Karina Barriga Albring
Chaz Bono, who described himself as a “people pleaser” throughout most of his life, shared with an audience of roughly 300 people at Keene State College that if it was not for his life in the public eye, he would have come out sooner as a transgender male.
Chaz Bono, the son of entertainers Cher and Sonny Bono, spoke about his transition from female to transgender male and his journey of discovering his gender identity at an event in the Mabel Brown Room, hosted by KSC Pride, on Monday, April 8.
Bono, who was born as a female and started his transition to becoming a man in his early thirties, explained that he struggled for many years while trying to figure out who he was. Bono, who had earlier “come out” as a lesbian woman as a teenager, shared that “red flags” began appearing towards the end of his performing arts high school career when he realized he was more comfortable on stage when performing in male roles.
As a woman who advocated for human rights groups, developed an interest in politics and also spent time in the music industry, Bono discussed his growing discomfort trying to fit into female gender roles. Research brought him to the realization that he was a transgender male. Bono explained questioning his gender for the first time was “really scary,” and also shared that he “explored it in really private ways.”
Jamie Landau, communications professor and KSC Pride advisor explained, “Terminology is very important for the LGBT community. The use of some terms can be really hurtful. The difference between transgender and transexual is that the word transexual generally refers to people that don’t identify with their general birth assigned and they sometimes alter their bodies with surgery and/or hormones. That transition is a process that might take years.”
Landau added, “Even as scholars and different individuals create terms and many call themselves certain things, these terms are always limited and they are never going to represent the true general diversity of humans”
KSC Pride’s Vice President, Julia Rasku, explained, “Transgender is an identity that a person assumes. It means that you identify yourself with a gender different than the one that you were born with; it doesn’t necessarily involve surgery or hormone treatments.“
Bono shared that he did not know what being transgender was. Although he had grown up around gay and lesbian friends close to his family, which he considered “role models,” he explained, “[He] had never heard of transgender people.” Bono also added that forms of media, such as movies including the film, “Boys Don’t Cry,” helped to get into his head and make him think about his own identity.
Bono shared that this lead to a “myriad of fears,” when thinking about his future transition in the public eye and in his personal life.
“Getting past that idea of having to transition in public was just the most terrifying thing that I could think of,” Bono continued, “I felt like I was going to experience rejection all around.”
Despite Bono’s want to please people, which he considered a “terrible habit,” he explained that he felt like he, “was growing up,” when he chose to pay attention to himself before the thoughts of others.
Bono did, however, note that his mother was conflicted with his transition at the time. Bono shared, “She was incredibly cool about it. She was okay until I started to transition … Then my voice changed and she freaked out.” Bono added that the two “didn’t speak for a year,” while mentioning, “It was just painful for her.”
Bono explained that he considered his transition from female to male as a “purely joyous journey,” as he discovered himself. Bono explained that there was nothing he missed about being a woman because, “I never thought I was a woman.”
Bono stated after the event, “Keene State [College] had a great event. They have great student body and some great questions.”
When asked by one audience member for advice on transitioning from one gender to another, Bono shared, “The journey that you’re on, is to get to that place. So enjoy.”
Junior Meghan Belies said, “[Bono] had some great insights and it was interesting to hear someone’s perspective on that experience.”
KSC freshman Emily Bouffard said that she was moved by Bono’s advice in this area and added, “Don’t let other people get you down… The people who will listen are the same people you want in life.”
Landau noted that, “If we no longer call something that is not either male or female a disorder, then it means that it starts to be understood.”
Rasku brought up understanding as she stated that, “Understanding is a great step towards acceptance.”
“Go where the love is and let everything else fall into the place that it does,” Bono concluded. As his ultimate piece of advice for those on the journey to find their true identity.
Pam Bump can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Karina Barriga Albring can be contacted at email@example.com
Also check the Equinox’s multimedia piece on Chaz Bono at http://keene-equinox.com/2013/04/chaz-bono-at-ksc/