Chastity Bono to become a man

The daughter of Sonny and Cher will be the most high-profile transgender transition yet.

By Thomas Rogers

Published June 11, 2009 8:12PM (EDT)

In the most high-profile transgender transition yet, Chastity Bono -- child star, spawn of Sonny and Cher, and long-time LGBT activist -- has announced that he (yes, he) is in the early stages of transitioning from female to male. He is now apparently going by the name "Chaz." Given that this is happening hot on the heels of Thomas Beatie's (aka the Pregnant Man's) second birth, it officially makes this news week the most female-to-male-transgender-intensive of all time (and it's still Thursday!).

Chaz's announcement comes via the celebrity website, which posted a quote from his publicist, Howard Bragman:

Chaz, after many years of consideration, has made the courageous decision to honor his true identity ... He is proud of his decision and grateful for the support and respect that has already been shown by his loved ones. It is Chaz's hope that his choice to transition will open the hearts and minds of the public regarding this issue, just as his 'coming out' did nearly 20 years ago.

Given the difficulty many outlets had in grappling with the Pregnant Man's story -- an obsession with his genitalia, probing about his sex life, confusion about pronouns -- it'll be interesting to see how they handle Bono's. Unlike Beatie, Bono is a known figure, and many folks have a longstanding awareness of him through gossip tabloids and his parents' TV show. As a result, Bono's transition could go a lot further in humanizing male transgenderism than Beatie's pregnancy ever did.

In searching for coverage of the transition, for example, I came across this touching YouTube clip of Sonny Bono serenading "Chastity" on his old TV show. These are the kinds of images that are likely to flash across the minds of many older Americans (also the demographic that often has the most to learn):

As the story spreads in the next few hours, a good barometer of a particular news outlet's savvy (and degree of enlightenment) is their use of the proper pronoun. TMZ, to their credit, referred to Bono as "he" in their initial exclusive, as did Entertainment Tonight. Unsurprisingly, the NY Daily News, which picked up on the story a few minutes ago, uses "her."

Thomas Rogers

Thomas Rogers is Salon's former Arts Editor. He has written for the Globe & Mail, the Village Voice and other publications. He can be reached at @thomasmaxrogers.

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