Donald Trump has announced that transgender people will not be allowed to serve in “any capacity” in the US military.
The US President tweeted on Wednesday that the military “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail”.
His announcement did not say what would happen to transgender people already in the military.
The Pentagon has refused to release any data on the number of transgender troops currently serving but it is estimated that there are between 2,500 and 7,000 transgender service members on active duty.
In June 2016, the Pentagon lifted a ban against transgender people serving in the military.
“Our mission is to defend this country, and we don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman or Marine who can best accomplish the mission,” then-Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said.
“We have to have access to 100% of America’s population for our all-volunteer force to be able to recruit from among them the most highly qualified — and to retain them.”
At the Pentagon, members of the staff of Defence Secretary Jim Mattis appeared to have been caught unaware by Trump’s tweets, the Associated Press reports.
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.
During Trump’s election campaign he claimed he was the better candidate for lesbian, gay, transgender Americans than his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.
Many are now retweeting Trump’s comments from June 2016 when he told the LGBT community he will “fight” for them.
Incidentally, the multi-billionaire property tycoon dodged the draft five times, once arguing that he could not serve in the US military because of bone spurs in his heels.
Trump’s announcement was slammed as “shameful and wrong” by veterans.
Trump’s comments have sparked a fierce backlash on social media, with many commending the “courage” transgender people exhibit every day.
His draft deferments also did not go unnoticed.
Chelsea Manning, a former US soldier who was incarcerated after disclosing classified documented to WikiLeaks, slammed the announcement as “cowardice”.
Last month, Ivanka Trump tweeted that she was “proud to support my LGBTQ friends and the LGBTQ Americans who have made immense contributions to our society and economy”.