Transgender Male (FTM) Chaz Bono

Transgenders are bodies that are subject to victimization for gender transgressions. Discrimination against these bodies is prevalent, however underreported. Many studies show that many incidents of transgender violence go unheard of, which is a major issue in today’s society.

In 2011, ‘Dancing with the Stars’ (DWTS) was one of my favourite shows on television. Season 13 featured phenomenal cast members, such as Chaz Bono, Ricki Lake, Kristin Cavallari, Rob Kardashian, Rob Artest, Carson Kressley, and many other famous stars. Chaz Bono on DWTS aroused major controversy with the media because he is a transgender male (FTM). In the picture below, we are able to view the transformation that Chaz went through with a “before-and-after” photo. In the before photo (left), ‘Chastity’ Bono (female) had long hair and more feminine features, whereas the after photo (right) shows the transformation Chaz went through (FTM) where he encompasses more masculine features.

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On Fox News online, Keith Ablow (2011) posted a transphobic article ‘Don’t Let Your Kids Watch Chaz Bono on ‘Dancing with the Stars.’’ Ablow refers to Bono as a “transsexual” woman, therefore right from the beginning we can tell that he has no idea what he is talking about in reference to Bono and trans people. Chaz Bono is in fact a transgender male. Ablow continues to refer to Chaz using female pronouns, such as “she” and “her” and humiliate him by saying how he is a “woman who underwent plastic surgery and takes male hormones in an effort to appear to be a man, and who asserts she is a man.” The ways in which Ablow is referring to Chaz is degrading and a form of trans bashing. Ablow is a white, successful man who is ultimately arguing that trans people are confused and that this is an issue that can be fixed if they just get help. Ablow believes that trans people do not have a place on the gender continuum. Keith Ablow’s positionality definitely puts him at the highest level of the hierarchy, whereas Chaz Bono, a transgender male who is clearly at a lower rank on the social scale with limited advantages. Bono steers away from cultural gender roles that are deemed normative. Ablow states that by watching Bono on this TV show, children’s gender dysphoria “is a toxic and unnecessary byproduct of the tragic celebration of transgender surgery.” In psychology, I have learned that transgender individuals do not feel any sort of suffering or pain because of their gender identity, therefore this statement is used solely to humiliate these bodies by arguing that trans people do not exist or have a place in our society or world.

Ablow continues to argue that parents should keep their children from watching any episodes that include Bono as children are at their most vulnerable state. He believes that by making their kids subject to such a horror, it “can erode our children’s evolving sense of self.” Trans people are continuously attacked by the privileged, especially those who are cissexual. By denying their children from watching this TV series, they are reinforcing the stigma that is associated with transgender individuals. Depictions of trans people in the media often perpetuates this violence and reinforces the negatives stereotypes associated with these bodies, such as Ablow’s transphobic article. Due to this stigma, trans people are often victims of physical, sexual and verbal abuse, such as rape, hate speech, and other forms of abuse.

Transgender bodies are constantly being victimized for transgressing against normative gender roles. The law is designed for a cissexual body and as a result, transgender individuals do not possess any form of sexual citizenship. Consequently, this leads to violence against trans bodies in many different spheres of society, such as at school, workforce, in the home, jails, etc. For instance, transgenders in prison are extremely vulnerable, especially when compared to those who are cissexual. Cissexual bodies in prison have many more advantages compared to transgenders. This is an example of cissexual privilege, where the advantages cissexuals possess in prison vastly exceeds the rights possessed by transgenders when in the same environment. An LGBT person in prison encourages an atrocious amount of violence. ‘Just Detention International’ (JDI) recorded studies on abuse in juvenile facilities and “found that kids who reported a non-heterosexual identity had been assaulted at twice the rate of youth detainees overall.” Moreover, other surveys have shown that “adult prisoners have found that gay and transgender inmates are, by far, the most likely to be raped.” These studies show the tremendous amount of vulnerability that is associated with being queer. Cultural hegemonies at stake are those minorities, such as transgenders due to cissexual privilege.

Transgender bodies are victimized solely due to their gender that they identify with. Those with cissexual privilege degrade trans bodies by dehumanizing them, using derogatory names and blaming it on a psychological disorder. For instance, Ablow argues that those who are transgender are experiencing a “journey of a very disordered person who endured, and likely will continue to endure, real suffering based on extraordinarily deep psychological problems.” These issues concerning transgender people are increasingly perpetuating violence, should not be tolerated and must come to an end immediately.

