TRANSITION - The Story Of How I Became A Man

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday June 16, 2011

Chaz Bono has a story worth telling, and in "TRANSITION: How I Became A Man," he manages to tell it, though in a fairly rote manner. (Billie Fitzpatrick serves as co-author here as he did with Bono's earlier book, "Family Outing.")

Chaz, of course, was born Chastity Bono, the single child of Sonny Bono and Cher. This background informs her story; we learn about the pressures of stardom that left Chaz's parents too little time to attend to their little girl personally, with the result that Chastity and her younger brother (the child of Cher and Greg Allman) were left in the care of an abusive nanny. (At one point, almost in passing, Chaz hints that the abuse was sexual in nature, but he offers no details about this. What he does share, however, is appalling enough.)

Chastity thought in her younger years that she was a lesbian. The book delves into those same-sex relationships, one of which was with an older woman -- a friend of her mother's. It might surprise some that Chastity felt she could come out to her father -- who was a Republican congressman after his showbiz career -- before she could break the news to her superstar mother, who, after all, worked closely with gay male dancers all the time.

Indeed, Cher seems to have had less a problem with Chastity's "lesbian" phase than with her eventual realization that she was not, mentally, a woman at all, but rather a man in a woman's body. Hence the transition from woman to man... though with bumps and hiccups along the way.

En route to her new identity as Chaz, Chastity Bono struggled with drug use, depression, and career woes. Eventually she found her way to rehab and met Jennifer Elia, with whom Chaz was able to articulate his emerging awareness of being transgender. Unlike his previous girlfriend, Elia didn't freak out. Loved and supported, Chaz went forward with his physical transition.

Now ensconced in the male body he feels to be much more suitable, and engaged to Jenny, Chaz faces the wider world with confidence, accepting that, by virtue of his parentage as much as his earlier careers in music and GLBT advocacy, he's inevitably going to be a poster boy for transgender people the world over. Is he ready for it?

This book is a testament that he is ready; and moreover, it is a moving account that asks the reader to try -- just try -- to understand what trans people go through on their journeys toward self-acceptance, let alone acceptance from friends, family, and society in general.

Publisher: Dutton Adult. Publication Date: May 10, 2011. Pages: 256. Price: $25.95. ISBN-13: 978-0-525-952-145

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.