Growing up in Hollywood as the daughter of Sonny and Cher, Chaz Bono has always been in the spotlight. But it’s Bono's life as an adult that’s really captured interest. Chastity Bono, who came out as a lesbian in her 20s, has since undergone the transformation to become Chaz to match his body to the gender with which he identifies.
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Bono revealed much about his life, the decision and the process in his new memoir Transition: The Story of How I Became a Man and the documentary Becoming Chaz, which will air on the OWN network. The book was under wraps until today, but Oprah’s show featured Bono on Monday. Here, some of the top moments revealed about Bono’s book from the show:
In the book, Bono writes: “For better or for worse, since my television debut at age two, I will always be thought of as Sonny and Cher’s adorable daughter, Chastity…For better or worse, their decision to put me on the TV show has changed my life.”
“As early as I had memory and consciousness, I was a boy,” Bono said on the show.
How Bono realized she was a man living in woman’s body: “It was a slow process. When I was 13, I was starting to go through puberty and starting to have feelings of attraction to other women and made the obvious connection—I must be a lesbian. The identity worked for a while, but as I got older there were always nagging feelings that I’m still not fitting in.”
It took a decade from Bono realizing that she was not a lesbian but had the desire to become a man for her to act on those feelings. At 40, Chastity decided to become Chaz.
One of Bono’s “biggest fears” of becoming a man was his mother’s reaction: “In July of 2008 finally everything turned around for me, and I was going to do this, and we had a great talk. I just said, ‘I’ve been struggling around these issues, around my gender for a long time, and this is what I’m going to do.’ She was unbelievably cool. Shockingly cool.”
However, once the changes were underway, Cher struggled with it, and they didn’t speak for months: “Time passed, and I felt her pull away from me a little bit,” says Bono. “I just realized she was really having a hard time with all this…It’s an incredibly difficult process for parents.”
One of the hardest parts of the transformation for Cher was Bono’s voice deepening, after listening to an old voice recording, “hearing her voice and knowing that I’ll never hear it again,” Cher says in the documentary.
Bono’s girlfriend Jennifer Elia says that the testosterone and masculine energy in the house has been a challenge, but that she has never considered leaving Bono: “Not ever in my mind that we would break up. Not ever.”
Chaz says that he’s “incredibly happy” with the outcome and his life now.
After leading an extremely public life, Bono made the difficult decision of allowing the transgender process to be documented. “I don’t have the luxury of doing things privately, so I thought let me do the opposite and really try to help people, bring understanding, shed light on this issue so many people can’t wrap their heads around.”(Ed. notes: Quotes from book may vary slightly in finished copy.)