Chaz Bono talks about coming out as trans in public eye

Tristan Skye: You have been an advocate for the gay and lesbian community for many years and now the transgender community. Is there a certain topic that is your main focus and priority?

Chaz Bono: In truth, I haven’t thought that much about that yet. I have been really focused on getting these projects [upcoming book, film and documentary] out and done. I also didn’t know anything about the trans community. In the years that it took to get here — that I knew I was trans, but didn’t have the courage to transition — I really stayed away from the trans community on purpose. I was afraid of the story getting out before I was ready for it.

I have just been taking time and stepping back and seeing what the community’s needs are. With that said, one thing that immediately comes to mind is ENDA [the Employment Non-Discrimination Act]. That’s what got me involved in politics to begin with way back in 1995. That is something I have always wanted to see passed, I still want to see passed, but want to see passed with transgender people included.

The only other stuff I’ve gotten really into is really young trans people. And one of the things I’m pretty interested in, especially for the kids and it’s not going to happen overnight, but seeing surgical requirements taken out of what you need to do to change your name and gender legally.

I personally feel the transgender community has looked for a type of spokesperson, a hero of sorts, that can represent us in a very positive light. Now that you have come out as a transgender advocate into the public eye, how do you feel about being seen as that hero for the transgender community?

In my personal life, I do not feel like a celebrity, especially growing up with huge celebrities. I’ve always tried to walk a tightrope between being public enough to do some good and private enough to have a life and just feel normal. Personally, my goal was never to be really famous — I kind of got born into this thing — I’ve had to make the best of it … I do hope for the trans community I can do that. I hope that me coming out about this and transitioning publically will help people who haven’t found the courage to transition yet most of all.

I noticed in your seminar that one question that was asked was “who first heard the word ‘transgender’ or first saw someone transgender from the media?” Even you raised your hand. Who was the first transgender person you can recall that you saw in the media?

I think I’m sure the first transgender person that I heard of was either Christine Jorgensen or Renee Richards when I was really young and didn’t really think about it. But, for me I’ve kind of tracked down when I started to realize I was trans and it was about a year after “Boys Don’t Cry” came out.

Though I didn’t have like an “Ah-Ha!” moment, I think that really did have an effect and really soak into my subconscious and I don’t think it was an accident that happened. …

I don’t think there is a stronger advocate tool than the media. I really understood that working with GLAAD and I still believe that where you get the most done is in the court of public opinion, and that’s through the media.


Editor’s note: Tristan “Shimmer” Skye is president and co-founder of and winner of the GA Voice Best of Atlanta Award for best transgender activist.

Top photo: Chaz Bono (left) chatted with Tristan Skye (right) during this year’s Southern Comfort Conference in Atlanta. (Courtesy photo)