Mario Lopez got hammered on social media Wednesday for controversial remarks he made about transgender children and sexual assault. Angry parents and outraged LGBTQ advocates are calling for him to lose his cushy job at TV’s Extra.
As that storm erupted, Lopez apologized in a statement sent to The Advocate. “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.”
For those of us who avoid watching trash television programming like the plague, Lopez is a veteran co-host of the entertainment gossip show, a 45-year-old father of three children.
To be fair, he had found himself far from the usual logrolling, softball questions he usually asks movie and music stars from the Universal Studios theme park in Los Angeles.
This time, he was in the hot seat, and what stunned most of his critics is how readily he trashed parents who support children with gender dysphoria.
The interviewer was conservative commentator and political activist Candace Owens—the outspoken supporter of President Trump and a vocal opponent of Black Lives Matter. Her stance on this issue is that allowing children to make informed decisions about their gender is the same as them saying they’re a mermaid or that they could fly.
She asked Lopez about the “weird trend” of Hollywood celebrities supporting their children no matter how they identify. Lopez agreed with Owens that it’s “dangerous” for parents to trust their children when they challenge the gender they’re presumed to be at birth.
One such star is Charlize Theron, whose 7-year-old child now identifies as a girl. “Yes, I thought she was a boy, too,” Theron told The Daily Mail. “Until she looked at me when she was 3 years old and said, 'I am not a boy!'”
“I am trying to understand it myself, and please don’t lump me into that whole [group],” Lopez responded. “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 this determination then, OK, you’re going to a boy or a girl.”
Think that’s bad? Wait. It gets worse.
Lopez told Owens he thinks allowing a child to transition genders is “alarming” and he worries “about the repercussions later on. When you’re a kid… you don’t know anything about sexuality yet. You’re just a kid.”
Speaking of people who don’t know anything about sexuality… Wow. Gender identity and sexual orientation are most definitely not the same thing.
Lopez of all people should know it was Chaz Bono who famously said, way back in 2009: “Gender is between your ears, not between your legs.”
Owens then raised the transphobia up a notch by labeling parents who allow their kids to transition “narcissists.” Lopez responded that those parents should “allow their kids to be kids but at the same time, you gotta be the adult in the situation.”
I’m not really clear why anyone should care what Lopez thinks, about anything, but it didn’t end there. After devouring all that transphobic red meat, Owens decided it was time for dessert. And on the menu for her chatfest with the former Saved By The Bell star was the hashtag #BelieveWomen, which caught on during the hearings to confirm frat boy Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
#BelieveWomen, Lopez declared, is a “dangerous hashtag because people lie and sometimes those people are women.”
That sound you’re hearing? Women across the country changing channels on TVs that were set to watch Extra, the entertainment news program seen on all of NBC’s owned and operated stations, which Lopez has co-hosted for 11 seasons.
“God forbid you have a son out there, and a girl may have felt a certain way about a situation—dismissed, hurt, whatever, and is feeling vengeful and just decides to tell a certain story that’s not even exactly true, come back and hurt that individual.”
With such a crucible of mean-minded offensiveness, it’s hard to know where to begin—but let’s begin with the notion that transgender children are some kind of “trend” dreamt up by Hollywood.
Trans kids come from all backgrounds. There is nothing remotely fashionable about this; being transgender is an intrinsic part of one's identity, and the journey to realizing it and living it fully and comfortably is at times traumatic, at other times joyous—but it ultimately leads to authenticity.
That journey benefits hugely from the support of loved ones and family, particularly, if you are a child, from your parents.
That sexuality and gender identity—two totally different things—are still being conflated nonsensically in 2019 is a depressing sign of just how much we need to talk and understand things as early as possible, even before a child reaches school age—and carry on talking about them until they are understood. The same goes for the casual, damaging misogyny exhibited when Lopez and Owens discussed #MeToo.
If it helps Lopez, Owens, and anyone else who thinks like them, here is what is true: I’m a single mom raising two teenagers and a college sophomore to be feminists. They know to respect their own bodies and that of others, to be careful about their intimate interactions and to always be honest. Will they falter? Of course. And when that happens, I’ll be here to support them.
I knew when I was 4 years old that I was not a boy. Jazz Jennings knew when she was 3. Jennings’ parents, unlike mine, supported her transition and sought professional help rather than doubt their daughter when she consistently insisted her gender identity was female.
Thanks to the public advocacy of Jeanette Jennings and her husband Greg, and their daughter, Jazz, more transgender children are finding support, and more parents know better than Mario Lopez.
The ignorance he exhibited isn’t just foolishness. It is literally dangerous to be transgender in our hair-trigger culture. Violence, suicide, and even murder can result from prejudice. It’s not enough for Lopez to apologize in The Advocate. He needs to become an advocate.