TV Evangelist: Being Chaz
Jenny, right, and Chaz, who is presenting her with a ring.
For those who may have sheltered themselves from current events, a quick recap: Chaz Bono was born 43 years ago as Chastity Bono, the only daughter of Sonny and Cher. Roughly four years ago Chastity began the gender transition to change from a woman into a man. This reality TV series doesn’t so much focus on the transition itself, (Chaz has already had a double mastectomy and sports a neat beard) so much as the ongoing challenge of being arguably the most well-known transgender man living in America today.
Well, at least that’s the premise. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of insight into the unique yet often incredibly ordinary daily life of Chaz, who appears, in spite of his gender reassignment and guest spot on America’s Dancing with the Stars, to carry a kind of low-wattage sadness around with him. It’s worth pointing out though, just how much bigotry he has to endure - both in the media and through that most modern platform of hatred – Twitter.
But the real pathos lies in Chaz’s fractious relationship with his fiancée, Jenny. Jenny met Chaz 8 years ago when he was Chastity - a gay woman. And to say the transition has been bumpy for Jenny is maybe the understatement of the year. Jenny battles with alcoholism and was drunk for most of Chaz’s gender reassignment. ‘That’s how I dealt with it’ is how she heartbreakingly explains it through tears. And it’s gotta be rough – the person you fell in love with has changed. Dramatically. Which might explain why every clash they have on camera appears to be a metaphor for Jenny’s wish that Chaz was Chastity again. Like the one they have about their new puppy in which Jenny tells Chaz ‘Don’t get upset’ before Chaz counters with something like 'I am getting upset because I feel like your expectations are too high. A puppy is not going to be exactly what you need straight away – it takes time.'
I mean...why didn’t he just say 'gender reassignment is a journey not a light switch' and be done with it?
Sometimes, the fights aren’t even metaphorical, like when Jenny tells Chaz his beard – which is honestly more of a five o’clock shadow -- is getting too long and he needs to cut it. Chaz’s response is a stereotypical masculine one – he burps in her face. It’s gross, sure, but it’s also one heck of a powerful statement.
We hear from Cher from time to time and I can’t help but think that Chaz still has some unresolved issues with her. At one point, straight after saying goodbye to his mother on the phone, he announces loudly, 'I have to eat' before striding quickly toward the kitchen. Poor Chaz - it seems that, between the fiancée, the puppy, the fame and The Cher, the road to happiness as a man might take a little longer than first imagined.
Being Chaz Premieres Monday August 13 at 8.30pm on LifestyleYou