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Talking with Daniela Sea about Chaz Bono and Transitioning

June 13, 2009

 

Chaz Bono

When the news broadcasts announced that Chastity Bono was in the process of becoming Chaz Bono the other morning my first thought was “Good for him!”. I can’t imagine living through the internal struggle of being mentally and emotionally one gender and trapped in a body of the opposite sex. In my imagination it is like being trapped in box with little air holes that allow you to breathe, but you can’t get out. The idea actually makes me claustrophobic.

Then I got to wondering how does this actually work in the social reality of the gay community – particularly when the person who is going through the transition is a leader in the Lesbian community, and is such a political activist. Where does Chaz now fit in? Where does his partner fit in? Ostensibly, once the medical processes are complete and the legal process finalized, Chaz and his partner are in a seemingly heterosexual relationship. Heck they will be able to bypass the nonsense of California’s controversial Proposition 8 and get legally married.

 

Daniela Sea

 

So, I took my questions to someone I consider somewhat of an expert on the subject, Daniela Sea (who also happens to be my cousin.) For those of you who don’t know the name, she was in The LWord cast in the seminal role of the transgendered character, Max/Moira. Her storyline in the show walked us through some of the struggles and issues related to transitioning from female to male both within society, and within the microcosm of the Gay and Lesbian community. Familial pride aside, I thought she did a brilliant job of schooling us in some really confusing subject matter. Mind you, watching anyone you know well on TV is awkward – you’re constantly trying to remember that they are in character and you have to stop yourself from shouting at the TV “No! Daniela don’t do it!” It’s even weirder when you watch them having sex. Watching other members of your family have sex is not something that society and propriety encourage, and part of me will always be somewhat scarred as a result of her rather raunchy sex scene with Alan Cummings.

Rather than rely on Billy Bush and Matt Lauer to explain this difficult subject matter to me, I sent Daniela an email asking her for perspective and about her thoughts on the subject .What follows is the rather enlightening and informative answer that I received.

Yeah. It’s often hardest on the partner who is not transitioning, who is used to identifying and occupying public space as queer/lesbian, and soon will pass as a regular hetero couple. But the T in LGBT is for Trans, and that is because being gender different is often intrinsically a part of the queer experience (ex: Terese1 and I in any photo from age 7 till 12…boy as it gets).

But, the fact is, growing up a girl, he will never be a bio man. He will always have to take hormones, will never have the genitalia of a man, and risks discovery every time he uses a men’s restroom. This vulnerability, mixed with a queer life experience, keeps him always under the umbrella of the LGBTQI2 definition. One more nuance of a diverse community.

As far as physical assaults go,( one murder every nine days in the U.S. that we know about based on gender or sexual identity) the trans community is most at risk because they are often physically identifiable… hence gay bashing, etc. I think Chaz is bound to fare well in this realm, assuming his access to endless money and the best surgeons and doctors. He’s sure to look like a genuine man in no time.

There are different feminist perspectives on this… the claiming of straight male privilege and the disappearance of masculine women in the lesbian community. I am concerned myself, but am always in support of a person’s right to choose in an imperfect, imbalanced, patriarchal world that we live in.

I applaud Chaz for having the courage to make his transition so publicly. It is already difficult enough to live your life in the shadow of famous parents and in the spotlight of Hollywood. Taking on the additional burden of transitioning from female to male under a microscope and on Entertainment Tonight takes some real balls, and I hope to hell the doctors give him brass ones.


1Terese is my sister who is bisexual and recently got engaged to her Lesbian partner. (And I’m already working on plans for the wedding cake!) In case my previous posts haven’t made it clear, in my family we’re loud and proud of our gay family members. The long history of homosexuality in my family makes it abundantly clear, at least to us, that sexual preference is a matter of genetics not something you learn or catch from your gay teacher.
2LGBTQI stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning and Intersex

Related News Stories:
Recent murder trial in Denver of a man accused of murdering transgendered teen http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/04/22/transgender.slaying.trial/index.html
Advocate Article on gay bashing statistics
http://www.advocate.com/news_detail_ektid50559.asp
A few stats:
2007: 1,460 hate crime offenses based on sexual-orientation bias were reported by law enforcement agencies. Of these offenses:

  • 59.2 percent were classified as anti-male homosexual bias.
  • 24.8 percent were reported as anti-homosexual bias.
  • 12.6 percent were prompted by an anti-female homosexual bias.
  • 1.8 percent were the result of an anti-heterosexual bias.
  • 1.6 percent were classified as anti-bisexual bias.

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