Thursday, June 11, 2009

Chastity Bono Transitions, The Media Circus Follows Right Behind

It appears the tabloids were true. We today got confirmation that after his 40th birthday, Chaz (formerly Chastity Bono) has begun the transition process from female to male.

"Yes, it's true -- Chaz, after many years of consideration, has made the courageous decision to honor his true identity," publicist Howard Bragman tells

"He is proud of his decision and grateful for the support and respect that has already been shown by his loved ones. It is Chaz's hope that his choice to transition will open the hearts and minds of the public regarding this issue, just as his 'coming out' did nearly 20 years ago," Bragman added.

I kinda feared that might be the case ... just a hunch (like the one I had about TransFM's Ethan St. Pierre ten years ago when I first saw him at Lobby Days!)

But the fear wasn't so much for Chaz as much as the reaction this would draw from those looking to exploit another trans figure. It was something I'd written about back in 2007 when this rumor first hit in "Freak Of The Week: The Tabloid Media"

[W]hy is it such a heinous scandal to have someone attached to anything hinting of crossdressing or transsexualism? [...]

A couple of items jumped out at me this week prompting this. One was a tabloid (Star or Enquirer, can’t remember which) with a blaring headline replete with photos showing a sad looking Cher, and an alternate photo of daughter Chastity Bono in what appears to be a man’s suit. The headline was: Cher’s Heartbreak Over Chastity’s Sex Change Decision. [...]

Keep in mind if Chas (or Chaz if that's how he's deciding to spell it) decides to transition to male, this will not (or should not) be a capricious decision. There’s a lot of heart-wrenching changes this makes to both family and perhaps more importantly societal relationships.
That heart-wrenching change is something I could attest to. Career-killing, financial hell and a measure of family struggles, yeah ... it's no picnic at all!

In one sense, Chaz may have an easier transition inasmuch as finances won't be the worry. He may well discover the limitations in his career and peer set due to the "transgender effect". It's likely not to be as severe due to his high profile name, but there will be some exposure to opinions, decisions and actions which he may have glossed over before (not being personally affected) but which now will carry a new and extra sting to it.

But in other ways, I feel sorry for Chaz. The downsides are there too. Adam Lambert's recent coming out as gay was phrased as "no big thing." It's not something that trans people can hope to use and get away with. It may be another generation until it's "not a big thing" for being trans.

Due to Chaz's celebrity status, it's going to be a magnet for exploitation of the "high profile" trans. For media, it's automatic salaciousness – and salacious sells! Regardless of how low-key he longs to keep it, the media won't relent because it's how they earn their paychecks.

And for his former and current employers in gay and lesbian political advocacy, they'll quickly position to monopolize him to be their spokes-trans, and with it buy themselves validity with trans people long used to their games and the perennial hierachial agenda. If he stays with their talking points, he'll be their darling for the time. Meanwhile, he'll self-ostracize from his own newfound community as he helps his employers continue countering his own trans brothers' and sisters' work and history, and inadvertently helps long-term trans folk remain voiceless and marginalized.

Chances are likely that he'll not understand the critical backlash when that happens either.

Mostly, the one thing that a sizable portion of transsexuals do – going into stealth, woodworking in order to have a real life away from the objectification of society's view of trans – will be mostly unattainable. Just the family bloodlines alone prevent media and paparazzi from ever forgetting, to say nothing of the high profile years spent in gay and lesbian advocacy.

He's acclimated to growing up in the spotlight with his family. But still, everyone at some point wishes for a "regular life" without always being defined as "the tranny" and its vaguely sexual, "Ripley's Believe It Or Not"-styled oddity label attached to us. Nobody really wants a camera following them around 24-7 for 365 days a year, privacy and personal issues be damned.

It'll be a media circus with every media outlet wanting a story, and every political hack possible seizing upon the opportunity for some free face time for themselves – oh! And pushing forth their personal agendas for folks like themselves (read: donate early, donate heavily, and trans people are fine with us pushing marriage and their own long-term joblessness!) There's nothing we can do but roll our eyes and take notes of who does and says what.

Chaz Bono's transition is necessary for him. That his mother, Cher, has come around to accpet his true self is a very positive development. But for his coming years of media and opportunists hanging all over him to attend to fulfilling their own agendas and thinking nothing about him as a person, much less consideration to his own personal space, I gotta say I feel for Chaz's situation over the coming months and years.

"We ask that the media respect Chaz's privacy during this long process as he will not be doing any interviews at this time," publicist Bragman concluded.

Amen to that sentiment. And let that go for his mom, Cher, as well. No matter what you think about the transition, give a chance to have a life!

"They say we're young and we don't know
We won't find out until we grow." — I Got You Babe, Sonny & Cher

1 comment:

Monica Roberts said...

Best of luck to Chaz and yay for our team ;)