“When a child feels comfortable and open, identity issues are able to be discussed in the family environment,” Cindy Barshop said.

By Emily Strohm
August 02, 2019
Cindy Ord/Getty Images

Cindy Barshop is a single mom to 9-year-old twins, and the former Real Housewives of New York City star is opening up for the first time about raising her daughter, Zoe, and transgender son, Jesse.

“When a child feels comfortable and open, identity issues are able to be discussed in the family environment,” Barshop, 54, tells PEOPLE. “I believe living in creating an open and positive home so they are able to express themselves.”

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 — says she wanted to speak out after Mario Lopez recently came under fire for suggesting parents should wait until a child’s “formative years” before making declarations about their gender.

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In a statement to PEOPLE on Wednesday, Lopez apologized for his “ignorant and insensitive” remarks.

“The comments I made were ignorant and insensitive, and I now have a deeper understanding of how hurtful they were,” he said. “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.”

Barshop says she wants to try and use Lopez’s comments as a positive learning lesson for others.

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“I’m hoping that the more awareness that we bring that people understand that trans is an identity and has absolutely nothing to do with sexuality,” she says.

Barshop adds that when she shared Lopez’s comments with her son, his reaction was “poignant.”

“He said, ‘Why don’t you tell him that we learn about this in 5th grade and he needs to go back to 5th grade.’ It shows how evolved our children are and hopefully the adults will catch up,” she says.

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