This article first appeared in the inaugural issue of Modern Military Magazine.
What can you say in 144 characters? That’s the amount of space that Twitter gives you to write a post. It doesn’t seem like enough characters to say very much, but during his time in the Oval Office, Donald Trump has used the power of Twitter for everything from insulting political rivals to addressing issues affecting international relations, the stock market and national policy.
Sometimes 144 characters isn’t enough, so on July 26, 2017, when President Trump tweeted — “After Consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow……” — the world was left to speculate what he would say next. Was America going to war? Was there a new foreign policy that needed national level attention? America would have to wait for 9 minutes to get the answer.
Imagine the shock when the second tweet announced “….Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”
Had I just been fired via tweet? I certainly wasn’t the first one and wouldn’t be the last, like former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Former FBI director James Comey, and former Secretary of State John Bolton to name a few. All found out with the rest of America via Twitter that their services were no longer required.
The messages continued: “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.” And with that, the President of the United States used social media to ban transgender service members.
At the time, I was serving in the Army and stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington. Due to the time difference I was still asleep when the president sent those tweets. I woke up that day to the sound of my phone ringing. Another transgender service member was calling to ask me what was happening. As I checked my phone, I found emails from reporters, texts and calls from service members and, of course, the president’s tweets.
I rushed to get to work that day amid all of the confusion. I wondered what I would find waiting for me at work. I was surprised to find that nobody had heard about the “announcement.” My Battalion and Brigade Commander had no idea. Further phone calls would determine that the Division Commander, a 2-star general with dozens of transgender Soldiers under his command had not been told. The story was the same everywhere.
It seems that nobody knew this was coming and nobody had been consulted. Even in the halls of the Pentagon, people were being caught off guard. General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, later told reporters that he found out the same way they did. Secretary of Defense James Mattis informed reporters that he had not been consulted. It seemed that none of the President’s “generals or military experts” had been consulted or knew that he intended to fire an estimated 15,500 servicemembers simply for being transgender.