Sam Sotiropoulos is a member of the Toronto School Board who has particularly negative views on LGBT people, which he expresses openly on Twitter. When asked to address those comments by a Global News reporter, however, Sotiropoulos avoided stating his own opinion, denied the existence of tweets that are still active on his account, and awkwardly stood in silence — long silence.
Since 2012, Toronto schools have followed a policy of inclusion for transgender students, recognizing their gender identities without requiring them to somehow prove or justify them. Two weeks ago, Sotiropoulos tweeted, “Until I see scientific proof that transgenderism exists and is not simply a mental illness, I reserve the right not to believe in it. #TDSB” TDSB stands for Toronto District School Board and Sotiropoulos identifies himself on Twitter as @TrusteeSam, referring to his title with the district.
He also tweeted a link to the conservative outlet LifeSiteNews, citing psychiatrist Joseph Berger, who believes there is no such as transgender people. Berger, who sits on the board of the ex-gay organization NARTH, has previously advocated that schools should let students ridicule their gender non-conforming peers until they can “draw the line between what is healthy and what is sick.” The LifeSiteNews story problematically includes many pictures of drag queens at pride parades instead of people who actually identify as transgender.
Sotiropoulos agreed to discuss his tweet with Global News, but then refused to actually provide his own views on transgender people. Indeed, as he similarly attempted to explain in a separate radio interview, — what he meant is that he simply “reserved the right” to make a decision about whether being transgender is a mental illness, but that he hadn’t yet made such a decision. He seemed to deny the implication that in the mean time, he does believe that it is a mental illness. But when the reporter then brought up other anti-LGBT tweets he has posted in the past, he became truly flummoxed. Watch the interview:
Just this week, Sotiropoulos complained that there is “No awareness campaign at #TDSB for any other types of bullying than sexuality or gender, the 2 rarest of all in our schools.” Prior to the tweet that prompted the interview, he also claimed, “Some would have you believe biology doesn’t determine gender… But only, it seems, when it suits their purposes. #Fraud” In the radio interview he posted, host Jim Richards blatantly asked, “Just to be clear, the American Psychiatric Association has not convinced you that this is not a mental illness?” “No, I got to tell you,” Sotiropoulos replied, “The court’s out on it, Jim.”
The Global News reporter also asked Sotiropoulos to address a tweet he sent in July — still live on his account — describing the Toronto Worldpride Parade as a “freak show with politicians.” In the interview, he denied having ever said “freak show,” then claimed he wasn’t prepared to talk about that tweet.
Earlier this year, Sotiropoulos led a campaign to try to ban nudity at Pride, which he admitted he had never even been to. His motion failed, but when NOW Magazine described his campaign against the festival as “homophobic,” he threatened legal action, claiming defamation and libel. In February, after being called out for numerous anti-gay tweets related to Pride, he claimed that Canada was under attack by “homosexism,” whose disseminators he described as “maliciously rabid.” Describing himself as a “victim” of that homosexism, he told the National Post, “I will not be bullied.”