How Can Anyone Justify Attacking Chaz Bono on “Dancing With the Stars”?

Apparently ABC’s message boards, e-mail inbox and phone messages have been over-flowing with “Dancing With the Stars” fans and others protesting the addition of Cher’s transgendered son to the slate of competitors. Why are they so upset, you ask?

That’s what I’d like to know. I have watched Chaz Bono in several interviews, and he impressed me as a smart, down-to-earth, articulate and thoroughly likable young man in every way. He is straightforward in answering the most delicate questions, and appears to have no other objective than to be happy and, if possible, to provide comfort, inspiration and hope for others who have gender confusion issues.

Now Chaz has been added to the cast of the upcoming installment of America’s favorite competition/reality show, which has always included an odd stew of American cultural figures, from tabloid targets to star athletes to nostalgia cases to reality show comets to novelty choices from the worlds of politics and media. He fits right in (tabloid target/nostalgia division) , and in many ways is an upgrade from the usual B and C-List denizens who usually do the dancing. What in the world is so objectionable about Chaz Bono?

Let’s look at the supposed reasons that “Dancing With the Stars” made a horrible mistake by selecting him:

  • “He’s not really a star.”  Let us understand: the show’s definition of “star” has been loose from the beginning, and is entirely its own. Over its past seasons, “star” in “Dancing With the Stars” has meant “has-been,” “flash-in-the-pan,” “bimbo,” “starlet with a problem”, “forgotten athlete,” “desperate ex-child star,” “relative of someone famous”, “publicity whore,”  “person desperate to lose weight,” “who the hell is that?” among other categories. So what is someone thinking who writes, as anonymous  did,

“The name of the program is Dancing With the Stars. Since when is Chaz a star? Okay, he starred in his own documentary about his transition to male, but other than that what has he done with his life? Stardom? Not hardly. I think I’ll pass on watching this season. Maybe they’ll get some stars next season.”

I wouldn’t bet on it. My guess? Anonymous is a bigot. As Anonymous often is.

  • Adding Chaz Bono to the cast just advances the gay agenda.” And what is that agenda, pray tell? To have more fat guys dancing on TV? To promote the off-spring of singing acts who had  hit variety shows in the 70’s? To persuade more blonde girls that they really want to have surgery so they can be short, tattooed guys? What does the gay agenda have to do with a heterosexual man, which is what Bono now is?  Have you seen his girl friend? Hubba-hubba! My explanation of this complaint? Bigotry, plain and simple.
  • “Chaz is unnatural.” You mean, unlike past-hoofers Pamela Anderson and Playboy Mansion live-in Kendra Wilkinson, who have had so much plastic surgery between them that the silicon market crashes every time they take a break? “I have never missed a season, and I won’t miss this season,” sandimac65 wrote. And if God had wanted us to fly, he would have given us wings. Bad luck for those unlucky souls born with cleft palates, huge birth marks, and heart defects, eh, Sandi?  There are a few opinions that automatically fix the speaker’s IQ at under 90, within five points or so, and this is one of them. Another, from Henry Winkler’s best movie, is “Barney Rubble…what an actor!”

And, of course, it helps to be a bigot.

  • “Chaz is immoral.” Fans of the show who have been on-board this long and fly into high moral dudgeon over Chaz Bono need their own show, perhaps on the Discovery Channel, perhaps called “Incomprehensible Values.” These people feel that an individual born with an established gender identity disorder who seeks and receives treatment at great pain, sacrifice and expense is so morally reprehensible that they will be sullied and damned if they watch him compete on an idiotic dance show, but they had no problem watching the same show when it included Kim Kardashian, whose ticket to stardom was a brilliantly leaked and marketed video of her having sex (and who has never had a substantive thought in her life, but I digress…); The Situation, a professional low-life stud-muffin from “Jersey Shore,” Kate Gosselin; the child-exploiting, castrating monster from the soon-to-be-defunct “Jon and Kate plus Eight” reality show; or my personal favorite, uber-political cutthroat and convicted felon Tom Delay. By all accounts, Chaz Bono has never broken a law, lied in public or set out to hurt anyone in his young life. He’s immoral? He’s immoral if you are a bigot.
  •  This is a family show, and Chaz’ s story is inappropriate for children. “The problem is that I watch this show with my 10 year old daughter. I am sure the show will talk about Chaz and the controversy, and I am not ready to explain all of that to her yet. We just barely covered the birds and the bees. We always watch one show together, in the fall it’s DWTS, and in the spring it’s American Idol. Looks like we will try X-factor instead this season,” wrote one protester. This one may not be bigotry. I will just say that this parent is unusually and selectively challenged regarding the matters that will routinely arise in the media to pique their children’s attention. How did this mother explain, for example, the sexually mysterious Adam Lambert on “American Idol”? What does she say about those improved orgasm or penis enlargement ads? In the next-to-last Harry Potter movie, girls were turned into duplicates of Harry. Hmmm. Wouldn’t that scene raise similar questions? Is it so hard to say, “Chaz used to be a girl, but had to have an operation to make him a boy—it doesn’t happen very often”? Is Chaz Bono really the biggest parental challenge this mother has ever faced? My guess: she doesn’t want to try. I wonder why.

As for me, I’m proud of Chaz Bono. He didn’t ask to be in the spotlight: his famous parents made that choice for him when they used to parade him, when he was a tiny her, on their 70’s TV show. He has had to live out his sexuality issues and gender identity crisis in front of the world, because his tale is TMZ  ans National Enquirer gold. He has made the best of this situation, and is doing a service to society by putting a human face on the transgender phenomenon,  promoting understanding where there has usually been nothing but bad jokes and snickers.

Most important of all, he seems like an admirable young man; not too surprising, as both Cher and the late Sonny Bono were intelligent, industrious, and honest.  Nobody has any justification to insult him, condemn him, or wish him ill, on the show or in any other facet of his life.

And bigotry is not a justification.

13 thoughts on “How Can Anyone Justify Attacking Chaz Bono on “Dancing With the Stars”?

  1. While I think Dancing with the Stars is a silly show and probably picked Chaz Bono because the controversy would feed their ratings, I’m glad they’re being mildly exploitative.

    If you think some people have a hard time with sexual identification, throwing gender into the mix is just chum in the water. In a way I can’t blame them; gender is an infinitely more confusing concept and trans men and women face even greater obstacles in the court of public opinion. For an innocuous guy like Chaz to take center stage will be a small step towards normalization, if you will.

    I hope Chaz doesn’t make it the focal point of each of his appearances, however. He and the rest of the trans community have more to gain by not treating it as something controversial that needs to be discussed every week.

  2. I wholeheartedly agree with every last word of this post. I like the way that you divided the major objections into categories and answered them. Seriously, why do people feel so threatened by anyone’s gender identity? It seems that it should only be a concern if one happens to be romantically involved with the individual!

  3. I also think that part of the reason that there has been such a strong negitive reaction to him being on the show is that he is not an attractive man. Not that him being handsome or not should matter but if he were I think people would be less likely to be bashing him so. Society is much more willing to let people slide on things if they are attractive.

  4. You are absolutely right on this one. Chaz Bono has become the face of the transgendered community and has handled that role with courage and dignity. If his dancing on this show allows people to confront their fears and prejudices and see that transgendered people are as just as normal and well adjusted as most people, then it will be a great step forward for all of us. Chaz Bono has become a fine young man and that is what will show through.

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