During a recent interview with conservative TV host Candace Owens, actor Mario Lopez, best known for his role on Saved by the Bell, offended many by stating that it was “dangerous” for parents to support their transgender children.
Lopez, who until recently hosted the tabloid news show Extra, has since backtracked and released a statement in which he says, “The comments I made were ignorant and insensitive, and I now have a deeper understanding of how hurtful they were. I have been and always will be an ardent supporter of the LGBTQ community, and I am going to use this opportunity to better educate myself. Moving forward I will be more informed and thoughtful.”
Owens, known for courting controversy with her criticism of Black Lives Matter and progressive politics, claimed last year that "something bio-chemically happens" to women who choose not to get married or have children. She went on to name Sarah Silverman, Chelsea Handler and Kathy Griffin, as examples of unmarried women without children.
Silverman was quick to respond to Owens’ absurd theory, writing, "It seems to me that by tweeting this, you would like to maybe make us feel badly. I'd say this is evidenced by your effort to use our Twitter handles so we would see. My heart breaks for you, Candy. I hope you find happiness in whatever form that takes." Owens answered by ridiculously claiming that Silverman supported terrorists and crime gangs.
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There is so much political polarization. People that can stand in the middle and dignify both sides of the argument with meaningful dialogue are the real heroes. @mariolopez is such an example. Faith, Family, Fun, and Hard Work. Can’t wait to share our episode of the #CandaceOwensShow
In her conversation with Lopez, Owens mentioned Charlize Theron, who recently discussed Jackson, her 7-year-old, who doesn’t identify as a boy. “Celebrities are coming out — and I know Charlize Theron did this a few weeks ago — and saying that their child is picking their gender,” Owens said. Lopez seemed to agree with Owens, adding, “I’m blown away.”
“Look, I’m never one to tell anyone how to parent their kids, obviously, and I think if you come from a place of love, you really can’t go wrong,” he continued. “But at the same time, my God, if you’re 3 years old and you’re saying you’re feeling a certain way, or you think you’re a boy or a girl or whatever the case may be, I just think it’s dangerous as a parent to make that determination then.”
The two continued their conversation, at times confusing gender identity and sexual orientation. “When you’re a kid … You don’t know anything about sexuality, you’re just a kid,” Lopez said. He also criticized the #MeToo and #BelieveWomen movements, saying that they can also be dangerous since “people lie — and sometimes those people are women.”
Several LGBTQ organizations, including GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign, responded to Lopez and Owens. “Medical and psychological experts, and parents of children who are transgender, have long discredited the ideas that @MarioLopezExtra shared,” GLAAD tweeted. “The real dangerous action is when someone with a public platform uses bad science to speak against a vulnerable group of children.”
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@BroadwayGlobal @TheatreChat #DestinedToDance family, Let is all use this moment to educate ourselves! @MarioLopezExtra even our own #LGBTQ brothers and sisters have to educate ourselves on #TransKids. We all need to find programs that embrace Trans Kids, so we can educate ourselves as a society. As a long time LGBTQ allie, we thank you for your new statement, and we know you will reach out to Families with Trans Kids, and maybe spotlight a story that educates America and the Globe on these beautiful children. Your lifetime has been spent on stage and TV with very diverse individuals. This moment will bring much needed attention to families with Trans Kids! We love and respect you! “The comments I made were ignorant and insensitive, and I now have a deeper understanding of how hurtful they were… I have been and always will be an ardent supporter of the LGBTQ community, and I am going to use this opportunity to better educate myself. Moving forward I will be more informed and thoughtful. #MarioLopez
Other celebrities, such as “Queer Eye” star Karamo Brown and former NFL player Wade Davis, also dragged Lopez. “I’m disappointed to read @MarioLopezExtra comments about parent’s who support their child’s [openness] about their gender identity,” Brown wrote. “As a social worker I am trained to identify abuse or neglect of a child. Healthy & safe dialogue w/ kids is neither abusive, neglectful or ‘dangerous.'”
According to the American Psychiatric Association, some children may express feelings and behaviors related to gender dysphoria at four years of age or younger. Gender dysphoria refers to a person’s dissatisfaction with their assigned gender. For some children gender dysphoria may not continue into adolescence or adulthood, although research shows that children with more persistent symptoms and distress are more likely to become transgender adults.
In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has highlighted the importance of parents supporting children who may be struggling with gender identity or sexuality. “We know that family and community support are essential for any child’s healthy development, and children who are gender-diverse are no different,” said Jason Rafferty, MD, MPH, Ed, FAA. “What is most important is for a parent to listen, respect and support their child’s self-expressed identity. This encourages open conversations that may be difficult but key to the child’s mental health and the family’s resilience and wellbeing.”
Studies show that 0.7 percent of teens ages 13 to 17 identify as transgender. The AAP believes that physicians play a vital role in supporting these children by providing a safe and inclusive place for transgender and gender-diverse youth, who struggle with high rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance use, self-harm and suicide.