References used:

Article on Juvenile Detention International on Vulnerable Inmates:

http://www.justdetention.org/en/vulnerable.aspx

Article by Ablow on Chaz Bono:

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2011/09/02/dont-let-your-kids-watch-chaz-bono-on-dancing-with-stars/

Article on Trans Violence (on Queen’s Library website):

Gender Violence: Transgender Exepriences with Violence and Discrimination by: Lombardi, Wilchins, Priesing and Malouf.

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2 thoughts on “Transgender Male (FTM) Chaz Bono

  1. Although I am not a fan of Dancing with the Stars, and therefore do not follow any of the media surrounding the show and cast, I distinctly remember when Chaz Bono was on the show. Every media outlet made such a big deal about it, it was almost impossible to ignore. Everywhere I turned Chaz’s “before and after” photos were splashed on cover’s, followed by the supposed controversy of a transgender male being partnered with a female. It was, and remains, ridiculous.
    I read the Fox News article you posted, and primarily I noticed that the author is a psychiatrist. Ignoring the fact that a therapist is very clearly insensitive to a whole sect of society, my main question is who let this person write, and publish an article as insulting, discriminating and horrifying as the one I just read? And who let them get away with it? Certain sections of the article, particular terms used to discuss a normal person who happened to undergo a regular procedure arguably constitute hate speech, and slander. Might I remind people that both of those things are punishable by law in the United States – yet the article remains easily accessible, well read and no legal repercussions have followed.
    The fact that nothing has come from this article (other than a general disgust from what I would assume to be half of the readers at the least) is a testament to the disregard our society places on transgender individuals. There is no justice for the author because even the legal system looks at the problem and claims that the fight is not worth it, or not substantial. Transgender peoples are marginalized and ostracized on a daily basis, and at the end of the day they are people just like the rest of us. The fact that we exist in a society where this occurs takes sickening to a whole new level. I am not sure what can be done, but I think we are on our way. Knowledge is power and through this we learn and recognize.

    • Wordtothewomen2, just after I read your post I decided to catch up on several weeks worth of episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy”. Coincidentally, it just so happened that on episode 14, “The face of change”, there is a young transgendered couple admitted into the hospital. This episode most definitely was an emotionally charged one, as I believe the producers did an exceptional job at reflecting the sexual transformation and experiences that transsexuals go through in our society today, without the common stereotyping and over-generalizing exhibited so often in popular culture today. While I want to avoid a summary of the episode, to briefly highlight what happened was that a young transgendered couple, Brian (FTM) and Jess (MTF) came into the hospital for Brian to undergo a sexual reassignment surgery. Brian’s father, however, was not supportive of this decision, and wanted “his little girl back”. The father blames Jess, Brian’s girlfriend for “planting ideas in her head” and forcing him to undergo the surgery, when in fact Brian was never comfortable in a woman’s body and has been planning for the surgery before Jess was a significant part of his life. After the surgery, Brian’s cissexual father does not wait for him to wake up, but gives Jess enough money to cover rent for the year, and leaves.

      The reason why I want to talk about Grey’s anatomy, and in particular this episode, is because Shonda Rhimes, the creator, does an exceptional job at diversifying the show, without the need to over exaggerate almost to a point of obnoxiousness that they are making efforts to include minority groups. If this excess sounds familiar, then yes, you are probably thinking of “Glee” – where the exaggerated effort to become more diverse is done in such an unrealistic way that it is in a sense furthering the isolation and marginalization of minority groups from the societal “norms”. “Grey’s Anatomy” on the other hand, brings in a diverse range of characters in a very respectable and informed manner. After watching this episode, I truly gained a sense of the discrimination that trans people experience in our society, while also gaining a lot of information about the sexual morphology process.

      To conclude, while I can’t fault TV shows like “Glee” for making attempts at diversifying their cast and plot lines, I can say that I greatly appreciate the respectful manner with which “Grey’s Anatomy” includes minority groups, in particular transgendered beings. I believe that a great cause of the oppression of transgendered individuals is a lack of understanding and comprehensiveness from our heteronormative culture. With shows such as “Grey’s Anatomy”, I hope that our society will slowly become more educated and ultimately develop a better understanding and respect for the LGBT community. And with more equality in our society, I hope that this will silence people like Keith Albow who have so much hatred for those who do not mold perfectly into his heteronormative world.

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