Chaz Bono | Cher | News | Transgender

Watch: Chaz Bono Talks About His Transition, Becoming Himself


Becoming Chaz, the film that documents Chaz Bono's transition to a man, premieres today on Oprah's OWN network, and Chaz has been doing a lot of publicity for it, including yesterday's Oprah show.

Chaz spoke eaerlier this week with Cintra Wilson at the NYT:

“Around 2001, I started analyzing lesbians. I started to realize that even really butch-acting or -dressing women still had a strong female identity that I never had.”

Though emboldened by seeing transgender people in the media, he still thought of gender-transition as the last resort of the suicidal: “I thought, transgender people are much worse off than I am. That’s why they’re willing to risk everything to be who they are. But the older I got, the harder it got to stay in my body.”

Chaz also gave an interview to Jacob Bernstein at The Daily Beast.

On a 10-minute Nightline segment last night, he spoke with Cynthia McFadden about the physical and psychological details involved with the transition as well as his relationship with his girlfriend, and his mother, Cher.

Watch the Nightline segment and a preview for the film, AFTER THE JUMP...

Oprah clip:

Show preview:

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  1. Couldn't care less. Really.

    Posted by: Steve | May 10, 2011 10:28:18 AM

  2. YES. As someone who has had people I love and care about make these changes, I have to say that the visibility really matters. I cycled through a million concerns and questions before I landed on accepting the incredible beauty of someone living their life as they need to. It's not about how well I get it, etc. My role is to get over my ignorance, love my friends for who they are, and open doors to understanding between us when they are comfortable enough. It took some time for me. I was not transphobic - more mourning the loss of a narrative I had for these folks. Maybe feeling like aggressive gender binary bullsh@! was playing too much of a role.

    But then you see your friend happy. Or happier. There is a release from a lot of fear and shame, disgust and self-hatred. There's a revelation. And it may not be the same for everyone, but for my friends it was spiritual and powerful. It's not about me. Glad to see the visibility this project brings.

    As a gay man, it was once relatively easy to insulate myself - trading the conservative gender coded conservative world I grew up in for the wonderful comfort zone of gay male communities. And that works for folks. As I became a political person though, it became all too clear that the rights of transgender folks, of women, of people of color are tied to mine. Our liberations are tied together. I need to build relationships with those I want to move in coalition with. The transgender community has had to fight for people like me to work on our fear, concern, ignorance, etc. I'm glad to be in the process of being an ally and hearing people into their own.

    Posted by: Mrs. SIppi | May 10, 2011 11:14:03 AM

  3. Alas, all the emotional eating seems to have destroyed Chaz's health.

    Posted by: anon | May 10, 2011 12:23:19 PM

  4. I wonder if the show discusses his partner, who was a lesbian, but is now in a heterosexual relationship. It reminds me about how open women can be in terms of sexuality. I know if my partner became a woman, I- as a gay man- could not be with her. I don't know any gay men who could handle their boyfriend/husband having his penis removed and turned into a vagina.

    Posted by: tom a | May 10, 2011 1:34:29 PM

  5. He was always the cutest thing and he still is, only now he's also strong as an ox. Chaz's fight is our fight. We should all have his courage, grace and determination.

    Posted by: justme | May 10, 2011 2:15:08 PM

  6. "The older I got, the harder it got to stay in my body".

    This statement is just tragic. Despite what surgical modifactions were made to it, Chaz Bono still has the same body. So many Transsexual folk claim that genitalia doesn't determine gender, but so few of them actually believe it. "Gender reassignment" is a fraud! The Transgender body is beautiful and normal. Transitioning happens in your heart and soul, not on an operating table.

    Posted by: Stuffed Animal | May 10, 2011 3:15:13 PM

  7. re: Tom A, I caught the last 20-30 minutes of of "Oprah" yesterday where she spoke with Chaz and Chaz's girlfriend, and some of Chaz's family members. Oprah asked the girlfriend some pointed questions such as, "Did you think about leaving him?" and "How is the sex now?" Her answers were: I never thought this would tear us apart although some moments (and one in particular) were challenging; and the sex is actually better now b/c he's more alive and happier.

    Years ago, I saw a story about a straight married couple where the man had transitioned to a woman and her wife stayed as well. When the journalist asked about her decision to stay, she said: "Yes, some of my friends think I'm crazy or don't understand why I'm doing this, but I believe that marriage is for life and you don't marry a person's genitals--you marry a person, that person's soul."

    That was such a beautiful answer and it's stuck with me.

