Transgendered people don’t get that much time in the media unless they are murdered. Or they are a transman who gets pregnant. When they are in the media, it’s often sensationalized and quite frequently not respectful.
Nearly 20 years ago, Chastity Bono came out as lesbian. Recently, she came out as trans. Chastity, who is already going by Chaz, will undergo sexual reassignment surgery and live her life fully as male.
There are a lot of misconceptions about what being transgendered means. I do not claim to be an expert and I am not trans myself. At the risk of sounding like a cliché, I do have a lot of trans friends, at least one of whom I have been friends with from nearly the beginning of his transition. I am an ally and supporter.
There is the idea that being transgendered is a decision a person makes. More than one person has been asked, “When did you decide you were trans?” It isn’t a decision other than the decision to come out, the decision to make the identity public. For those of you who are LGB, remember your decision to come out. It wasn’t as if you decided one day you were gay. You’d known if for a long time, it just took you a while to get the courage to tell other people. It is the same for a person who is transgendered.
Even among the LGB parts of LGBT, there is misinformation and even hostility. At a fundraiser recently, I overheard a young gay man say that a transguy was “just a chick with a plastic penis.” There is a big controversy every year about transwomen and the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. We are not at all as accepting of our trans brothers and sisters as we would like the rest of the world to be of us. It’s more than slightly hypocritical.
Transitioning is different for each person. To be considered “officially” trans, they have to have one irreversible surgical procedure, take hormones, live as the opposite sex and have counseling. A trained therapist who specializes in gender identity disorder has to write a letter to the doctor verifying that the person is transgendered and is ready to proceed to the medical procedures.
Once the medical procedures are complete, a trangendered person can get a new birth certificate with the corrected gender, then drivers license and other forms of identification.
It is my hope that Chaz will be as open about his transition as he was about coming out as lesbian. We have seen with gays, lesbians and bisexuals the power the media has and the impact having celebrities come out has on public perception. Let’s hope that Chaz, and any other transgendered celebrities who opt to come out, have such an impact for the transgendered among us.