Jacob Eleazer woke up today expecting an average day. He put on his tan khakis, brown shoes and gray polo, got in the car and drove to work. But not long after he walked in, messages from concerned friends and family members started flooding his phone. He checked the messages, and was shocked to see a series of tweets from President Donald Trump saying that transgender people would not be allowed to serve in the military.
That’s how Eleazer, who was assigned female at birth, got the news that his 11-year military career could be over.
“I mean, it’s kind of shocking to get fired by tweets,” he said. “You think about all of our service members across the states and abroad who woke up to that this morning. They were terrified.”
Eleazer, a part-time personnel captain for the National Guard 198th Military Police Battalion, joined the military identifying as a woman in 2006. He transitioned to male in 2010, and said overall, his commander, battalion and officers were accepting.
But on Twitter Wednesday morning, Trump announced transgender people would no longer be able to serve in the armed forces, saying they incur high medical costs and cause disruptions.
Transgender people already serve in the military. It’s not immediately clear how Trump intends to implement the ban, but the Pentagon announced Wednesday that it will defer enlistments by transgender applicants.
“Secretary [James] Mattis today approved a recommendation by the services to defer accessing transgender applicants into the military until Jan. 1, 2018,” Chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said in a statement. “The services will review their accession plans and provide input on the impact to the readiness and lethality of our forces.”
But for those who are already serving, Trump’s order is alarming.
GLAAD, a national LGBTQ media advocacy group, said the directive affects about 15,000 transgender Americans serving in the U.S. military, though that estimate is significantly higher than another analysis by the Rand Corporation .
In a statement, GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Ellis called Trump’s order “a direct attack on transgender Americans.”
“His (Trump’s) administration will stop at nothing to implement its anti-LGBTQ ideology within our government – even if it means denying some of our bravest Americans the right to serve and protect our nation,” Ellis’ statement said. “Trump has never been a friend to LGBTQ Americans, and this action couldn’t make that any more clear.”
For his part, Jacob Eleazer said he doesn’t see his presence at work as a “disruption,” like Trump claimed. He said the biggest disruption he’s encountered in his military career is discrimination.
“Discrimination is something that continues to have an impact on individuals, particularly women and minority groups,” he said. “Across all industries, but in the military it’s particularly disruptive because we have a very important job. So I think if we’re looking to find distractions, that’s the culprit.”
Regardless of whether Trump’s order is effective immediately, Eleazer said it will hurt forces’ morale.
“Part of what our duty is as military leaders to our soldiers is that we are going to treat them with dignity and respect, and we’re going to treat them in a way that’s not biased,” Eleazer said. “And I think seeing a type of leadership that categorically discriminates against an entire population of persons not only harms those individuals, but it harms our entire force.”
Eleazer is worried most for junior-enlisted soldiers who rely on the military as a full-time career. Soon, they could be ejected from their jobs.
For Eleazer, the order could end aspirations for his dream job; he is studying to become a military psychologist who helps soldiers with trauma. He doesn’t know what’s next for him now, though he has options thanks to his collegiate studies.
“If this is the end of my career, I’m proud of the service I have completed. I’m proud of the people that I’ve served with, I’m proud of my organization,” Eleazer said. “I’m going to survive.”
A request for comment from the White House was not immediately returned.