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The sad dance of Chaz Bono

Mary Hasson

Photo by Peter Griffin

Picture this: a female-to-male transsexual proudly dances with a woman partner in front of millions of TV viewers, competing with straight couples for the applause, approval, and votes of viewers young and old.

The show’s producer lauds the transsexual’s “courage” and “remarkably strong character.”  The transsexual, who declares himself* a “straight man,” and his LBGT supporters launch a media blitz to silence critics of the show, branding them “haters” and “stupid bigots.” Why? Because they won’t support this “positive role model” whose appearance will help “save lives” of vulnerable, transgendered teenagers.

It’s reality. 

And it’s airing on the ABC reality show Dancing with the Stars this fall. The show scored big publicity last week when it announced that Chaz Bono, the transgendered offspring of the famous Hollywood duo, Sonny and Cher, would join this season’s TV dance competition. The show also will feature an openly gay contestant, Carson Kressley.

Chaz, who began transitioning from female to male last year, looks male (thanks to hormones), dresses and calls himself male, and has undergone breast removal surgery.  While he would like to add male genitalia, he considers the reconstructive surgery too risky. Besides, he feels like a male already, even without the proper equipment.

What’s he doing on Dancing with the Stars (DWTS), a show which the producer maintains is a “family show?”

Chaz says “America really needs to see this…” because of the “completely inaccurate stereotypes and thoughts that people have” about transgendered folks.

His bottom line? (No pun intended.)

“I want people to know that transgender people are just like everyone else.”
And if parents or families oppose his performance, preferring not to expose their children to the transgendered lifestyle? 

They’re “haters.”

Well then, either most parents in America are “haters” or Chaz Bono--and his Hollywood friends--have got it wrong.

America does not “need” to see transsexuals pretending that their sexuality is a normal as the married husband and wife next door.  And they definitely don’t want their children to see it either.

A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics found that only 20 percent of American parents believe that it’s appropriate for children younger than 13 to be exposed to dialogue about alternative lifestyles. (Even higher percentages of parents would shield their children from images of alternative lifestyles.) The research found that, among both church-going and non-church-going parents, 32 percent believe the minimum age for exposure to dialogue about alternative lifestyles is 13-16 and an additional 29 percent of parents would wait even longer--until at least age 17. Further, 19 percent of parents believe such content is inappropriate for all ages. [Full disclosure: I coauthored the Pediatrics article with Iowa State University media research expert, Doug Gentile, Ph.D., and others.]

Parents: don’t be intimidated. You are not alone. It’s not “hateful” to affirm traditional male-female sexuality as natural and preferable to homosexuality, bi-sexuality, transsexuality, and the rest of the sexual smorgasbord. And it’s a good--not hateful--instinct to want to protect your child’s innocence.

This stunt---shining the spotlight on Chaz Bono as the first transgendered dance contestant (so we can pretend his new self is “just like everybody else”)--is the latest round in the same old game: Hollywood liberals arrogantly shove sexually dysfunctional people at viewers, insist that the public accept and approve of all “sexual minorities,” and then slap the label “hater” on anyone who objects.

Maybe to Hollywood producers, sexually confused and sexually deviant people really are “just like” the rest of…Hollywood. According to actor Corey Feldman, it’s an open secret that Hollywood’s number one problem is pedophilia. And Hollywood seems fascinated by sexual disorder masquerading as normalcy. Small wonder that DWTS producer finds Chaz Bono’s story “compelling” and “profound.” The LGBT community responded with verbal love strokes, hailing Hollywood’s decision as “a tremendous step forward for the American public to recognize that transgender people are another wonderful part of the fabric of our culture.”

Right.  Only if “culture” means the LGBT culture, with all its “wonderful” features like dungeons and fetish shows (popular exhibits in the “Erotic City” area of the L.A. Pride event. Maybe they’re saving that for next season’s “family show”).

It makes you wonder: do Hollywood types even know any regular parents? Or do they just ignore them?

Yes, transgendered people are equal in dignity to every other person. And Chaz Bono, female, male, or somewhere in the mutilated middle, should be treated with kindness and compassion. But let’s face it---anyone who feels compelled to mutilate his or her sex organs, with chemicals or surgery, because he or she feels like the opposite sex, has got some serious problems.

Chaz Bono’s story is heartbreaking. But heartbreak doesn’t make a role model. Nor does it make transgender-ism a condition to be celebrated.

Dancing with the Stars won’t showcase the backstory behind Chaz Bono because it tells of the misery that results when a child is left to raise herself. And the confusion that results when reality is defined by feelings, unmoored from objective reality, moral truth, or even the truth of one’s own body.

One particularly telling sentence in his memoir suggests the destructive inversion at the roots of Chaz’ tangled history: “As any child of famous parents will tell you, parents come first.” (p. 11).

And so they did for poor Chaz. 

Sonny and Cher divorced when Chaz was four. She was a cute little girl named “Chastity” back then. Her nanny, Linda, became the “one person who gave me…warmth, safety, and attention.” (p. 10) As a child, Chastity traveled with Cher, who let her hang out with the show’s drag queens in between and after performances. (Good parenting, eh?)

After the divorce, Sonny began calling Chastity “Fred,” and encouraged her to hang out with him like “father-and-son.” (p. 16). By age 13, Chastity identified as a lesbian. And at 14, she was coached by an older lesbian—her mother’s friend--on “how to make love to a woman.” (p. 47). Shaped by instability---temporary homes, disruptive school changes, and her mother’s revolving cast of lovers—Chastity became a dysfunctional adult. She suffered through bad relationships, drug addiction, depression, unemployment, and personal confusion. Therapy from lesbian and transgendered therapists—surprise, surprise--compounded her confusion. Last year she embraced a transgendered identity and became “Chaz.”

So this fall, Chaz will dance his sad dance in celebration of who he has become.

And when the approval, votes, and applause prove to be but a temporary balm on his tortured soul… then what?

For Chaz’ sake, I hope someone in Hollywood introduces him not to the next, ‘best’ surgeon or therapist, but to the only Someone who can offer true healing and peace.
------------------------
Note: I follow the journalistic convention of using the pronoun that corresponds, at each stage, to Chaz Bono’s self-identified gender identity.

© 2011  Mary Rice Hasson

Topics: Current Events , Sexuality

Mary Rice Hasson, the mother of seven, is a Fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, D.C. She blogs at wordsfromcana.

View all articles by Mary Hasson

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