transition-related medical care for active duty transgender servicemembers."
She said the "disgusting ban" will weaken the military and the nation it defends. She said Trump's conduct is not driven by "honor, decency or national security, but by raw prejudice."
Transgender service members have been able to serve openly in the military since last year, when former defence secretary Ash Carter ended the ban. Since October 1, transgender troops have been able to receive medical care and start formally changing their gender identifications in the Pentagon's personnel system.
Carter also gave the services until July 1 to develop policies to allow people already identifying as transgender to newly join the military.
Carter strongly criticised Trump's decision.
"To choose service members on other grounds than military qualifications is social policy and has no place in our military," Carter said in a statement, noting there were already transgender individuals serving "capably and honorably."
Mattis announced earlier this month that he was giving military chiefs another six months to conduct a review to determine if allowing transgender individuals to enlist in the armed services would affect the "readiness or lethality" of the force.
Key concerns include whether currently-enlisted troops have had medical or other issues that cause delays or problems with their ability to deploy or meet physical or other standards for their jobs.
Military leaders also wanted to review how transgender troops are treated, if they're discriminated against or if they have had disciplinary problems, defence officials have said.
They were not authorised to discuss internal deliberations publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.