The low-key and well rotund Chaz Bono told students, USF personal and members of the general public Tuesday that while his body isnt perfect, he likes what he sees in the mirror.
Like everybody who looks in the mirror, I say I wish that was tighter or smaller, just like everybody, he said. But I feel very comfortable. I look like myself.
Bono, the son of Cher and Sonny Bono, gave a lecture in the Marshall Student Center Ballroom to about 600 people about his experience growing up physically female and his transition to match his sex to his gender.
The vast majority of peoples sex and gender identities are in alignment, and I think people really start to think its one thing, he said.
But Bono said a persons physical sex and gender category they identify with are not always congruent.
I always ask people: Just take a second and imagine what you would feel if you just woke up one morning and felt the same way you do now, but were in the body of the opposite sex, he said. And (imagine) how uncomfortable it would be having people treat you as one sex when inside you know without a shadow of a doubt that you are another.
The entire lecture followed a question and answer period. The first part of which consisted of prepared questions submitted to the ULS board prior to the lecture that were read aloud by Brent Grunig, a graduate assistant in the Center for Student Development. Afterward, live questions were asked of the audience.
Bono said he realized he was transgender at age 30 or 31 and told his mother three or four years later. While he said his mother was initially supportive, she had her commitment tested after Bono started hormone therapy.
We had a really good conversation and she was very supportive of it, he said. And then when the physical changes started to happen, it became very real, and I think difficult for her. And I think she probably went through a long grieving process that I hear a lot of parents of transgender people go through.
But Bono said the journey to transition is difficult for the family, as well as for the individual transitioning, though his family has come around.
Im happy, Im healthy, Im thriving, in life, he said. It was so clear that that was the issue that was making my life so difficult, but until you have something to compare it to, I think its difficult for people to see. So dont be afraid to
go ahead and transition and let your family members catch up, because sometimes that will do the trick as well.
But Bono said some of the physical changes he encountered after beginning transition were less welcome than others, even for him.
I couldnt wait to grow (facial) hair and I didnt anticipate–like–back hair, he said. And its one of those be careful what you wish for things.
Growing up, Bono said he was attracted to all things kind of male or masculine.
From my taste in friends, to clothing, toys, just all of that stuff was really oriented in that kind of way, he said.
One his puberty began, Bono said he felt like his body was betraying him.
It was really confusing and nothing really made sense, he said. The only thing that came out of that that was really clear was that I realized I was attracted to girls.
Bono said he didnt begin his physical transition to male until he was 40 years old and prior to that did everything he could to deemphasize his breasts.
I knew having top surgery was really profoundly going to change my life, he said. And even with all that information nothing could prepare me for how incredibly freeing and wonderful I would feel once that surgery was done.
While his journey from a man born to a female body and the name Chastity to man in a male body named Chaz shaped Bonos life immeasurably, he said his experience on dancing with the stars also played a crucial role in his life.
I think when people think I cant imagine doing that, I would be scared, and think somehow for the people doing it, its less scary–its not, we just somehow figure it out, he said. Ive never been so terrified to do anything like I was that first show, dancing on live TV in front of 20 million viewers. Theres nothing in life that prepares you for that. Something about conquering that big of a fear, I left the show feeling like I could do anything after that. That was just an unbelievable gift to me.