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.
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?
- 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