RHONY's Cindy Barshop on Life After Revealing Son, 9, Is Transgender: 'Nothing's Really Changed'
Barshop, who appeared on season 4 of the Bravo reality show and is also the founder of V Spot — a women’s intimate health spa — first opened up to PEOPLE on Aug. 1 about raising daughter Zoe and son Jesse, who is transgender. The decision was in response to Mario Lopez‘s controversial comments that parents should wait until a child’s “formative years” before making declarations about their gender.
Speaking to PEOPLE Now on Thursday, Barshop, 54, addressed Lopez’s comments.
“First of all, he is not a parent of a trans child, or may not know yet. So, it’s absolutely wrong,” she said. “Trans children, they know their identity. It’s not about sexuality and that is the most important thing. Because people are like, ‘Well, how do they know?’ It’s an identity change, not a sexuality. So that’s the one clarification I want to make. And you have to be open with your children.”
Barshop said that Jesse was “upset” by Lopez’s statements, and he convinced his mother to speak up about it.
“He was so cute, so that’s really why I started talking about it, is because he got really upset and didn’t understand,” Barshop explained. “Because he was like, ‘Ew, I don’t like anybody yet.’ So basically he said, ‘Say something mom,’ and I said, ‘Fine.’ And Jesse said, ‘He needs to go back to fifth grade, because that’s where you learn it.’ Which is true these days. At least in school these days, you’re learning about different types of identities and what children want to be and you should cultivate it.”
Lopez apologized for his “ignorant and insensitive” comments in a statement to PEOPLE after the backlash, but has not yet addressed the situation with Barshop directly, she revealed.
“No, no and that’s fine,” she explained. “I’m actually glad he said it, because there’s obviously other people in the world that don’t realize these things and it’s basic. Children that are trans need to open up early on. Between [ages] 11-18, the female to male trans, 50 percent have attempted suicide. Fifty percent at such a young age. It’s because parents need to be open, and that’s really the only thing I want to bring out here. Be open and listen to your children, they know.”
After opening up for the first time about Jesse, Barshop said that life is “the same, we are the same.”
“That’s how we have always lived, since they were little. I’ve always let him dress how he wants, do what he wants. So a lot of the kids know, some don’t. Nothing’s really changed, I just thought he may want to speak about it a little bit and he said, ‘No you can do it.’ ”
“It’s just so normal in my household. We’ll joke around and be like, ‘Jesse gets more attention because he is trans.’ We play with it just like an everyday type of thing. But she’s fine, she looks at him as a brother,” Barshop said of how Zoe has reacted to her brother’s reveal. “I mean once you start, they are 9 now, so it’s for six years they’ve been doing this.”
When asked about the biggest misconception about raising a transgender child, Barshop elaborated that “gender identity does not mean anything to do with sexuality.”
“So they say ‘at that age, how do they know?’ ” the mother of two said. “They know at that age, they know that, ‘you know what, I’m not supposed to be a girl, I’m supposed to be a boy.’ And just to flourish that. We are probably going to save one child’s life just now by just talking like this to a mother, that they say, ‘Well maybe I should just be open about it.’ It’s super important.”
“You notice very young, it’s very young,” Barshop added of when parents can identify that their child is transgender. “The other parents I’ve spoken to, we’re talking at 2. Even the movements that they make. At 3, 3 1/2, I was 100 percent sure.”
The former Bravo star also spoke of a “poignant moment” that the child themselves realizes their identity.
“If you speak to every parent whose gone through this at a young age, there’s a very poignant moment when a child explicitly — obviously my child said it differently than others: ‘This is not right, there is something wrong,’ ” she said. “For a child, they are like little angels, to come out with it at a young age, that’s when they are going to realize: something is off and I can tell my mother.”
“There is an absolutely poignant moment where it’s black and white to the parent,” Barshop continued. “Each child is different, so that’s how they’ll come out with it.”