Chastity Bono comes out as Chaz

Chastity Bono, the only child of singer and gay icon Cher and the late entertainer and congressman Sonny Bono, is in the process of transitioning from a female to a male, his spokesman Howard Bragman confirmed on Thursday. Chastity Bono, now known as Chaz Bono, has been a staunch advocate for gay and lesbian rights, once serving as a spokesperson for the HRC and as a director for GLAAD.

Bono was outed as a lesbian by a tabloid in 1990, which he found “terrifying” at the time. 1990, after all, came and went during the period known as “Before Ellen,” years before “lesbian chic” and The L Word, and way before the passing (and possible rekindling) of Lindsay Lohan and Sam Romson‘s lesbian relationship, which was treated like any other relationship by the media.

It wasn’t until 1995 when Bono gained the courage to come out publicly as a lesbian in an interview with The Advocate. Then in 1998, Bono wrote a book called Family Outing: A Guide to the Coming Out Process for Gays, Lesbians, and Their Families, in which he featured his own coming out process and the coming out stories of other gays and lesbians.

Yesterday, Chaz Bono took matters into his own hands and came out a second time as a man. Bono’s transition is the highest profile transition in recent history, and as gays and lesbians have learned, whenever a high profile individual comes out, it often helps pave the way towards acceptance, sometimes much more than lobbying and running PSAs, because when someone familiar comes out, it makes the concept much more tangible and human and much less abstract and foreign. It also helps provide courage for others to come out.

Call me overly optimistic, but Chaz Bono’s announcement may turn out to be a pivotal moment in the transgender rights movement, much like Ellen’s coming out, which, despite some initial rocky moments — such as the cancellation of her sitcom, was eventually seen as a turning point for the mainstreaming of gays and lesbians.

Of course, some people may come to the (incorrect) conclusion after this revelation that all or a majority lesbians are just a stone throw’s away of becoming a man, as sexual orientation and gender identity have often been conflated in the eyes of the public, but this is just another misconception about which the public should be educated. However, the value of living honestly and openly is something that everyone in the LGBT community, (and hopefully the population at large) can agree on.

GLAAD issued a press release moments after Bono’s announcement, an excerpt of which reads as follows:

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,” said Neil G. Giuliano, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). “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.

Anyway, bravo to Chaz!