All about Chaz

cher and chaz

Cher and Chastity Bono

The long-awaited film “Becoming Chaz,” a documentary about Chaz Bono’s female-to-male (FTM) gender reassignment aired this week on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. And it captures not only the arduous trek of coming out as transgender, but it also captures the universal experience we all face of coming out as our true selves.

As the only child of the world renowned pop duo Cher and Sonny Bono, many of us remember Chaz as their cherub-faced daughter Chastity, blowing kisses to the audience of her parents top-rated variety television show “Sonny & Cher.”

In 1995 Chaz was outed as a lesbian. But this time Chaz is in control, and on his own volition announcing he’s now legally a man.

But our trans men and women who have the courage to come out sadly and too often receive more criticism, sarcasm, and ridicule than praise.

Sonny, Cher and Chastity Bono

For example, in the New York Times article, “The Reluctant Transgender Role Model”, reporter Cintra Wilson attempts to comprehend the enormity of Chaz’s courage, and perhaps applaud his perseverance to undergo surgery. But as a cisgendered person (one whose gender matches his or her biological sex) Wilson’s remark is, at best, insensitive and, at worst, insulting.  Writes Wilson, “You come away with a palpable understanding of how unendurably he must be suffering in his body to want to have his own sex characteristics amputated”.

Continuing with the heterosexist assumption that a child being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) might have something to do with inept parenting, Wilson asks these naggingly insulting questions:

  • Could it be possible that the fact that Chaz is now a man is somehow Cher’s fault?

    Chaz Bono

    Chaz Bono

  • Did the toxic culture of celebrity damage Chastity/Chaz’s gender identity?
  • Did Cher’s almost drag queen-like hyper-female persona somehow devour Chastity’s emerging femininity?
  • Could Chaz’s transition have been motivated by gender-bent Oedipal revenge?
  • Is he reclaiming the childhood attention his superstar mother always diverted?
  • It is remotely possible that he needed to make the transition because his mom is Cher?

“I don’t think the way I grew up had any effect on this issue,” Chaz told Wilson. “There’s a gender in your brain and a gender in your body. For 99 percent of people, those things are in alignment. For transgender people, they’re mismatched. That’s all it is. It’s not complicated, it’s not a neurosis. It’s a mix-up. It’s a birth defect, like a cleft palate.” cont’d on page 2

Published by the LA Progressive on May 12, 2011
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About Rev. Irene Monroe

Rev. Irene Monroe is a Ford Fellow and doctoral candidate at Harvard Divinity School. One of Monroe’s outreach ministries is the several religion columns she writes - “The Religion Thang,” for In Newsweekly, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender newspaper that circulates widely throughout New England, “Faith Matters” for The Advocate Magazine, a national gay & lesbian magazine, and “Queer Take,” for The Witness, a progressive Episcopalian journal. Her writings have also appeared in Boston Herald and in the Boston Globe. Her award-winning essay, “Louis Farrakhan’s Ministry of Misogyny and Homophobia”, was greeted with critical acclaim.

Monroe states that her “columns are an interdisciplinary approach drawing on critical race theory, African American , queer and religious studies. As an religion columnist I try to inform the public of the role religion plays in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. Because homophobia is both a hatred of the “other ” and it’s usually acted upon ‘in the name of religion,” by reporting religion in the news I aim to highlight how religious intolerance and fundamentalism not only shatters the goal of American democracy, but also aids in perpetuating other forms of oppression such as racism, sexism, classism and anti-Semitism.”