    Women might be more likely to react that way (possibly), but I don't think it's a uniquely female reaction. I think there are gay men out there who are capable of that. I'd like to think I'm capable of that. I've been with my fiance for 4.5 yrs and I was wondering what I'd do. When you have such a strong bond and a long history with someone, it's hard to just walk away from that person and your shared goals, dreams, memories. Even harder if you're raising children.

    Another great moment in Oprah's show was when Chaz's aunt spoke. Apparently, she had lived in the same house with Chaz during Chaz's childhood and they had always been very close. But the aunt didn't understand what transgender meant and was scared to see Chaz post-breast removal surgery. But the aunt's husband encouraged her to go see Chaz in the hospital and he said to her, "Chaz is still the same person and the same soul that you've always known and loved." Beautiful! And that piece of wisdom came from a man, not a woman.

    Anyway, this all raises some interesting questions about the relative weight of body and physique vs. spiritual and soul connections in romantic relationships, in family relationships.

    Posted by: redball | May 10, 2011 3:25:25 PM

  8. Stuffed Animal, your blog is so interesting! I read your sidebar essay about the pathologization and medicalization of trangender people. I've never really heard of any wider debate in the LGBT community about that. Maybe the answer really is that it's OK to feel like a man or masculine in a woman's body, and vice versa. And we should therefore be attacking the cisgendernormativity that makes it hard for fem-men and butch-women to feel like valid, equal, fully accepted and welcome members of society. Sadly, that's a much much larger project that simply putting people under the knife to give/remove breasts, vaginas, and penises. Which might explain why society has taken the direction it has on transgender issues (i.e., hormones & surgery, rather than full acceptance).

    PS: Could you add a comments box to your blog's sidebar essays? I wanted to leave you a comment there but there was no option to.

    Posted by: redball | May 10, 2011 3:46:11 PM

  9. Interesting thoughts REDBALL & STUFFED ANIMAL. But let's not forget (or fail to understand)that most Transgender folks are probably not Transsexual. They have no desire to have sex reassignment surgery. Only a true Transsexual can explain to us why they would go through the life altering experience of surgery to achieve the feeling of wholeness--of finally being comfortable with a physical change that they feel is appropriate to their mental well-being.

    I think too many Gay folks (and I know too many Straight folks) do not even TRY to understand the umbrella term "Transgender" and that it includes Transsexuals, but also includes gender role non-comformists (that's a bunch of other folks besides Transsexuals, and many of them are Gay).

    And of course, some Transsexuals stop calling themselves that term after they've made the physical transition. For them, the term is no longer necessary.

    I've never read a definition of Transgender that confused the term with Transsexual...never. So, it still surprizes me that so many people who have an opinion on the topic still lump the two together.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | May 10, 2011 4:20:09 PM

  10. I'm happy Chaz is at peace now identifying as a man but really the only difference now is he is a butch lesbian without breasts. I'm also sick of people asking how his mom feels. It's his life not hers and Im sure as a mom it is very hard on her. Im glad they are working through whatever issues they's really no ones business but their's. Just hope he drops that 50 or so lbs that need to go!

    Posted by: Tagg | May 10, 2011 5:39:21 PM

  11. Chaz kept the vagina and only had breasts removed, so it was probably easier for the lesbian girlfriend to deal with. I don't know.

    I will be honest. I have a hard time with this issue, primarily because surgical and hormonal options are relative to this century.

    Prior to this...what did people do?

    It seems that they lived walking between both worlds in regards to living and dressing, living as homosexuals, etc. I don't think that surgery changes who you are, nor do I necessarily agree that I feel like a woman on the inside. What does that feel like? I like hockey, sports, cars, building things. I like clothing, makeup...I am an individual before I am a "gender". The only thing that ties me to my gender is the fact that I can bear children. My sexual preference isn't exactly tied to a gender because I could have been born gay.

    When I hear people say: I feel like a woman on the does not strike a particular chord because I don't think people go around every day thinking: I feel like a woman, or I feel like a man...I know I sure don't.

    I am reminded once a month that I am a female, but someday...that will go away. I am reminded by my children that I am a female, but other than that...I'm just Rin.

    I agree with Rupaul when he said "We are spiritual creatures having a human experience."

    I wish someone could explain it better to me because I truly, honestly would like to understand. No one has thus far.

