For the past couple of weeks, the media have been abuzz with reports of Chastity/Chaz Bono’s transition from female to male.
Everyone from the major news agencies to the LGBT press to entertainment shows and blogs have gotten in on the action:
Chaz’s mom, Cher, the entertainer and actress known infamously by her singular name, says she respects the courage of the planned surgical transition. In a statement to US Magazine she said:
“Chaz is embarking on a difficult journey, but one that I will support. I respect the courage it takes to go through this transition in the glare of public scrutiny, and although I may not understand, I will strive to be understanding. The one thing that will never change is my abiding love for my child.”
In my opinion, this is one of those statement that damns with faint support: “… although I may not understand, I will strive… I’ll love you no matter what you do… because I hold judgment but will rise above it…”. Of course, I’m paraphrasing here, but that’s what her statement reeks of.
For crap’s sake, Cher. You’ve lived an absolutely outrageous life filled with men, plastic surgery, tattoos, bare-assed videos, skimpy costumes, and wigs. Chaz’s gender identity and sexual orientation isn’t a wig or a Bob Mackie dress that comes off and on at will. This is the kid you thrust into the public eye, who is now struggling to make the best of it. Chaz’s internal work will be public – not only by choice – and primarily because of you.
After all you’re the one who once told ABC about your plastic surgeries and body modifications:
“If I want to put my tits on my back, it’s nobody’s business but my own.”
And yet, your child’s personal business belongs to the world because you set those wheels in motion years ago.
And most remarkably, while Cher has been celebrated for her style and outrageousness, and for her music and acting career, none of it may equal the societal contributions of her daughter, now her son.
Chaz Bono has been marked in the media as a “celebrity child,” and indeed, his early life was a creation of his parents and their publicity machine. He came out to his parents at 18, and in 1990 was publically outed without permission by Star, and then by choice on the cover of The Advocate. He went on to author two books, Family Outing: A Guide to the Coming Out Process for Gays, Lesbians, and Their Families (1998) tells the story of his own coming out, and also the stories of other gay and lesbian people, and The End of Innocence: A Memoir which discusses his outing, music career, and late partner Joan’s death from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
He created a band and had a brief musical career with the band “Ceremony”.
Born into the spotlight, Chaz has made the best of it, using that platform to work for the rights of LGBT people everywhere. He has written for The Advocate, been a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), campaigned for Democratic candidates, worked against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and has worked for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).
In 1996, speaking at an HRC event:
I can’t begin to imagine Chaz’s life. His dad, Sonny Bono, was a entertainer-turned-Republican congressman, who died in a ski accident.
His mother may be the femme-fatale most often imitated by drag queens around the world.
Can you imagine coming out in a community where everywhere you turned you heard your mother’s voice, or saw men dressed like her, doing campy imitations of her gestures? It’s a nightmare of mythic proportions.
And, yet Chaz Bono has survived all of this and more. He’s been determined to carve out his own path – authentically – raising the visibility of the LGBT community along the way. And for that we owe him a debt of gratitude.