Chastity Bono Sex Change

A story of interest only to people over a certain age: “Chastity Bono is having a sex change to become a man.”

In this April 7, 1998 file photo, Chastity Bono is shown in Palm Springs, Calif. (AP Photo/Susan Sterner, file)

A spokesman for Bono, born a girl to Sonny and Cher, says he “has made the courageous decision to honor his true identity” and began the sex-change process earlier this year.

Publicist Howard Bragman said Bono is proud of his decision and hopes “that his choice to transition will open the hearts and minds of the public regarding this issue.”

The 40-year-old writer, activist and reality-TV star came out as gay 20 years ago, Bragman said.

In the book “Family Outing: A Guide to the Coming-Out Process for Gays, Lesbians, & Their Families,” Bono describes the realization of being “somehow different — specifically different from who my mom expected me to be.”

I grew up on “Sonny and Cher” and Chastity is only slightly younger than I am, so there’s something a bit surreal about this.   I am reminded of a classic lyric from the late, great Jerry Reed:

Now, there ain’t no sexy dresses
And there ain’t no beehive hair
Just boys who look like girls
Who look like boys, who look like Cher

On a more serious note, I’m never sure what the implications of this are.  Will Bono be considered “straight” after successful reassignment surgery? Or was s/he never gay to begin with, merely transgendered and unaware of that fact.

I was going to cross-post this at Gone Hollywood but Allie beat me to it.  She snarks, “Cher is about to get a new son. She must be thrilled.”  I had presumed Chastity would become “Chas” or some such but, apparently, s/he is already “known to family and friends as Chaz.”

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, Popular Culture, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. G.A.Phillips says:

    Yuck.

  2. Drew says:

    Yawn……..

    Is the Stanley Cup Final tonight, or tomorrow……………?

  3. James Joyner says:

    Is the Stanley Cup Final tonight, or tomorrow……………?

    Tomorrow at 8 Eastern on NBC

  4. Steve Verdon says:

    On a more serious note, I’m never sure what the implications of this are. Will Bono be considered “straight” after successful reassignment surgery?

    Unless attracted to men, yes straight.

    Or was s/he never gay to begin with, merely transgendered and unaware of that fact.

    Technically, yes, not gay and transgendered.

  5. G.A.Phillips says:

    Crap, how close are we on brain transplants?

  6. You go, um, girl.

  7. Franklin says:

    Crap, how close are we on brain transplants?

    Why, do you need one?

  8. I can’t let my daughter hear about this. She loves Cher (my daughter and Cher are both dyslexic.) It’s not that I mind her knowing about transgender people — she had a transgender teacher — but she has the disturbing tendency to demand detailed explanations in public places.

    I already got “what does orgasm mean?” in the cheese aisle at the grocery store. I really don’t want to do, “how can a girl have a penis?” at California Pizza Kitchen.

  9. John Burgess says:

    Michael Reynolds: I almost feel your pain…

    I had to come up with an explanation for my eight-year-old son of:

    1) condoms and
    2) flavoured condoms

    in the lobby of a cinema in London–the damn things were on sale in a vending machine in the lobby!

    I think all parents should plan for the awkward question or two. They’re unavoidable.

  10. I was reminded of this satire of Cher and her “very gay” daughter.

  11. Eric Florack says:

    I guess one aspect of this that we can discuss without being lined up in front of a firing squad, is the prevalence of these occurrences in what I will euphemistically refer to as “high achievement families”.

    What is the connection here? We know, for example, that children of parents who’ve been divorced are at least 50% more likely to become divorce themselves, statistically speaking.

    We certainly know that there is a certain level of pressure attached to stardom, either a new chairman of it or having attained it, dealing with it.

    Is it that we hear more often about such incidents within these families because they are in the public eye? Or is there something unique about such families that causes the children of such families to become what they do?

  12. sam says:

    Uh, Bit, I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of transgendered folks don’t come from families in the public eye. So, in answer to your penultimate question, Yes. And in answer to your last question, No.

  13. Eric Florack says:

    I don’t challange your statement, really, but I’d be interested in seeing data on that, and for that matter on what I’ll call for lack of a better phrase, other forms of ‘sociallly abmnormal behavior’.

  14. sam says:

    Heh. What surprised me, naif that I am, is that Chasity is 40 years old. Jeez, seems like only yesterday…. I saw Cher on tv the other night, and I was immediately reminded of Maureen Dowd’s column titled “Pretty Poison”. It begins:

    Washington – Five years ago, Anna Quindlen wrote that there were three stages in the life span of women: pre-Babe, Babe and post-Babe.

    Now there are four: pre-Babe, Babe, Botox Babe, and Cher.

  15. Triumph says:

    This shouldn’t be surprising. The fact that this girl’s parents were quintessential Hollywood liberals makes these types of no-holds-barred acts of depravity inevitable.

