Transgenders can continue serving the military for now, top US general says

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donald trump
US President Donald Trump plays host to a reception and meeting with US congressional leaders including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) (L) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) (2nd L) in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, US. January 23, 2017. Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

The United States' top general said there is no change yet to Pentagon policy since US President Donald Trump announced plans to ban transgender people from openly serving the military, an announcement that appeared to shock senior officers. Marine General Joseph Dunford, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, wrote to service chiefs, commanders and senior enlisted leaders following a series of tweets by the president regarding the ban.

Dunford said he was aware that there are questions about Trump’s announcement on the transgender policy. "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," he wrote, according to Reuters. He said the US military would "treat all of our personnel with respect."

General Mark Milley, chief of staff of the US Army, said he had no advance knowledge of the president’s decision before it was announced. For him, that was not unusual. "I personally did not, but nor would I have expected to," Milley said.

An active-duty US military officer who refused to be named told the Sydney Morning Herald that senior officials were not consulted. It remains unclear whether the changes will go beyond active-duty forces and affect members of the reserve.

Indiana National Guard reservist Cameron St Andrew is a transgender person. He told Reuters he was concerned about his status. He said he tries to be tough about the announcement, but it breaks his spirit.

Pentagon leaders said on Thursday that transgender people can continue to serve in the military for now. The policy regarding who is allowed to serve will not change until the White House sends the Defense Department new rules and guidelines issued by the secretary of defense.

On Wednesday, Trump’s Twitter followers woke up to an announcement that the US military will no longer accept transgender people, citing "tremendous medical costs and disruption.” The decision drew praise and condemnation.

Trump’s fellow Republicans and conservative activists expressed support towards the decision. Meanwhile, it was slammed by rights groups and some lawmakers in both parties.

White House officials noted that conservatives had pushed for the ban, citing a letter in May signed by several right-leaning groups. “It’s not the worst thing in the world to have this fight,” an administration official said, according to Politico.

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