Trustee reserves ‘the right not to believe’ in trans people

WATCH ABOVE: The full interview with Sam Sotiropoulos

TORONTO – Toronto School Board trustee Sam Sotiropoulos has come under fire after saying in a tweet he “reserves the right not to believe” in transgendered people.

He’s waiting for “scientific proof” being transgendered isn’t “simply a mental illness,” he wrote Aug. 29.

He refused to say in an interview Friday whether he thinks transgendered people actually suffer from a mental illness.

“I have not formed an opinion, but I reserve the right to form an opinion.”

Sotiropoulos also suggested anyone offended by the tweet would be “casting a stigma on mental illness … by believing it’s offensive to be mentally ill.”

But Egale Canada President Robert Leckey said people have historically cast aspersions on gay, lesbian and transgendered people by saying their orientation was a mental illness in need of treatment.

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“There’s a long connection between sexual minority – sexual orientation minorities and gender identity minorities – and mental illness, so gay people used to be locked up and sent to therapists. Now some people think transgendered people are sick,” he said.

READ MORE: 16×9: Two transgender children struggle to be themselves

“It doesn’t take seriously the dignity and experience of people who are transgendered.”

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) – a tome of recognized psychiatric diagnoses – does list transgendered people under “Gender Dysphoria” but notes “gender noncomformity is not in itself a mental disorder.”

WATCH: TDSB trustee reserves ‘right not to believe’ in trans people.

Trans-rights activist Susan Gapka said she’s glad Sotiropoulos isn’t the only decision maker at the Toronto District School Board.

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“It’s very concerning that people elected to public office don’t follow or take the time to learn about our codes of conduct, about our society, this person is disconnected,” she said. “I hope he doesn’t win again.”

She pointed out the Ontario Human Rights Code and the World Health Organization recognizes trans people.

This isn’t the first time Sotiropoulos has said expressed views dismissive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer or transgendered people: He suggested on Newstalk 1010 in April there might be nude pedophiles at the Pride Parade and said at one point the parade “openly flouted” the country’s laws against public nudity.

Dozens of people criticized Sotiropoulos’ tweet about trans persons. Gapka suggested that outrage points to how far society as come in recent years.

“The terrific thing is that there are non-trans people, allies and supporters, leaping to the defense, there was a flurry on twitter, and social media, the news has covered it, that shows you how far we’ve come in the last five or ten years.”

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