  16. Furhead says:

    I don’t challenge your statement, really, but I’d be interested in seeing data on that, and for that matter on what I’ll call for lack of a better phrase, other forms of ‘socially abnormal behavior’.

    This is headed towards the age-old ‘born or bred’ issue, which in my opinion is not even close to being resolved. It could very well be some of each, and could certainly vary significantly with different cases. I wouldn’t be surprised if the pressures and/or the flamboyant personalities involved had some influence on Chaz’s disposition and ultimate decision.

    I haven’t looked at the studies, but one might be able to argue that the divorce correlation doesn’t necessarily show causation. Going way out to left field here, maybe it’s in their genes because their ancestors’ survival depended highly on multiple mating.

  17. Furhead says:

    By the way, this reminds me of one of the Bush vs. Gore debates, where Bush was asked whether he thought homosexuality was born or bred. In one of his better answers, he simply said it didn’t matter and that they should be treated with the dignity any other human deserves.

    Of course to Bush that didn’t translate to marriage or DADT or anti-discrimination, but that’s another story.

  18. An Interested Party says:

    Of course to Bush that didn’t translate to marriage or DADT or anti-discrimination, but that’s another story.

    That was one of the interesting ironies of Bush…he seemed to be gay-friendly in his personal life, but he couldn’t extend that to the policy area for obvious reasons…

  19. Eric Florack says:

    This is headed toward the age-old ‘born or bred’ issue, which in my opinion is not even close to being resolved.

    I suppose it could be, and I won’t argue against the idea that both factors enter into this. My focus, however, was somewhat more narrowly on parental behavioral influence, not genetics.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the pressures and/or the flamboyant personalities involved had some influence on Chaz’s disposition and ultimate decision.

    The Anecdotal evidence would certainly seem to indicate something of the sort. My question is, is there something, some indicative data, that is more substantial than this?

    That was one of the interesting ironies of Bush…he seemed to be gay-friendly in his personal life, but he couldn’t extend that to the policy area for obvious reasons…

    Which to your mind would have been indicated by what, specifically?

  20. Anderson says:

    Lesson of the story:

    Do NOT name your child “Chastity.”

    Nothing good can come of the resultant mental complex.

  21. Anderson says:

    Oh, and “Tyler Durden” for the win:

    Chastity Bono has revealed today that she is in the early stages of changing her gender, to transition from living as a woman to living as a man. From the looks of things, this should only take another hour or so.

  22. Steve Verdon says:

    Uh, Bit, I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of transgendered folks don’t come from families in the public eye. So, in answer to your penultimate question, Yes. And in answer to your last question, No.

    Yes, this. Bit is falling for the selection effect. We see the high-achievement cases and never the other ones because people of high-achievement tend to already be in the spot light.

    Combine this with that many transgendered people decide to live in “stealth” mode. They keep the fact that they’ve transitioned to themselves, and it isn’t at all clear that those who are in the spot light are anymore inclined to transition that the general population.

    This is headed towards the age-old ‘born or bred’ issue, which in my opinion is not even close to being resolved.

    According to the transgendered it is undoubtedly born. They claim to have always felt closer identification with the opposite sex, so much so that remaining in their birth sex is very problematic sometimes to the point of committing suicide.

    For those who want to know more, I’d recommend Deirdre McClosky’s website and Lynn Conway’s.

  23. DavidL says:

    Chastity Bono has revealed today that she is in the early stages of changing her gender, to transition from living as a woman to living as a man. From the looks of things, this should only take another hour or so

    Somebody is lying to Ms Bono. She was born a female and she will die a female. Sex is immutable.

    It seems that she has issues with being a female. Heck we all have issues.

  24. Eric Florack says:

    Yes, this. Bit is falling for the selection effect. We see the high-achievement cases and never the other ones because people of high-achievement tend to already be in the spot light.

    First off, I’ve not denied that point, either, saying specifically, that the evidence was Anecdotal, and asking if there’s not more substantial data along the same line.

    I question labeling Chastity Bono as high-achievement. What, exectly, has she achieved?

    That said, high-achievement families seem to have one factor the rest don’t and Chastity seems a fair enough example… Seems to me the only thing s/he brings to the party is mom and dad’s money, which makes it far easier to accomidate her wishes on such an operation. It’s not a matter of the rest livng in stealth mode so much as their inability to pay for a futile attempt to change the situation.

  25. Steve Verdon says:

    That said, high-achievement families seem to have one factor the rest don’t and Chastity seems a fair enough example… Seems to me the only thing s/he brings to the party is mom and dad’s money, which makes it far easier to accomidate her wishes on such an operation. It’s not a matter of the rest livng in stealth mode so much as their inability to pay for a futile attempt to change the situation.

    Actually, you’d be surprised, I think, at how many are in the process of changing their situation, and of those who have the vast majority are quite happy. I’ve give you two examples, and you have none. I think I’ll go with actual data points vs. speculation.

