Angelo Castillo, a Pembroke Pines, Florida City Commissioner, has come under fire for controversial remarks he made on Facebook following Caitlyn Jenner's Vanity Fair profile.
Castillo, the former executive director of HIV and AIDS services agency The Broward House, posted on June 4:
"I have an announcement to make. After considerable thought, I've decided to remain a guy. Now, I know this defies all conventional wisdom, trends and styles. Yet I've considered my decision carefully and just feel it will be better for all concerned."
Castillo, who is a Democrat, said the post is satire, meant to spark discussion. In a follow-up post after receiving pushback to his original comments, Castillo added a "warning:"
"In addition to other stuff, this Facebook page presents local, state and national stories in ways designed to generate thoughtful discussion.
"Some posts may evoke happiness and others anger, you may agree or disagree, you may feel inspired, challenged or offended. Some comments may be serious, others humorous or satirical. Some of the views expressed are mine and others completely invented. I promise only this -- the posts are intended to improve public dialogue which, let's face it, sucks right now."
Activist Michael Rajner, however, isn't buying Castillo's self-defense. The longtime AIDS educator posted a response to Castillo's followup explanation on his own page:
"The problem with Pembroke Pines City Commissioner Angelo Castillo's back peddling defense is, its void of any public policy recommendations that he claims his discussion is to help promote. Castillo having been at the helm of a social service agency that served uninsured transgender clients should have a unique and more responsible perspective on the many barriers a transgender person experiences - not only in the workplace, but also the daily struggle that includes overcoming such dangerous and hurtful rhetoric that fuels the stigma transgender people must overcome in their daily lives."
Nadine Smith, the executive director of Equality Florida, was also unimpressed. In a comment on Castillo's original post, she wrote:
"I'm disappointed that so many [in the comment thread] are using male pronouns for Caitlyn Jenner. More disappointed at the snarky post. I've got a great sense of humor but the best comics will tell you always punch up at the privileged. Punching someone being held down, that's not humor that's just meanness. Be better than this post."
Other commenters took Castillo's post as an opportunity to vent their own prejudices about transgender people:
"Most people do the truly courageous thing and make the best of their lot in life. Choosing to alter your sex, race etc. is typically vanity, generally cowardly, and in the case of Bruce Jenner results from a lust for fame. No matter; attempting to change gods design is always futile!"
Castillo responded to the poster: "There are some who see it that way. I can't say what God's design is, if I understood it to that extent, I wouldn't be human but I respect your view."
As word of this thread on facebook has spread, the politician has continued to defend his posts as satire in multiple posts to his own page, telling outraged activists and transgender people, "If you find it inappropriate, if it offends you, defriend me.
The Dolphin Democrats, southern Florida's LGBT Democrats group, have demanded that Castillo apologize.
"This is not satire, but instead offensively disparages transgender people. The Dolphin Democrats feel this is entirely inappropriate for any elected official who is also a Democrat, especially as it occurred during Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride month, celebrated in June."
The group shared screenshots of Castillo's remarks posted on its own social media page, alongside its call for an apology: "As Democrats, we call on Pembroke Pines Commissioner Angelo Castillo, to apologize for his distasteful public comments made at the expense of our transgender sisters and brothers."