During a sit-down with Lopez on her YouTube talk show, Owens brought up what she called a “weird trend” in Hollywood: children “picking their gender,” and she cited actress Charlize Theron’s disclosure that one of the children she adopted is now living as a girl. Owens called it a “new Hollywood mentality” and a “really scary trend.” “It’s virtue signaling,” she said. “Like, ‘I’m so tolerant and so accepting that whatever my kid wants to do they can do.’ "
Lopez’s response didn’t quite go as far as Owens did. “I’m never one to tell anyone how to parent their kids, obviously . . . I think if you come from a place of love, you really can’t go wrong,” he started out. “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, okay, then you’re going to be a boy or a girl . . . It’s sort of alarming, and, my gosh, I just think about the repercussions later on.”
That quote circulated on social media, where it was met with criticism. “Mario Lopez’s comments are dangerous to the safety and well-being of LGBTQ youth, especially trans children who deserve to be loved and accepted for who they are,” read a tweet by the Human Rights Campaign. Karamo Brown of “Queer Eye” also weighed in: “I’m disappointed to read @MarioLopezExtra comments about parent’s who support their child’s [openness] about their gender identity. 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.’ ”
Brown, though, said the backlash could be a chance for the “Saved by the Bell” actor to learn. “I don’t think @MarioLopezExtra should be ‘canceled,’ ” he wrote in a follow-up tweet. “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.”
That kind of backlash apparently prompted Lopez to rethink his stance. “The comments I made were ignorant and insensitive, and I now have a deeper understanding of how hurtful they were,”Lopez said in a statement on Wednesday. “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.”
In the Owens interview, Lopez said that he thought the “formative years” — when a child is older — “is when you start having those conversations and making those declarations.”
It was clear during the interview that Lopez didn’t intend to wade into controversial waters. When Owens brought up actress Zoe Saldana and her husband’s decision not to model gender stereotypes for their children, Lopez says he intentionally doesn’t weigh in on other people’s parenting, even if he disagrees with it. “I worry about what goes on at Casa Lopez and focus on me and mine,” he said.
When Owens pressed him about play dates in which his kids might spend time at other homes where parents were “confusing people” about gender, he said that wasn’t a problem. “They don’t kick it with those kids,” he replied.
Elsewhere in the interview, Lopez noted that he typically steers clear of divisive issues like politics or religion. “I’m in the people business, and I don’t want to alienate anyone. I want everyone to want to watch me.”