(NEXSTAR) — Guitarist Carlos Santana, of the rock and roll band Santana, is under fire Thursday after comments he made during a recent concert in Atlanta City, New Jersey, surfaced online. The comments, which Santana has confirmed he made, are considered by many to be offensive to the transgender community.
In the clip, which can be seen across several outlets, including Consequence, the “Smooth” musician can be heard saying: “When God made you and me, before we came out of the womb, you know who you are and what you are. Later on, when you grow out of it, you see things, and you start believing that you could be something that sounds good, but you know it ain’t right. Because a woman is a woman and a man is a man. That’s it. Whatever you wanna do in the closet, that’s your business. I’m OK with that.”
During the same concert, Santana also stopped to express support for comedian Dave Chappelle, who has made several inflammatory comments about the trans community in recent years. In the clip, Santana is heard saying as a follow-up to his previous statement,”I am like this with my brother Dave Chappelle,” as reported by Rolling Stone.
In a statement to Billboard, Santana said: “Here is my personal goal that I strive to achieve every day. I want to honor and respect all person’s ideals and beliefs whether they are LGBTQ or not. This is the planet of free will and we have all been given this gift… I will now pursue this goal to be happy and have fun, and for everyone to believe what they want and follow in your hearts without fear. It takes courage to grow and glow in the light that you are and to be true, genuine, and authentic. We grow and learn to shine our light with Love and compliments. Have a glorious existence. Peace.”
The Grammy Award-winning artist’s comments come as upwards of 500 anti-LGBTQ bills circulate across legislatures in the U.S., as tracked by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU explains that many of these proposals are directly focused at transgender youth.
Current statistics from Pew Research Center show transgender people are more visible than they used to be, with about 5% of Americans younger than 30 identifying as trans or nonbinary — but data shows violence against trans people is high. According to an Anti-Defamation League report on Anti-LGBTQ+ Hate & Extremism Incidents, 2022-23, 138 of the 356 total incidents of violence or harassment were targeting drag events and performers. While not all people who perform at or support drag events are transgender, the two communities are historically intrinsically linked.
Over the past few years, the LGBTQ+ community (and drag performers especially) has faced targeted accusations of “grooming” from some far-right and conservative groups, though the Anti-Defamation League notes the language is not used legitimately. “Instead, [anti-LGBTQ+ figures] imply or explicitly claim that LGBTQ+ people are pedophiles who are preying on children by discussing issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity.”
The trans community has borne the brunt of much of such attacks, with trans people falsely being accused of indoctrinating children into trans identities, both with and against children’s wishes.
Though it’s uncommon for minors to receive gender-affirming surgery, current evidence shows many youth who are receiving non-surgical gender-affirming care now find their health care in danger.
Despite some recently published data found only about 1% of transgender respondents regretted having surgery, other 2023 data also shows all transgender people are still likely to experience negative outcomes from society around their identities. Moreover, a study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics last year found that only 2.5% of youths in the U.S. and Canada who did transition at an average of age 6 reverted back to their birth-assigned gender.
The rise in anti-LGBTQ sentiment in recent years has been found to be directly affecting queer people, with the Trevor Project’s 2023 U.S. National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ Young People finding 41% of LGBTQ young people seriously considered attempted suicide within the past year. The same survey found trans and nonbinary youth whose pronouns and identities were supported by their families reported lower rates of suicidal attempts.