SACRAMENTO -- President Trump’s tweets banning transgender people from military service came as an unwelcome surprise to some. Local LGBT military support and veterans groups are now scrambling to figure out what this means.
Three flags fly over the Sacramento LGBT Community Center. The American flag, the California flag, and the transgender flag.
“I identified as a soldier before I identified as a trans-person," said Captain Sage Fox.
Fox has risked her life or livelihood for each of those flags for the principles each of those flags represents.
“ I defended people's right to discriminate against me, I defended their right to pass laws saying I have no rights,” said Fox.
After a trio of presidential tweets Wednesday, many claim the people represented by the transgender flag are being targeted, but Fox feels the values all three represent are under attack.
“This is not just a transgender issue, it’s a civil rights issue,” said Fox.
For most of her military career Fox served as a man, after transitioning to a woman in 2013, she says she was allowed to serve two weeks before being put on inactive duty against her will.
However LGBT, servicemen and women had seen an incremental expansion of rights in the military in recent years. The Obama administration repealed the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” doctrine, and in 2016 allowed thousands of transgender people to serve openly in the military. The policy was supposed to have been implemented fully beginning July 1.
“We were making that progress, we had that going, now these tweets this morning are throwing the whole thing into confusion,” said Fox.
President Donald Trump first delayed the policy, then apparently stopped it in its tracks Wednesday morning tweeting, “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. 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. Thank you”
“Now you finally have the right to serve openly, then you wake up and are told ‘no, you don't matter anymore,’” said Fox.
The news is alarming for LGBTQ organizations across the country, says Gene Silvestri, a veteran, and transgender man who now works with the Transgender American Veterans Association in Sacramento.
Silvestri tells FOX40 he spent much of the morning speaking with colleagues, attempting to figure out the ramifications of the president’s tweet.
It appears the Veterans Administration was also caught off guard. FOX40 obtained a memo sent by an LGBT Veteran Care Coordinator to Northern California Veterans saying in part:
“Even though, we do not know how this announcement will affect daily operations of the US Military, I would like to assure all Veterans that VA Northern California Health Care System is still fully committed in serving all Veterans who served, including Transgender Veterans.”
“Are we talking, for example, about making people who already have jobs leave those jobs, not taking new people, or just not paying for therapy?” asks Professor Leslie Jacobs at the McGeorge School of Law.
Jacobs says the president will not just have to clarify the scope of his policy, but back it up on paper with an executive order, or some other type of legislation.
She suspects that if the president introduces concrete plans to kick out existing transgender service members or block new transgender people from enlisting, lawsuits aren’t far behind.
“People running into court seeking a temporary restraining orders, like with the travel ban, that is an emergency order that the court will consider putting in place before considering the entire lawsuit,” said Jacobs.
Full Memo sent to Northern California VA patients and employees:
I received multiple messages from Veterans regarding this morning’s news that President Trump will not allow or accept Transgender Americans in any capacity in the US Military.
This announcement has struck a chord, not just among Transgender Americans, but across many vulnerable communities in the country. The fear that some of the Americans will not have the same rights is heavy on many hearts today.
Even though, we do not know how this announcement will affect daily operations of the US Military, I would like to assure all Veterans that VA Northern California Health Care System is still fully committed in serving all Veterans who served, including Transgender Veterans.
If you are a Transgender Veteran, we thank you for your service and you are welcome in our health care system.
This morning, numerous VA Staff and Veterans want to know what they can do as citizens about this news. I will be reaching out to numerous LGBT National Organizations today to find out what is being done and how people can get involved. I will be sharing this information once I have it.
--Artur Y Akkerman, LGBT Veteran Care Coordinator for Northern California Veterans