    Posted by: Rin | May 10, 2011 5:51:45 PM

  12. Derrick, you're right and I probably should be careful to say transsexual (not transgender) if that is what I mean. I also need to be more educated on these issues; for example, I was under the impression that "transsexual" was perceived as derogatory by the transgender/transsexual community (I guess b/c it focuses on sex and genitalia?). So I usually try to avoid using the word! But maybe there really was no debate or maybe it's just an ancient debate and the word is generally accepted now....

    And, yes, maybe hormones and/or surgery really is the answer for the subgroup of transgender people who are transsexual. I do wonder if society's rigid gender binaries that we all start learning as soon as we can watch adults and watch TV ("This is what boys like/do/think/feel and this is what girls like/do/think/feel") leave some "genderqueer" people feeling that hormones and surgery are the answer when, in a more perfect world, they would feel perfect in their own skin. But I'm not qualified to answer that; I really have no clue myself.

    Posted by: redball | May 10, 2011 6:41:14 PM

  13. RIN, those are interesting comments and I love the Rupaul quote (never heard it before)!

    Do you identify as queer/genderqueer/transgender? I'm just wondering. Based on what you described, I'd imagine some folks like you would identify that way but I'm sure many also do not and they just identify as a woman.

    I think you are a special breed, to not really be conscious of your gender in your day-to-day experience.

    I'd have to say that I'm not at all like that, since as a gay man, I have learned to be attuned to the behavioral expectations strangers have of me. And there can be negative, even dire, consequences for not playing along with said expectations. For example, because I am a man, I cannot swish up and down the street without risking verbal or perhaps physical assault; I cannot yell "Hey gurl!" to my girlfriends or guy friends across the street without risking untoward reactions from strangers, and I certainly cannot kiss my fiance, grope his butt, and generally manhandle him in public (the way that straights often do) without also potentially putting myself in harm's way. Just some thoughts.

    Judith Butler said that gender is nothing but a performance. (Just as drag is a performance/impersonation of the opposite gender.) Since many people are taught and try to live up to idealized notions of what their specific gender is, I would think that many people are consciously aware in their day-to-day experience of whether they are a man or a woman. Perhaps *acutely* consciously aware. I mean...just watch a group of high school male athletes or college frat boys try to outdo each other with stories of their sexual exploits and other "male" pastimes like roughhousing, leaving an empty theater seat between them at the movies, and perpetuating the myth that emotions are girly (e.g., making fun of each other for crying at a movie). LOL! :-)

    Posted by: redball | May 10, 2011 7:41:09 PM

  14. Tagg, you said: "I'm happy Chaz is at peace now identifying as a man but really the only difference now is he is a butch lesbian without breasts."

    He's been taking hormones so I don't think that's an accurate description and I doubt Chaz would agree either.

    Posted by: redball | May 10, 2011 7:48:55 PM

  15. Ah OK transsexual isn't so controversial; "tranny" is though.... :) Got it!

    Posted by: redball | May 11, 2011 1:57:49 AM

  16. @Redball,

    nope just a biological woman with weird ideas. I have this idea that we're spirit filled shells and that we've lived so many lives and incarnations before that its pointless to describe ourselves as male, female, gay, straight, bi, etc.

    We're having an experience and should go where that experience takes us in the form that we chose, despite what that adversity brings. The adversity is the point. Without adversity you cannot know victory.

    I mean...with gender, there are scientific studies that point to our brains and its constitution, our chemical levels, etc.--even evolution for why women are the way they are, why men are...

    There are studies on smell that point to why we are attracted to who we are attracted to.

    Ultimately...I still believe that for the very same reason that I won't strike someone back that hits me (going against the evolutionary grain) I can grow into a different perspective during my lifetime, ergo I may be attracted to a male's smell and my brain may work a particular way, but...if my spirit makes contact with a female I'm not going to say:Whoops, wrong gender.

    That's just me.

    Posted by: Rin | May 11, 2011 7:36:14 AM

  17. chaz provides a nice start to conversation in the general public. the pregnant trans man was just too much to start with. so kudos to him for this. but we're still intermeshing sex and gender. without getting too philosophical/post-feminist, gender is a behaviour, sex is the appearance of one's physical bodily sex (read: genitals mostly). not all transmen were or are tomboy or butch or even lesbian. there are feminine transguys whose gender now just looks flamey, but they want their body to look male. gender is in the head. and some transexuals may have no gender dysphoria. strictly body dysphoria. sometimes this matches up according to the assumed 'norm', sometimes not. i, for one, am not transgender, but am transexul. i make that distinction because to me, my gender differs according to context. i am masculine in some arenas, quite feminine in others.

    Posted by: 13andcounting | May 13, 2011 4:16:28 AM

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