Transcript for LGBT service members, activists react to Trump's transgender ban
President trump announcing a major policy change via Twitter today, barring transgender individuals from serving in the military in any capacity. The unexpected move sending folks on both sides of the aisle scrambling, leaving many to ask what comes next. They've been so brave and courageous, those that are publicly out right now. They've been on a path to finally being accepted. And then the rug is pulled out from underneath them. Elena kupic served in the Navy as an intelligence officer but waited until years after she was out of the military before coming out as a trans woman. One of the reasons that held me back for so long was fear of losing my job. Reporter: That fear now hanging over thousands of transgender military service members. After a surprising policy reversal from their commander in chief issued today in a trio of tweets. "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." Adding "The military cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail." The message that's being sent today is potentially chilling, that maybe it's okay to marginalize our community again and start eroding some of the gains that we've made. They woke up this morning and had their lives, their livelihood, their dignity and identity thrown into complete chaos and with no answers. I remember thinking to myself, did I just get fired in a tweet? Reporter: Trans men and women like Trish king, willing to risk their lives for their country, now risking their careers to speak out. When I came out to my subordinates, what I found was people who weren't ccerned with my gender, what they were concerned with is my history of service. Reporter: The latest presidential tweetstorm seemed to blindside his own Pentagon, which promptly referred all inquiries back to the white house, where there were plenty of questions. What happens to transgender service members now? Are they immediately thrown out of the military? 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. Reporter: Political observers say there are some within the president's base who will applaud the move. Do we need to spend any of our precious tax dollars on these surgeries when we have soldiers that are having trouble getti citing body armor and bullets? For the social conservatives in the conservative populace base this is a stand of principle that they will applaud because it reinforces their beliefs in, quote unquote, traditional marriage. But for the president's more socially liberal or libertarian-minded supporters with regarding campaign promises to be very pro lgbtq, it can't be read as anything other than a complete contradiction and a slap in the face. Reporter: Even lawmakers in his own party seem to be caught off guard. I don't know what the policy proposal is. I don't know why he decided what he did. But I think the right way to do this is have a hearing so you can hear from both sides. Reporter: Senator John McCain a war hero now chair of the armed services committee saying there is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train and deploy to leave the military regardless of their gender identity. It's the latest salvo for a president who made history by mentioning the community in his GOP acceptance speech. As your president I will do everything in my power to protect our lgbtq citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology. Believe me. Reporter: Last year the Obama administration effectively lifted a ban on transgender people serving openly in the military, a landmark victory for thousands serving their country. One of them, air force staff sergeant Logan Ireland, profiled in a "New York Times" documentary while he was serving in kandahar, Afghanistan. There's not a lot of people that know that I'm transgender. It's very much on a need to know basis. Reporter: Today responding to the president staff sergeant Ireland said, "I would like to see them try to kick me out of my military. I would challenge them. You're not going to deny me my right to serve my country when I am fully qualified and able and willing to give my life." Just a month ago president trump's own defense secretary Jim Mattis put a six-month delay on new openly trans recruits. Then less than two weeks ago the house tried to issue its own ban on transgender people in the military but got voted down. 24 Republicans, including eight veterans voted no on the amendment. Some courageous Republicans I think stepped up and learned about the issues and didn't just follow the party lines there. Reporter: Today the congresswoman who spearheaded the amendment, Vicky hartsler, stood by the ban. We can't afford to have $1.5 billion over the next ten years go to sex reassignment surgeries. Reporter: But those numbers are in dispute. A 2016 study by the Rand corporation commissioned by the defense department estimated that providing care for gender transition would cost a lot less. A traction of 1% of health care costs for active duty service members. In fact, according to the "Military times," the armed services spends ten times as much on erectile dysfunction medicines each year. The struggle for transgender rights in the military was elevated by Chelsea manning, an army soldier who transitioned behind bars while serving time for spilling classified information. I sat down with her for her first TV interview after she was released from a men's military prison last month. So your despair was not with the 35-year prison sentence. It was -- Much more immediate. It had more to do with your needing to be Chelsea. Yeah. I'd never done that. I'd never been able to be who I was. Reporter: At first the military denied manning's request for medical treatment for her gender transition. What would you say to those who feel that taxpayers shouldn't be paying for hormone treatments? Well, you know, it's -- health care is something that prisoners have a right to. And trans health care is necessary. In what way is trans health care necessary medical care? It literally keeps me alive. It keeps me from feeling like I'm in the wrong body. I get these horrible -- I used to get these horrible feelings like I just want to rip my body apart. It's really, really awful. Reporter: Manning eventually became the first person to receive hormone therapy in a military prison, and her sentence was commuted earlier this year by president Obama. But the later policy shift has trans advocates renewing their vow to fight. The lgbt community is clear and united in the fact that this type of blanket targeting of any segment of our community is absolutely impermissible, illegal, and is not going to go unchallenged. It seems so sad to me, that we've got to fight so people can volunteer to serve this country. It doesn't make any sense. These are people who are willing to put their lives on the line for this country.
This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.