Chaz Bono is used to living in the limelight. Formerly Chastity Bono, the child of Sonny Bono and Cher has become a vocal advocate for issues affecting the LGBT community, and has authored three books.
The glare of the spotlight intensified with the release of Becoming Chaz, a documentary from World of Wonder Productions that unflinchingly captures the events surrounding Bono’s gender reassignment surgery and transition from female to male. The film’s premiere at Sundance elicited rave reviews, as did its airing on the Oprah Winfrey Network as the first film in OWN’s Documentary Club. The film garnered three Emmy nominations, with a sequel, and potentially a series on the way. Adding that to the news of his upcoming appearance on the next season of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, Bono says he’s happy to re-enter the media fray if it also creates wider exposure for the transgender community and, in turn, understanding.
Did it take a lot of courage to expose this part of your life in a documentary?
For me, the courage was in making the decision to do this [have the operation] and knowing I wouldn’t be able to do it privately, and that took many, many years. When I finally did make that decision, I knew I’d have to talk about it or it would turn really ugly. I knew I wanted to get my side of the story out there and really try to own it and not let it be tabloid fodder.
Was there ever any point during filming where you wanted to step back and turn the cameras off?
No. I really felt comfortable throughout the whole thing. I’m not the kind of person who does things that don’t feel right to me. I’m not easily swayed. So we’d talked a lot about what we were going to cover and that part was very collaborative. There was never a point where I felt uncomfortable.
What can you tell us about the upcoming follow-up doc?
We’ve been filming it. It’s less about the transition and more about life after that – life now. I think it’ll be fun. It definitely focuses on my girlfriend and I. In the first film, Jenny [Elia] really added a lot of necessary light moments, as well as a way in for a lot of people who didn’t know much about the subject – they could relate to her.
What sort of feedback have you received from those within and outside of the transgender community?
From everyone outside of [the] transgender [community], I get a lot of people saying they never really understood the issue until they saw the film. From transgender people or even parents of transgender people, I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me and send me examples of how the film has helped them. Whether it means being treated better at work, or having parents or family members who’d shut them out earlier reach out to them again – it’s really tangible stuff like that.