Despite President Trump’s sudden proclamation Wednesday that the U.S. military will no longer allow transgender individuals to serve “in any capacity,” the Pentagon isn’t listening just yet.
In a written message to military leaders, the nation’s highest-ranking military officer clarified that no changes would be made to the military’s transgender policy until the Pentagon received official guidance.
“There will be no modifications to the current policy until the President’s direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford wrote in the memo first reported by Reuters.
“In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect,” Dunford added. “As importantly, given the current fight and the challenges we face, we will all remain focused on accomplishing our assigned missions.”
Trump’s tweets announcing the ban blindsided Pentagon officials, three U.S. defense officials told CNN. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis was on vacation and was reportedly only given a day’s notice, The New York Times reported. And immediately following the announcement Wednesday, the Department of Defense directed media inquiries straight to the White House and didn’t update its online policy stating that trans individuals can openly serve in the military.
Trump’s plans also surprised the 15,500 reserve and active-duty trans members of the armed forces, leaving them confused and worried that three tweets had just put them out of a job.
“We know a tweet is not policy. Turning a tweet into policy is a lot of work,” Maj. Bryan Fram, a transgender staff officer at the Pentagon, told VICE News Wednesday. “A lot of people are very afraid for their careers, but once again, we’re not at the point yet where we know what’s going to happen.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders justified Trump’s tweets in a Wednesday press briefing by saying that allowing trans people to serve in the military was “very expensive and disruptive.” But when pressed on details of what the policy would look like, Sanders referred reporters back to the White House and the Department of Defense.