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Bethenny Frankel criticized for remarks about pronouns, transgender child

We know the kids are listening, so how should parents talk about transgender children? Experts say: Lead with respect
/ Source: TODAY

Bethenny Frankel is facing criticism for comments she made about pronouns and gender identity on her "Just B" podcast.

Frankel opened her September 23 episode with a story about her 11-year-old daughter school.

“I did a Zoom… and [had] the pronouns conversation with each teacher, each parent, each child,” Frankel, 50, said. The “Real Housewives of New York” alum added that her daughter “didn’t even know what hers were.”

Frankel then told a story about a transgender child who attended an all-girls camp. Frankel, who said she does not send her daughter to overnight camp, said she learned about the child from an email chain.

“A person with a penis, who identifies as being a girl, went to the camp and was in the bunk with the girls,” Frankel said. “So the other girls saw a penis. They’re 9, 10 years old, so the parents obviously weren’t that happy.”

Frankel added that she’d heard the child was “making out with a lot of different girls at the camp.”

She was inundated with angry messages on social media.

"Wow, Bethenny, wow. That intro rant was really something! My favorite part was that urban-legend style story about 'kid at camp.' Transphobic and uninformed. Be better," one person wrote.

Added another, "The vile transphobic rant you went on against a child is unacceptable. It's not controversial, it's hate speech."

On Tuesday the former Bravo star defended her remarks.

“Listen to the podcast. Then comment. I was absolutely not wrong. And I’m going to discuss this again this week,” she wrote on Twitter. “Thankfully I have a platform to clarify what the media loves to distort. @justbpodcast. Ps. I’m not afraid of cancelation so not afraid of charged discussions.”

In a statement to TODAY Parents, Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, the executive director of National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), explained the importance of asking for pronouns.

“It makes a real difference — especially to transgender youth who are trying to find their way in the world,” Heng-Lehtinen wrote. “Transgender kids go to summer camp to make friends and have fun, just like other kids. Open and honest communication and treating everyone with respect is a critical first step.”

“The stakes are really high for transgender kids, who too often are bullied. It’s dangerous for them. The important thing to remember is that transgender youth, like everyone, deserve to be treated with dignity,” he continued. “And it’s up to adults — whether they are teachers, camp counselors or celebrities — to do their part to protect trans youth, not hurt them through their words and actions.”

Susan Maasch, who is the director of the Trans Youth Equality Foundation and the mom of a trans child, says it's important for parents to intitiate a conversation with their kids.

"Ask your child how they feel about transgender people. If they're scared, ask them why. If you don't have answers, we're here to help," Maasch told TODAY Parents. "Explain to your child that more than 50% of transgender kids contemplate suicide — and it's from discrimination — not from mental illness. We need to change as a society. We need to do better. It's time to start appreciating diversity and difference."

TODAY Parents attempted to contact Frankel through her representatives and did not receive a reply on Tuesday.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story included a link to an unrelated story about a trans child, which has now been removed.

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