Actor and television personality Mario Lopez is apologizing for “ignorant and insensitive” comments he made about parents who recognize the gender identity of their transgender children, after experiencing a strong backlash from LGBTQ advocates.
Lopez, co-host of the entertainment news program Extra, made the comments during an interview in June with conservative commentator Candace Owens on The Candace Owens Show, a video series on the Prager U YouTube channel. But those comments only recently came to light.
During the 40-minute interview, Owens mentioned celebrities who allow their children to choose their gender identity, holding up Charlize Theron, who has a transgender daughter, as an example, reports Newsweek.
“I’m trying to understand this new Hollywood mentality where they just think that their children now have the mental authority and clarity [to decide their gender],” Owens said, comparing children’s assertions about their gender identity to pretending to be a superhero or a mermaid.
Lopez, a father of three, said he didn’t understand the phenomenon either, adding that he was “blown away” by the concept.
“Look, I’m never one to tell anyone how to parent their kids obviously,” he said, “and I would say if you come from a place of love, you really can’t go wrong. 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, whatever the case may be, I just think it’s dangerous as a parent to make that determination then, ‘OK, well, then you’re gonna be a boy or girl,’ whatever the case may be, and it’s sort of alarming and my gosh, I just think about the repercussions later on.”
He also conflated gender identity with sexual orientation, saying: “When you’re a kid … you don’t know anything about sexuality yet. You’re just a kid.”
The reaction to Lopez’s comments was swift, with activists and advocates criticizing him on social media.
Some Twitter users said that Lopez should be “cancelled,” a term that refers to social shunning of people who have made stupid, incendiary, or offensive remarks.
LGBTQ advocate Karamo Brown, of Queer Eye fame, said that he was “disappointed” by Lopez’s comments.
“As a social worker I am trained to identify abuse or neglect of a child. Health and safe dialogue w/ kids is neither abusive, neglectful or ‘dangerous,'” Brown tweeted.
He followed up that tweet with another, adding: “I don’t think @MarioLopezExtra should be ‘canceled.’ But I do believe he should be given the opportunity to learn why his comments are harmful to trans youth and their parents. Mario, I’m ready to talk when you are.”
I don’t think @MarioLopezExtra should be ‘canceled’. But I do believe he should be given the opportunity to learn why his comments are harmful to trans youth and their parents. Mario, I’m ready to talk when you are.
— Karamo Brown (@Karamo) July 31, 2019
PFLAG, the national organization for friends, family and allies of LGBTQ people, struck a similar tone in a tweet that offered to “educate” Lopez about the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity, which many non-LGBTQ people regularly conflate.
“It’s okay @MarioLopezExtra. We’re here to help provide more education on what being #transgender means, the difference between #sexualorientation, #sex, and #gender… and a whole lot of other things,” PFLAG tweeted.
It’s okay @MarioLopezExtra. We’re here to help provide more education on what being #transgender means, the difference between #sexualorientation, #sex, and #gender… and a whole lot of other things. https://t.co/ahjYTyenMD
— PFLAG National (@PFLAG) July 31, 2019
The LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD fired back at Lopez in a statement and said that it had received confirmation that Extra would address the issue.
“Medical and psychological experts, and parents of children who are transgender, have long discredited the ideas that Mario Lopez shared last month,” the statement read. “The real ‘dangerous action’ is when someone with a public platform uses bad science to speak against a marginalized and vulnerable group of children. We spoke with Extra and it is clear that the showrunners do not support or share his view. … Lopez clearly needs a primer on trans issues. We reached out to his team to see if and how he will correct the record.”
Lopez later backtracked, issuing a statement in which he apologized for his remarks and understands “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,” Lopez said. “Moving forward I will be more informed and thoughtful.”