Movieline's Guide to Talking to Your Kids About Chastity Bono's Sex Change
By now you may have caught wind of a story catching fire across the Internet: Chastity Bono, the only child to emerge from the legendary showbiz union of Cher and Sonny Bono, has begun the process of changing from woman into man. Chaz Bono began the first stages of his hormone treatments earlier this year, shortly after his 40th birthday.
Gender reassignment is still a confusing and taboo subject for many. Media coverage is spotty at best, with mainstream journalism finding the topic too messy, and instructive reality shows such as Sex Change Hospital proving too graphic for the average, sex-change-curious viewer. As such, I thought it might be useful to offer a guide for discussing this sensitive and complex topic with your children.
Part One: Acknowledging the Newly Male Elephant in the Room
As children have unprecedented access to news in today's fast-paced digital environment, it's best not to wait until they come to you with questions. Better that you bring up the issue in a direct a manner as possible. Let them know you're willing to help them work through it.
Take the following role-play exchange:
Scene: Breakfast Table
Mom: Who wants more pancakes?
Samantha (Age 9): Me please!
Kenny (Age 12): Me too! With blueberries!
Dad: So Chastity Bono has decided to become a man, kids.
This is a crucial moment in your communal learning process, and as such, deserves a fair-handed, accurate, and socially responsible response.
Here's an example of the WRONG way to answer your child's inquiry as to who Chastity/Chaz Bono is:
Dad: You know, Cher's kid.
This foolishly assumes your child knows who Cher is.
A more sensitive and well-rounded response is as follows:
Dad: Chaz Bono is an American LGBT rights advocate, writer, actor and musician. He is the son of Sonny Bono and Cher, a husband and wife pop music duo who rose to prominence in the 1960s and 70s, eventually starring in their own wildly popular TV variety program, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.
Part Two: Encouraging Sensitivity
Once the basics have been cleared up, you may encounter anything from nervous chuckles to open mockery. It's important to nip these in the bud. Tolerance, after all, begins at home.
Let's go back to our family, who are well into their discussion.
Dad: And so you see, kids, the surgeon often makes a small penis out of the clitoris and a scrotum by joining both labia majors. Testicle implants can then be inserted.
Kenny: [Stifling laughter] <span
class="pullquote right">I don't see what the big deal is. Cher's been surrounded by female impersonators all her life.
This is the second critical moment in your Chaz Bono Family Learning Initiative, where you explain that gender-reassignment -- even where it applies to Cher's offspring -- isn't a topic to be made light of. Your children may counter with appeals such as, "We're just joshin' around," and, "Aww lighten up, old man. It's just some innocent sex-change humor." You can counter that by reading the following statement from GLAAD President Neil G. Giuliano, which you've printed out beforehand:
"Chaz Bono's decision to live his life authentically represents an important step forward, both for him personally and for all who are committed to advancing discussions about fairness and equality for transgender people. Coming out as transgender is an extremely personal decision and one that is never made lightly. We look forward to hearing Chaz's story in his own words in the future."
Thanks for taking the time to read Movieline's Guide to Talking to Your Kids About Chastity Bono's Sex Change. Now who's really up for some more pancakes? We are! Hahahahaha! [Freeze on laughter.] ♦