Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The day a nation climbed into Chaz Bono's pants

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that Chaz Bono is going to be competing on the next season of "Dancing With the Stars."

If you have heard that news, you have also enjoyed extra discussion on, not his dancing ability, but details of what is going on inside his pants. Or not going on. Or whether or not you want your children to know what is going on inside his pants. Or not going on.

Or whether he is "she" or "Chastity" instead of Chaz.

I have stood back, dumbfounded.

I have so much to say, I'm not exactly sure where to start. So, eenie, meenie, miney, MO! I think I'll just focus on the biggest argument among the critics.

When my children see Chaz Bono dancing, I will not have a discussion with them about what it means to be transgender. Why? Because that is SO old news in our home. They already know what it means. Could probably teach a class on it. They share life with people who vary in their gender identity and sexual orientation. They care much more about whether or not a person will play the Wii with them, or if they had Legos as a kid. When I read some of the things critics were saying, in reference to Chaz, and their concerns that his presence on the show would be confusing to children ... well ... my children looked at me - very confused! To quote one of them, "That's dumb."

If you are itching to join the approximate 27 people who forwarded me the appalling article by Dr. Keith Ablow, please refrain. The article was titled "Don't Let Your Kids Watch Chaz Bono On 'Dancing With the Stars'." The piece is scientifically unsubstantiated (unless, of course, he plans to use the argument that he knows this from his "own personal experience" - apparently that's some sort of new science these days). I do not mind people stating their beliefs and standing strong on them. Yet, I think we all agree that "because I said so" is the apologetics of the fearful, and only leaves you looking like a person choosing ignorance as their hill to die on.

In addition, David Badash of The New Civil Right Movement reminds us, "This is not Ablow’s first ignorant, pop-​psychology attack on Chaz Bono. In May, Ablow penned a column attacking Chaz Bono so viciously, calling Bono “psychotic” and classifying him as “delusion[al]” that Fox actually removed it."

I want people to express their beliefs and opinions, and I want to learn their reasoning. I will always share my own personal experiences, but I wouldn't dare make the assumption that it, in any way, reflects the big picture. We look like baffoons when we do that. No man is an island.

So, to be clear: I do not believe that exposing my children to truth and differences will make them become that "thing" or "idea" or whatever. It simply teaches them about people and life and reality. In fact, I purposefully expose my children to people who are different from them. Yup. I do. On purpose.

Also, can we stop dancing around (pardon the pun) the elephant in the room for a minute? If you are already letting your children watch "Dancing With the Stars," you have openly exposed them to a myriad of choices, lifestyles ... not to mention a full time slot of deliberately sexual costumes and dances. Come. on. A man who looks like the average dad is what is going to make DWTS no longer family friendly? Really?

"I'm going to be dancing. I'm not up there talking about anything other than dancing," Bono said Tuesday morning on "Good Morning America." "People who don't have gender dysphoria aren't going to catch it by watching me dance on television."

I encourage everyone to learn and understand more about what it means to be transgender. Actually, I encourage everyone to educate themselves on what gender really is and what it isn't.

In conversations this week, a friend and fellow trauma mom shared that Dr. Tiger Howard Devore is a family member of hers. I watched his documentary, "The Truth of My Sex," and was deeply moved by his story. Intersex and transgender individuals have such personal, and many times painful stories. Hear and learn. Listen. Listen some more. Read. Know.

But please, do not assume. Do not stand for the "because I said so" approaches to explanations. Please, do not dare to try the "Because God said so" card. Watch Dr. Tiger's story again. Because God said ... what? Did God say he is male or female? Is that actually something determined strictly by genitalia? If so, where do intersex individuals land?

Um, yeah. See?

This is where we find the religious right digging around in some poor guy's pants to determine if he should ... dance on television? Seriously?

This one is a hard one for me. It involves people I love and consider family. I understand where these critics are coming from. I was them. They truly do believe they are acting in love. They absolutely want the very best for all people, and they have no doubt that their decisions and words are reflective of those beliefs. They are not intentionally mean, callous or cruel, even though their words do mean, callous and cruel things to others. Really, they're not. They believe they have the solution, and it would be an awful thing to have a solution and not share it with those who need it.

So, I apologize for my passion. I don't like to be snarky with very sensitive subjects, because both sides include humans with feelings and very real, vital experiences behind them. I don't ever want to devalue that, even when I disagree with someone. I understand. I care about why their stance is important. It's as important as mine.

The "why" is what defines us all as individuals. The "why" is what becomes so very threatened when we are challenged a little bit outside of our norm. Perhaps it becomes threatened, even more so, when we are challenged a little bit outside of what we are taught is a reflection of our faith.

Please, allow me to challenge just a bit more, as I leave you today.

Just listen.

Just hear.

Just consider.


"I'm a Girl: Understanding Transgender Children"

"Intersexions: Is She or Isn't He"

"Transgender Americans: A Handbook For Understanding"

(top photo by aToy, used with permission)


happygeek said...

I did live under a rock. I had heard some mutterings about Chaz on twitter, but if it does not appear to be real news I don't google it. Thanks for clarifying it in your usual kind and succient way.

Pamazzara said... I mean BRAVO! Ah, does it even matter?

Lisa said...

Picture me giving you a standing ovation. I love how you can always make us think outside the box and you do it so beautifully. Open minds and open hearts are such lovely things. When my mind refuses to be open you have my full permission to kick it several times (like the candy machine) until it opens again. :)

Dennis Nesser said...

