Donald Trump caused bedlam Wednesday in the U.S. military, with his announcement on Twitter that "the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity."
The statement raised many questions for trans troops currently serving. Were they immediately discharged? If not, when? White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was unable to offer any answers to reporters at that day's press conference.
"That's something that the Department of Defense and the White House will have to work together as implementation takes place and is done so lawfully," she stated.
On Thursday, the Joint Chiefs of Staff clarified that for now at least, there is no ban on transgender service members. The chairman, Gen. Joseph Dunford, said he was awaiting further guidance from the White House.
"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," Dunford stated in a letter, which was tweeted by CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff is made up of senior officials from the five branches of armed services, who oversee the policy, planning, and personnel of their respective branches. Dunford, as chairman, is also the president's chief military adviser.
"In the meantime, we will continue to treat our personnel with respect," Dunford added in the letter. "As importantly, given the current fight and the challenges we face, we will all remain focused on accomplishing our assigned missions."
As Starr noted in her tweet, Dunford's letter "does not include are any words of support for Trump ban." Rather, it emphasizes "respect."
In three separate tweets, Trump announced he would be reversing the Obama administration's repeal of the previous ban on transgender troops, due to "tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail." The announcement sparked outrage from trans veterans, Republican colleagues like John McCain, and Caitlyn Jenner. Leaders in the LGBT community remarked that any illusions of Trump being an ally were now dispelled.
"If you told me Trump is an LGBT ally, it's long past time to admit you were wrong," wrote Lucas Grindley, The Advocate's editor in chief. "Maybe more urgently, though, it's time to admit to yourselves that Trump was lying the whole time."
Transgender people in the military were able to serve openly and have access to insurance coverage for transition-related medical procedures since last year, under a policy announced by Ash Carter, Defense secretary under President Obama.
Previously, trans people were barred from serving, although many did -- in the closet and without the coverage. Now the country will return to those days, except that so many trans people have already come out of the closet. They will presumably now be discharged. The National Center for Transgender Equality estimates there are 15,000 transgender Americans now serving.