Chaz Bono is making waves in my social media feeds, and I can’t look directly at it. First off, I stopped reading New York Times articles on trans people 5 years ago once I realized they were always being published in the “Style” section. Second, enough of what Bono is saying has trickled out to know it would give me a headache from all the eye-rolling. I’m having a busy week with stressful deadlines, I don’t need to get involved with correcting someone else’s ignorance right this minute, especially when most of what’s been said is boring and oft-repeated. Despite the temptation to jump into the fray and correct the annoying bits, it would mostly just be me yelling at my friends and family. (Incidentally, if you are one of my friends and family and you have been paying attention and you find yourself wondering what to think of Chaz Bono’s declarations about what trans people are or what they do, I will assure you that all the things he’s saying are true for him, but I wouldn’t extend any of his ‘insights’ to anyone else without asking first.)
While my heart goes out to anyone coming out about transitioning (I do not envy you, I’m quite happy to have survived that phase myself; coming out to people about my past now takes energy, but not nearly as much as that first having to explain to friends and loved ones what is going to be happening in the future), I’m glad there was no one with microphones around to record and blast whatever ignorant or silly comments I was making during that fumbling narcissistic time. But even at my worst, I never tried to speak for all trans people, only for my own personal experiences, and I especially tried to limit speaking in traditional cliches about being trans.
The summer after I graduated from college, a producer for the Oprah show was looking for LGBT young people to be on the show with their parents and the e-mail got forwarded to various listservs of college groups. I replied. Since my mom lived in another city, they didn’t need guests badly enough to fly anyone out, but I did get two free tickets to the show, just in case my mom and I wanted to go. The show was the next week, so I took my friend Lauren instead.
When we got there, it turned out to be promoting the book Chaz Bono wrote when he came out the first time, it was all about coming out to parents, so he was a guest along with his mom, Cher. I was in the studio of the Oprah show and Cher was the guest. That was pretty damn cool. We were in the last row, but it was a small soundstage and close enough proximity that before Cher had even made it to the yellow chairs, I could see she’s so much shorter than I expected. But I also remember that at the time, everyone was so shocked that Cher wasn’t immediately open and accepting of Chaz’s then-coming out as a lesbian. Cher, the empress of The Gays, didn’t jump for joy when her own child was queer, and Oprah – and the rest of the world – could not understand why her reaction was complicated and not immediately embracing. There was a sense of judgment about her judgment, a fear that she was not so accepting of her gay audience and reputation as she seemed, when the reality is that we all have internalized homophobia, even Cher. Of course most people didn’t see it that way.
Now, with all this Chaz ignorant mouth-running business happening, it really doesn’t seem fair to put all the blame on Cher for not quite getting it; her source doesn’t quite get it either.