From Chastity to Chaz

BlogHer Original Post

[Editor's Note: With the release of his new book Transformation: How I Became a Man now available, Chaz is making the talk show rounds, talking about the journey that led to the autobiography. In thinking how I could cover this story, I stumbled across this oldie but goodies post by Denise, and well....I don't think anything I have to say will hold a candle to this. --Morgan]

I was born in 1963, which makes me 45 years old (for just a few more months.) This is important because it means that I grew up watching The Sonny & Cher show. I LOVED The Sonny & Cher show. I mean you didn't see women like Cher walking through the Piggly Wiggly and you certainly didn't see women talk to their husbands the way Cher talked to hers. And then there was Chastity. The best shows were the ones where Chastity appeared, usually singing "I Got You Babe" along with her parents. I loved that.

I was born in 1963, which makes me 45 years old (for just a few more months.) This is important because it means that I grew up watching The Sonny & Cher show. I LOVED The Sonny & Cher show. I mean you didn't see women like Cher walking through the Piggly Wiggly and you certainly didn't see women talk to their husbands the way Cher talked to hers. And then there was Chastity. The best shows were the ones where Chastity appeared, usually singing "I Got You Babe" along with her parents. I loved that.

And then I grew up, and Chastity grew up and we both came out (or sort of came out) at about the same time. Ah, someone I recognized and was comfortable with was queer and while she wasn't just like me, she was someone I could relate to just a little bit. After all, we had grown up together. She on TV and me watching her every week.

So there was the grown up Chastity making her way as a lesbian in a straight world, doing the whole activist bit and getting butchier and butchier by the minute. I saw her talking more and more about gender roles.

At some point, watching her from afar, I began to wonder if her shift was not so much about being a butch lesbian but about a deeper gender shift.

Chaz Bono
© Erik Pendzich/Rex Features/ZUMAPRESS.com

So when we heard the news yesterday that Chastity announced the transition to Chaz, I wasn't at all surprised. My honest first response was "It's about time." (And I'm not the only one who felt that way.)

TMZ broke the story with Chastity Bono -- Becoming a Man.

Chastity Bono, civil rights advocate, journalist, author and musician,
is in the early stages of changing his gender -- transitioning from female to male, TMZ has learned.

Bono, the child of legendary entertainers Sonny & Cher, began the process earlier this year, shortly after his 40th birthday.

From here on, I will only use the name Chaz because that's who we're talking about. That's who this person is, and has always been.

What does it mean for a person who was born a gendered female to transition to a male? That's a little complicated because it's really up to the individual.

Transition can mean everything from sex reassignment surgery to simply living in the opposite gender, without any significant body modifications at all.

We don't actually know whether Chaz will have reassignment surgery. His transition may be social or it may be surgical.

As in the case of Thomas Beattie, the transgendered F2M who just gave birth to his second child - you can be one gender but retain the genitalia of another.

Gender is complicated.

If there's one thing I'd really like people to take away from this it's that we're talking about gender and not necessarily sexuality.

And that's what Dan Savage gets wrong in his piece, Becoming a Man about Chaz.

This just doesn't happen to my gay male friends. This has never happened to a gay man that I've know personally. And I can only think of a single gay man in the public eye—one of the Arquettes—who has ever announced that, after years of consideration, he realized he wasn't honoring his true identity—e.g. he'd really been a woman all along—and was transitioning from male to female.

Chaz was never a lesbian woman. Chaz was transgendered. Chaz isn't becoming a man, he's always been one. Actually, F2M's tend to be far more invisible and discreet than M2Fs.

If Dan doesn't know any gay men who have transitioned, then it's because he doesn't know any transgendered men. This doesn't have a single thing to do with gay sexuality or lesbian sexuality, this is about gender.

And, Dan also didn't stop to consider the possibility that some of those men who he thought were gay men, were really trans and could not or chose not to transition.

Transition is not an easy thing to do, even if you know it's the right thing for you to do.

Trans people have families and friends who they don't want to disappoint or let down. They don't want to disrupt the lives of those they love. They don't want to be killed or have someone who loves them be killed. Have you ever heard of Calpernia Adams?

Coming out gay isn't easy and coming out trans isn't any easier.

More folks weigh in on Chaz. Read the comments.

  • After Ellen
  • Women Born Transsexual
  • GLAAD Blog
  • Are you wondering Cher has responded? (I don't blame you since she is honest about saying she had a difficult time the first time Chaz came out.)

    "Cher is very supportive and has known about Chastity wanting to do this for a very long time," a source tells PEOPLE. "This will be a long process but it's something Chastity has wanted to do for many years."

    Chaz has been a wonderful advocate for lesbians and will now be an even better advocate for the transgender community.

    ~~Denise
    Flamingo House Happenings

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