On March 4, 1969, a Queen known only by one name gave birth to an heir. At first mistaken and raised as a princess, the valiant prince grew to know his truth, and began a long and dangerous journey that would test his bravery and resolve. The courageous prince would face many dangers, slay many dragons, and discover there was no direct path to his ultimate destination. But over many years, hardships, and setbacks, the prince continued his quest and eventually found his heart’s desire.
The story of Chaz Bono seems paradoxically both highly personal and an epic fairy-tale. Born to “royalty” (Sonny Bono his kingly father, and Cher, the queen of all things gay), Bono was thrust into a life of privilege and scrutiny. He appeared before adoring crowds on his parent’s TV show and the world fell in love with who they thought was a beautiful princess.
Born Chastity Sun Bono, Chaz was a girl to everyone but himself. His journey has included a hit song with the band Ceremony, drug addiction, struggles with weight, coming out as lesbian, then as a transgender man, being an advocate, and so much more. The journey from Chastity to Chaz has been well-documented, as he has at times sought, and then stepped out of the spotlight that has been cast on his life since his birth. But it is his openness, his vulnerability, his courage in owning his story and unflinchingly telling his truth while sharing such a personal journey that captivates us.
Bono will be appearing at Middle Tennessee State University on April 9 for their Spring Out! Pride week. “When I speak, I usually tell my story, using it to help illustrate some general TG 101 information,” Bono said. “Then, we open up for Q and A. In regards to recurring questions, they tend to range from gender identity and sexual orientation questions, to political stuff, to LGBT in the media.”
A large part of his journey has been one of becoming an advocate for LGBT equality, and Bono is truly in a powerful position to help. “Well, first, being an advocate, I think, is a personality thing. And I do have the personality for it. I have been doing this (being an advocate) for a long time—long before transitioning. Plus, so little is still known about the TG community, even today, so I’m in a unique position to help.”
Before transition, Chaz, then known as Chastity, made waves by coming out as lesbian to The Advocate in 1995, and has been a vocal activist ever since.
In the documentary Becoming Chaz, there is a brief moment with Bono and his girlfriend where they talk about the beginning of the relationship. In the segment, they both acknowledge that Bono noted from the beginning a transition would probably have to happen at some point. With that segment in mind, I asked Bono about the catalyst for his transition to male. “It was a combination of things, really,” he said. “Chipping away at fears, getting older and more confident, working out issues, and learning not to be such a people pleaser. And then, when you know you have to do something and you keep putting it off, you just feel worse and worse about yourself.”
But such a public transition comes with detractors, some of whom had brutally negative things to say. “I don’t pay attention to it. I don’t seek it out. I stick with the people who love and understand me,” Bono said in response. Regarding those who write and say negative things about him, he has a curt response, “I don’t care. I’m awesome, and I’m happy for the first time in my life.”
The journey isn’t over yet, of course. So what’s next for Bono? It won’t be a musical project, that’s for sure. “There isn’t enough money in the world,” he quips dryly. “I want to get more into acting. I have wanted to act since I was a kid, and now I’m just gonna go for it.”
For a prince, slaying dragons is just part of the job description.
Chaz Bono will appear at MTSU on April 9. You can find out more about MTSU’s Spring Out Pride Week here.
You can also stay up-to-date with Bono at chazbono.net and follow Bono on Twitter @Chazbono