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Mario Lopez faces backlash for comments on raising transgender children

Gender: The Space Between
CBS Reports presents Gender - The Space Between 30:51

In an interview with conservative commentator Candace Owens, entertainment host Mario Lopez made a comment about parenting transgender children that outraged many. Later, Lopez called his comments "ignorant and insensitive" and vowed to "be more informed and thoughtful."

Owens, who hosts her own show on the PragerU YouTube channel, asked Lopez about what she called "weird trends," in Hollywood. "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.

Theron recently revealed that her 7-year-old child Jackson did not identify as a boy. Owens said she's trying to understand this "new Hollywood mentality," where celebrity parents think their children have the "mental authority" to choose their gender.

Lopez agreed, and said he's trying to understand it himself. "I'm blown away too," he said. "I'm never one to tell anyone how to parent their children... if you come from a place of love, you can't go wrong."

"But, my God, if you're 3 years old and you're saying you're feeling a certain way and you think you're a boy or girl, I think it's dangerous as a parent to make that determination then," he continued. Lopez said it's "alarming" and there may be repercussions later on.

Owens shared that as a child, she went through a "tomboy" phase for a year, before she went through puberty. Owens said if at that time she decided to shave her head and become a boy, she'd be depressed once she went through puberty and started liking boys. "You can't make a decision about your sexuality when you're 3 years old," she said.

Lopez agreed. "My daughter thinks some boys have cooties. You don't know anything about sexuality, you're just a kid," Lopez said. 

The Candace Owens Show: Mario Lopez by PragerU on YouTube

Gender and sexuality are two separate aspects of a person's identity. Gender refers to a person's identity as male, female, a continuum or blend of both, or perhaps conforming to neither. Sex refers to a person's biological makeup, while sexual orientation is about who they are attracted to. Experts say transgender individuals do not "choose" their gender or sexuality. 

The two hosts continuously confused gender and sexuality during their discussion.

"I think that's a very scary trend we're seeing in Hollywood right now, and to me, at the core of it, seems like narcissism," Owens said. "Like you just want to say, 'I'm so tolerant, and I'm so accepting that whatever my kid wants to do they can do.'"

Lopez, a father of three, said parents need to let their kids be kids, "but at the same time, we need to be the adults in the situation."

"I think in the formative years is when you start to have these conversations and make those decisions [about gender/sexuality]. Before that is way to young," he continued.

Lopez, who at the beginning of the 40-minute interview said he is a registered independent after Owens insinuated he was politically conservative, said he doesn't talk about politics, because he's "in the people business."

"I don't want to alienate anyone. I want everyone to want to watch me," Lopez said. However, his comments about transgender youth drew criticism from Twitter users, some of whom said he's "cancelled" as far as they're concerned.

In a statement obtained by CBS News, Lopez said his comments were "ignorant and insensitive."

"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," Lopez said.

On Twitter, the LGBTQ organization PFLAG offered to provide Lopez with "more education on what being #transgender means, the difference between #sexualorientation, #sex, and #gender... and a whole lot of other things." The group offers a guide to help loved ones understand these issues better.

During his interview, Lopez also took aim at the #MeToo movement. He said social media campaigns such as #MeToo and #BelieveWomen are dangerous, "because people lie — and sometimes those people are women." In 1993, well before the #MeToo movement, Lopez was accused of rape and denied the allegations, and the charges were eventually dropped, according to Variety.

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