Chaz Bono to speak on Transition, journey

From the itinerary to the speaker himself, tonights University Lecture Series (ULS) event featuring LGBT advocate, writer and performer Chaz Bono will be unlike any other, said ULS Executive Director Carly Henry.

Henry said the only similar speaker to Bono, a transgender male, that she can remember ULS hosting was openly gay fashion consultant Tim Gunn in 2009, though his sexuality wasnt the focus of his lecture.

Tonights lecture schedule will also differ, as Bono will not only answer questions from audience members, but also 12 questions submitted to the ULS Facebook page by students.

Chaz is kind of that iconic role model for transgendered youth and individuals going through a self-identity issue, Henry said. Thats something that ULS hasnt really touched on in past years and reaches out to a different demographic on campus that weve never really looked into.

Chaz Bono was born Chastity Bono, the only child of celebrity couple Sonny and Cher. Bono came out as a lesbian in 1995 and underwent gender transition surgery from 2008 to 2010. The process was documented in the film Becoming Chaz, which was shown at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and on the Oprah Winfrey television network OWN.

Bono has also written three books about his transition from female to male and gained television fame as a competitor on ABCs Dancing with the Stars and VH1s Celebrity Fit Club 3. The USF Bookstore will sell 100 copies of his most recent book, Transition: The Story of How I Became a Man, during a book signing after the lecture.

Bono, who will get $22,500 in student-paid Activity and Service fees, was added to this semesters ULS lineup after a distinguished speaker residency series, which intended to bring 10 prominent local figures to stay on campus for two days, was abandoned due to time constraints, leaving an additional $40,000 in the ULS budget.

Yet Brent Grunig, a graduate adviser for the Center for Student Involvement, said the lecture is still timely.

He had just been on Dancing with the Stars, his book was just released and thats always a big draw at lectures when you can have that meet and greet afterward, he said. And then with USF, Housing and Residential Education recently added a transgender option on the housing application, he said.

Henry said the ULS staff was surprised by the variety of knowledgeable question topics submitted through Facebook, including growing up with celebrity parents, health care providers for transgender people and social norms in the gay community. Yet Bono, who served as grand marshal of the Miami Beach Pride Parade on Sunday, will bring a message that can be applied to students in all walks of life, she said.

People may think if they dont identify with that group, that (the lecture) doesnt fit them, but its going to be kind of an overarching message of overcoming obstacles and discriminations and can apply to people who, maybe, dont think that they fit in any arena not just with their sexuality, Henry said.

Bonos lecture will begin at 8 p.m. in the Marshall Student Center Ballroom and is free to the public. Doors will open for students at 7:30 p.m.