Nice to see The Age doing a story of the transition of gender. I applaud people who have the courage to be who they are, even when the world feels so dark and scary, I hope more of these stories come to light for all to read and understand that at the end of the day, we are all human, regardless who we are!!!!
See below the article….
Chaz Bono’s female-to-male transition has been more than purely physical, writes Philippa Hawker.
”THE difficult part,” Chaz Bono says, ” is what you didn’t see. The years that it took to make the decision to finally be myself.”
He is at the centre of Becoming Chaz, a documentary that charts his transition from female to male, a transformation that he says he knew would become a news story. As the child of Sonny and Cher, Bono has been in the public eye for as long as he can remember. This time, he says from Los Angeles: ”I wanted to tell my story myself.”
So he teamed up with Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, experienced documentary filmmakers who like to have a collaborative relationship with their subjects. They chronicled a process that took two years, beginning with hormone treatment and breast removal surgery. In 2010, Bono legally changed his name and gender.
Becoming Chaz screens at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, which runs until March 25. The documentary begins with images of childhood, when The Sonny And Cher Comedy Hour was a TV hit in the early 1970s and their infant daughter, Chastity Bono, was a tiny blonde moppet who made regular appearances on the show. Chastity came out as a lesbian in 1995, became an activist and wrote several books.
But, Bono says, he still wasn’t the person he knew himself to be. Looking back, during the making of the film, he says: ”I was putting a magnifying glass to my life and realising how difficult so much had been.”
He felt sad, he adds, ”that the decision took so long to make”, that he waited until he was 40. There are experiences he will never have – he’ll never know life as a young man, for example. But he’s aware, he says, that the climate has changed a great deal: ”Twenty years ago, I could have suffered a lot for it.”
When he decided to transition, Bono had been in a relationship for five years. The film shows some of the tensions that arose between him and his partner, Jenny, as the ground shifts under their feet (they split up last year). He says he wasn’t entirely ready for changes that were not purely physical. As Chaz, he says that ”emotionally and spiritually I am in a better place. For a lot of my life I settled for crumbs and I was OK with that.” Yet, he notes, it’s not just about feeling comfortable with who he is. ”There is definitely a way in which testosterone changes how I express myself. I am not as verbal as I used to be. I’m a little bit more in my head, more reserved.”
What he has been through makes him particularly interested in the science of sex and gender. ”So many of the traits that we think of as conditioning or socialising are really biochemical.” He says he’s doing research on hormones and brain chemistry for a book he’s planning to write. ”I think it’s important for people to know about it. Men and women would get along better if we knew that certain things about our behaviour weren’t really up to us.”
Bono’s mother, Cher, is a significant presence in the film, even though she kept her distance during the time he was becoming Chaz. She gives an interview to the filmmakers, explaining how she feels about the transformation of her child, using a family nickname and hesitating between the masculine and feminine pronoun.
”She participated in a way that she felt comfortable with,” Bono says. ”One of the areas my mum and I disagreed on drastically was that I really felt that the mainstream press – not the tabloids – would be respectful and that we could have an open dialogue about this issue. And my mum felt we weren’t at that point yet.” Bono turned out to be right, he says.
Last year, he was a competitor on the 13th season of Dancing with the Stars. He weathered some harsh words at times from judges but he’s upbeat about the experience, the camaraderie with fellow competitors and the reception he received from viewers. He travels regularly, doing public speaking, and says that at airports, where ”you meet a real cross-section of America, I get a great response from everyday people, men and women from all over the US. So many people watched it and for the first time saw and got to know a transgender person.”
For more information, see mqff.com.au