Sunday, May 15, 2011

Becoming Chaz ~ Documentary of Chastity Bono's FTM Transition on OWN


“There’s a gender in your brain and a gender in your body. For 99 percent of people, those things are in alignment. For transgender people, they’re mismatched. That’s all it is. It’s not complicated, it’s not a neurosis. It’s a mix-up. It’s a birth defect, like a cleft palate.” ~ Chaz Bono

Documentary filmmakers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato's Becoming Chaz chronicles the events that transpired when the subject of their film has sexual reassignment surgery. The World of Wonder production was originally screened in January at the Sundance Film Festival and won best documentary at the Milan International Film Festival. Recently Becoming Chaz was purchased by and aired on OWN.

Born in 1969 to Salvatore "Sonny" and Cherilyn "Cher" Bono, Chastity Sun Bono had as far back as she could recall, felt as if she had been born the wrong gender. In March of 2008 Chastity began procedures to change gender. As of 2010 pronoun references for Chastity would change from she/her to he/him as well as a legal change of name to Chaz Salvatore [in honor of his late father's birth name] Bono.

This documentary is unflinching in showing very private aspects of what is involved in making such a dramatic change in one's life, but also manages to maintain what would clearly be doctor patient confidentiality issues. For example, we don't see the psychiatric evaluations anyone, be they the offspring of celebs or not, would undergo. But the viewer is allowed to see how Chaz' decision to change gender is one that has plagued him his entire life even though he couldn't really put a specific to the choice until shortly before turning 40. While still hormonally female, coming out to her parents at age 18 as preferring sex with women meant living as a lesbian. Still something was faulty---she did not and never had enjoyed being a girl. It is heartbreaking to see Cher trying to come to terms with the fact that she no longer has the daughter she bore, while trying to be emotionally supportive and understanding. Beyond that are the health concerns. Among the possible side effects from the meds required for gender reassignment are weight gain, damage to the liver and/or heart.

As any couple does, Chaz and girlfriend Jennifer have their moments of disagreement, and his gender change has effected their relationship. In fact she says at one point during the film that she misses the person that Chaz was when they met [when he was a she]. Chaz must take male hormone shots twice a month for the rest of his life. Michael Chiklis is the male image [except for the shaved head] that Chaz would like to project.

i support Chaz' decision or any adult in the same situation who has the means, to make the changes they need to make, to feel complete and sane. i do have a problem with the portion of the film where the subject of altering the hormones of minors is introduced. i'm not saying that it's not possible for a child to feel they are the wrong gender. But i can't support a parent opting to have medication prescribed for a child as young as age 10 that will prevent the onset of puberty and then at 16 be prescribed medication that would chemically alter their gender in an effort to eliminate the need for surgical procedures when they become adults.

The documentary has a companion book written by Chaz Bono and Billie Fitzpatrick Transition: The Story Of How I Became A Man

Becoming Chaz originally aired on OWN on May 10th. It next airs on Saturday May 21st at 8:00pm and 11:00pm. Please check your local listings

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