Chaz was on Oprah today, and the film, “Becoming Chaz,” premieres this week on the OWN network. Chaz and I are the same age, and I have always felt a connection with him that I could not explain.
When I was a kid, I was a serious Sonny and Cher fan. I had the albums. I knew all the words. And I loved the “Sonny and Cher” show. At the end, of course, little Chastity would appear in ruffles and bows, held in her glamorous mama’s arms. There was something sad about her, but I didn’t identify it that way then. I didn’t have the emotional understanding. If I had, I might have identified my own internal sadness, which seems so terribly out of place for a three- or four-year-old.
Over the years, Sonny and Cher divorced, and Cher’s subsequent romances enlivened the pages of the tabloids. She, too, had to figure out who she was. She had to grow up.
We didn’t see much of Chastity until she came out as a lesbian. Somehow, this didn’t surprise me. It took many more years before I would come out, even to myself. When I did, however, I had to wonder about that kinship I felt with little Chastity. Maybe that was it? My gaydar was functioning at three?
A few years ago, Chastity Bono co-authored a book called Family Outing, which both Ahnna and I read. This lesbian thing was new to us, and we were still coming to grips with our own self-realization. Some aspects of Chastity’s journey—the mother-daughter conflict—were similar to my own. Chaz is lucky, though, that Cher is able to work on her issues and try to be there. My own mother, bless her, is just not capable of seeing beyond her own fantasy world. In my mother’s reality, I am not a lesbian, but I am “doing all this” (living my happy life) just to bug her.
It is interesting to me that Chaz has had gender reassignment surgery. I can actually relate, although I am content in my female body. There were a number of years when I was a child that I wished I had been born a boy. First, my father clearly would have preferred that. Second, even at a young age, I could see that boys had more privileges than girls did. They had more freedom. There was no double standard. They could be intelligent and opinionated without repercussions. And third, I got along better with boys than with girls.
The only close girl friend I had in school was in middle school and junior high, and in retrospect, that was my first romantic relationship. Neither of us wanted to see this or admit to it—in spite of the taunts from other school kids, who called us “gay” and called me “Gayla.” We denied these accusations vehemently, as an act of self-preservation. Eventually, though, this girl friend dumped me unceremoniously, and I became the target of her own inner guilt. Along with the other girls in my class, she taunted and bullied me for the entire eighth grade year, which really did break my heart. It was the loneliest year I had in school, and if it weren’t for my guy friends, I wouldn’t have had any friends at all.
After that, I learned better how to “behave,” and I dropped the tomboy clothes, wore way too much makeup, and curled and sprayed my hair. (It was the 80s, after all.) I attempted to do what girls are supposed to do. I had one boyfriend the entire time I was in high school, for about two months. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t attract boys. I knew I was attractive enough, so what up? Looking back, I think I scared off most men because I simply didn’t behave the way I was supposed to. I could dress the part, but I sure couldn’t act it. I would not dumb myself down for anybody, and I sure didn’t let the boys dictate my likes and dislikes. These apparently were not attractive features in a woman. Really, I think I just acted too much like a man for their comfort.
When I was about thirty, some of my own gender confusion began to make sense, however. I went to a channeler who informed me that energetically I was about 75% masculine energy and 25% feminine energy; most people are closer to 50/50. She also told me that I had spent many, many more lifetimes here as a man than as a woman. Ah, Grasshopper, now I see. This fit in with my own memories. I knew that my most recent lifetime had been male, and now I knew that I had spent most of my time in masculine form because, well, I was mostly masculine energy.
It took a few more years for me to understand where the extra feminine energy had gone. Not everyone has a twin soul (which is okay—it’s not an indication of your worth if you don’t), but I did. And when I found her, well, she was about 75% feminine energy and 25% masculine energy—literally, my other half. So here we were, together again.
In the first year or so of our relationship, I felt some pretty strong gender confusion. We had been together so often as male/female, that being with her again made me feel decidedly masculine. It was an odd feeling. Frankly, I didn’t know what to do with it. It did seem to subside over time, however, and I began to feel comfortable with having a female form again. When I got pregnant with our first child and gave birth to her, I finally felt some peace about being female. It was the first time I could really embrace it. After all, without it, my precious daughter would not be here.
Still, in many ways, I think Ahnna and I behave sort of like man and wife. It’s funny: people will look to me first the way some people look first to the husband for a response. Then if they don’t like what I have to say, they try to work on Ahnna.
Chaz, of course, has always identified as a male, and he finally decided to do something about it. There is nothing wrong with that. If I felt strongly about it, I’m sure I would have considered it, too. I didn’t, and that’s just my path. He did, and that’s his path. Because of his celebrity, he is able to speak for a community that really needs advocates and spokespeople. There is a divine order in all things, and that is now part of his path, too.
I wish Chaz and everyone else well who walk the difficult path of needing to express themselves in a way that seems at odds with their body. They are all teachers, here to remind us that our body is just a car, after all.