  26. Eric Florack says:

    And yet, as I keep suggesting by way of the questions, the data are at best incomplete.

  27. Furhead says:

    Sex is immutable.

    Legally, this is now a false statement. Even “technically”, I’m not so sure.

    There are obviously many attributes, both physical and mental, that are in general different between male and female. Whether these attributes are “immutable” is doubtful, as something as simple as eating too much soy can cause boys to start growing breasts.

    And then of course there are the brain studies that show similarities between gay men and straight women, for example. If the attributes are truly immutable, as you say, then you are literally subscribing to the “born gay” theory.

  28. sam says:

    Somebody is lying to Ms Bono. She was born a female and she will die a female. Sex is immutable.

    Many years ago, in another life, I edited medical books for a living. I recall seeing a photo of twin 16-year old sisters, and quite beautiful they were. The problem was, although they possessed all the outward characteristics of females, they were in fact genetic males. They presented with amenorrhoea, and it was only through genetic testing that the truth was found.
    They were completely androgen-insensitive. Psychologically, they considered themselves female, and, in truth, they were, though their genes said otherwise.

  29. sam says:

    BTW, on that immutabilty thing, d’yall know that we all start out as females? That is, our development path is female. At a point in the development of the embryo, it’s bombarded with androgen and, if it has the right hardware and things proceed happily, we end up on the snips and snails and puppy dog tails track. If not, you might, in the extreme, get the two sisters situation I described above. Sometimes, unfortunately, the mother herself will react to the androgen and develop secondary male characteristcs such as a beard. Luckily, these characteristics go away after a while, but sometimes they don’t. One more thing to take up with that Great Programmer in the Sky when you see Him.

  30. Steve Verdon says:

    And yet, as I keep suggesting by way of the questions, the data are at best incomplete.

    I’ll still go with even incomplete data over mere speculation.

  31. G.A.Phillips says:

    Why, do you need one?

    Probably, but some seems to need two or three……

  32. G.A.Phillips says:

    d’yall know that we all start out as females?

    So your saying in the beginning stages after conception they are only murdering girl babies by way of abortion or before?

  33. sam says:

    So your saying in the beginning stages after conception they are only murdering girl babies by way of abortion or before?

    I’m just curious, GA, did you develop this finely honed sense of outrage during or after your 12 years making fvck movies for a living?

  34. G.A.Phillips says:

    I’m just curious, GA, did you develop this finely honed sense of outrage during or after your 12 years making fvck movies for a living?

    lol, selling not making, but no it was a little before but mostly after, when I woke out of the liberal bullshit dream I was living in.

    So it matters to you when people change, it’s how you judge them?

  35. Zoe Brain says:

    Sex is immutable – really?
    Gender may be, that’s set in the womb, a matter of neurology.

    But sex? For those with 5alpha-reductase-2 deficiency or 17beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase-3 deficiency, who get a natural sex change from female to male, not so much.

    It’s a lot more complicated than most people think. For 59 people out of 60, everything matches. Chromosomes, genitalia, endocrinology, neurology. And most of those who have anomalies are asymptomatic, or nearly so.

    For 1 in 1000 though, the anomalies can be pretty darned spectacular.

    One of them is transsexuality. Cross-gendered neurology, compared with most or all of the rest of the body. There’s often other Intersex conditions too, maybe 1 in 10.

    Chaz was born a boy with a feminised body. He’s tried living as a lesbian for 40 years, but lesbians aren’t men, and he’s a man. Now he’s getting his body made as consistent as it can be.

    That’s it.

    See, for example:
    Gender change in 46,XY persons with 5alpha-reductase-2 deficiency and 17beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase-3 deficiency. by Cohen-Ketternis

    A Sex Difference in the Human Brain and its Relation to Transsexuality by Zhou et al.

    Male-to-Female Transsexuals Have Female Neuron Numbers in a Limbic Nucleus by Kruijver et al:

    fMRT zur Diagnose bei Transsexualität geprüft (An Examination of the use of fMRT for diagnosing Transsexuality) (ArzteZeitung, 2006)

    A sex difference in the hypothalamic uncinate nucleus: relationship to gender identity by
    A. Garcia-Falgueras A and D.F. Swaab.

    Male-to-female transsexuals show sex-atypical hypothalamus activation when smelling odorous steroids. by Berglund H, Lindström P, Dhejne-Helmy C, and Savic I.

    And so on and so on. As Prof Ecker MD said recently at the APA annual conference:
    “We spoke for 2 1/2 hours on why cross gender identity was a normal inherited variation of humans. We showed how Transgender Brains think, smell, and hear like the opposite sex.

    My greatest personal compliment came from Frank Kruijver, from Holland, whose research of the human brain in TSs started it all. He thought we have taken his work very far in our understanding of the human brain.”

    Oh BTW… male to female natural sex changes happen too, but they’re really, really rare, only a handful well documented worldwide.