Chaz Bono Talks Cher, Brangelina and More Surgery

Man formerly known as Chastity opens up about his much publicized transition from female to male, helping kids in similar situations and his plans on finally marrying his fiancée

By Marc Malkin May 10, 2011 2:00 AMTags
Chaz Bono, CherEric Charbonneau / WireImage

Chaz Bono is a bit nervous of running into Michael Chiklis some day.


In Becoming Chaz, the new documentary about Bono's transitioning from female to male, he says he'd now love to have Chiklis' physique...

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"I hate it when that kind of stuff happens," Bono tells me when we sit down to talk in a meeting room at his publicist's office. "In my first book, I wrote innocently enough about my mom being friends with [Charlie's Angels star] Kate Jackson and I had a crush on her. It just went viral. It's the last thing I wanted to do, to make somebody feel awkward or uncomfortable. Hopefully, he doesn't hate me because I'm a big fan. I was a big fan of The Shield."

As the world knows by now, Chaz used to be Chastity, the only daughter of Cher and the late Sonny Bono. Along with the documentary, Bono's latest memoir, Transition: The Story of How I Became a Man, goes on sale today.

In both the film and book, Bono shares in great detail what it was like growing up a boy in a girl's body and the journey it took to finally become the man who he is today.

Cher admits in the documentary (premiering tonight on OWN as part of the new The Doc Club With Rosie O'Donnell) that she hasn't had an easy time of it. But Bono is confident his mom is coming around. "I think that she is moving in the right direction," he says. "I don't get the impression that she's 100 percent completely comfortable, but I think she's on the road to being that."

It's that very reason that Bono borrowed the $10,000 he needed to have his breast removal surgery from his AA sponsor rather than from his mom. "I didn't want to go to my mom with it because it was something she was struggling with," he explains. "It's like why rub her nose in it?"

While Bono is now legally recognized as male that doesn't mean he's also undergone the bottom genital reassignment surgery. He's too wary of today's options. "At this point, I'm not happy with the technology and I don't really feel comfortable doing anything about it," he says.

However, he isn't ruling it out completely. He's attending an upcoming transgender medical conference in Atlanta, where he says, "I'll be really interested to talk to some of the doctors to find out what's on the horizon."

By Bono's side through the entire journey is his fiancée, Jennifer Elia. They plan to marry some day. "We got engaged two years ago and we kind of just tabled it because so much was going on," he says. "I think that once we get through this we can look at it again. I think in probably typical guy fashion, I think it's absolutely absurd to spend thousands and thousands of dollars for one day. So I would like to do as little as possible."

For now, he's concentrating on lending his voice and face to the transgender movement. He refuses to call himself a role model. "I see myself as just somebody who's gone through the process," he says. "For me, part of the way that I got through my fears is by reading books and seeing documentaries of people who transitioned before me. So I look at myself as one of those people who are just out in the community and the difference is that I just have a little bit of a larger reach."

He volunteers for a support group for children with gender identity issues and their families. "I relate to these kids," he says. "The difference between them and myself is that I didn't articulate it and fight for it and say, 'No, no, no! I'm a boy!' I have so much respect for these kids that do."

Bono doesn't know Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt and wouldn't assume anything about their daughter Shiloh's choice to dress more boyishly, but the media's attention to the story did shed some light on gender identity. "I would love to talk to them at some point," Bono says, "to at least let them know we have this resource for them if they ever need it."

Even so, Bono says, "People get too freaked out about kids and what to do with kids. If you just let kids do what they need to do they usually have the right idea."

And speaking of kids and their parents, what does Bono think his late father is thinking about all this? "I'm sure he's extremely proud," he says. "My view of life after death is that all that kind of earthly prejudice that we have goes away. So I could say that now I think he's extremely proud and thinks that I'm on the right course and doing what I came here to do in this life."

He then adds with a laugh, "But if he were alive, I think it would have been a bit more challenging."