5 years ago my answer would have been that of the 'conservative righteous'. "It's wrong, I'm not watching, blah blah blah blah blah."

Then I realized that the number one command given to Christians was to love not judge. What a change in my life. And while I still fight some of my prejudice, all in all I get it.

I mean honestly 5 years ago I'd of judged you and your 'ways'. I would of only seen that off the wall nutty lady and never given you the chance to find out how neat you really are.

We start judging by the outside and forget there is so much more to a person we've lost touch with reality.

I'm certain I've lost respect of some of the 'conservative righteous'...I still love them, but I don't care for their opinions like I use to.

God Bless,

Laura said...

LOVE THIS! And you!

You rock.

Anonymous said...

I really liked Chaz on VH1's Celebrity Fit Club a few years back (when he was still Chastity). He seemed genuine. I felt the same way when I watched his documentary recently. I've never watched dwts before, but I just might this coming season.

Sunday said...

You see...this - right here, is why I have so much respect for you! Thank you for your passion and compassion!

Fi said...

You're my favourite christian!!


Last Mom said...

Woohoo!!!! Preaching to the chior with me, but I hope it impacts the people it needs to. Thanks for always sharing your perspective in such an honest yet kind and amusing way!

Primed Educational Associates said...

Yippee!! Great post! I fully agree with you. Can't believe the stupidity that this poor guy is facing.

LilySea said...

You know what, Christine? You EMBODY the Gospel. I am in awe. And I want to be you when I grow up.

In other news: my partner has been doing academic work on gender in sport for the past twenty years (um, or more) and one thing she studies is "sex-testing." In the Olympics and in other high-profile international competitions, women have had to prove they are female to compete (until very, very recently). The best part of the her research to me, is the part where she shows how the test to "prove" gender has changed over time so that in one year, a woman might have qualified and in another she wouldn't have.
Gender is not something even medicine can pin down. T.V. watching yahoos certainly can't do it!

I mentioned this a little in a recent piece at BlogHer if anyone is interested.

LilySea said...

Here's that BlogHer piece:

What's Natural about Pink Plastic?

Jena said...

I am a long time reader, and infrequent commenter who has learned much from this blog and as someone who is working with those who struggle hard with sexual identity,I wanted to offer the perspective of a third way...

While I do FULLY believe that understanding why is crucial, what has happened to Chasity Bono breaks my heart... for many reasons...
For her personally, but for people in general. Men and Women. Boys and Girls.

Putting heads in the sand, closing our eyes,pointing fingers and quoting scripture is not the answer.

I know that I am truly an enigma, a moderate liberal, someone who believes that there is truth that is not relative, and that gender is truly tied to who we are as individuals. That we reflect God through our gender identity as male and female, not in spite of it. That both male and female are necessary, and even crucial to reflecting the image of God, to say one is more important than another is a travesty, as it is to say that gender is irrelevant when it comes to identity, and truly reflecting God a to others.

Does that mean that my children's heads are in the sand when it comes to these issues? Does that mean that they are taught a dogma that is based on fear and misunderstanding? I truly hope not.
Do I embrace people who are different than me, in race, sexual identity, and other ideas?
Yes. I do.
It grieves me greatly that somewhere along the way Christians lost our ability to embrace PEOPLE.
And I hope that I can continue to embrace people, and that they can embrace me, even if what I think and believe is vastly different than what they believe.

My heart in saying this is not to be divisive, but to simply interject that there is a third option, a middle ground... hopefully I was able to communicate that.

the wrath of khandrea said...

i think i am like you in that i genuinely appreciate and respect diversity, as well as the ability to honestly and tactfully share one's opinion. i like what you've said, i like what jena up there has said.

while people's choices may conflict with personal beliefs of others, in the end... whose place is it to point that out in such a hurtful way? no one's.

respect. sadly, a dying value in our nation.

the wrath of khandrea said...

uh... just to clarify, i was referring to the critics who are being hurtful. not you. sometimes things are lost in cyber-translation, especially amongst strangers.

J & A said...

I appreciate your sentiment and your effort, and I applaud your attempt to live how you have perceived the Gospel tells us too.

It does worry me what gender has become in this fallen world. No matter how 'liberal' or accepting we are, the truth is that man is man and woman is woman, perfectly created in their uniqueness by our Father to enjoy, glorify, and love Him forever. It's truly a very hard thing for me to muddle through as I try to guide my children yet simultaneously protect them and teach them the Truth.

Good food for thought, most definitely, and I still groan at Dancing with the "Stars" no matter who's on. ;)

Christine said...

J, I am so thankful that you shared your heart, and I would ask that you share even more.

If a child is born with both genitalia, or unidentified genetalia, what are they? Man or woman? How is that determined? What study have you done on this and can you link to the things you've read. Teach us how you have reached your conclusions.

If doctors then move to look at chromosomes and/or brain chemistry and/or hormones to make these determinations, and it is seen as something significant in determining gender ... then what does that mean for the person whose brain chemistry and/or chromosomes and/or hormones do not match their physically obvious genetalia?

I'm asking in all sincerity. Have you read and watched the resources I have listed? Help us understand how all of these people are clearly either male or female. Help me understand where I am missing the mark. I promise to read what you send me.

Melissa said...

Whether I agree or not with your thoughts here (I _do_ agree that it's stupid to think that Chaz going on DWTS is somehow going to erode the moral fabric in homes across the country), I say to you, Christine, NEVER apologize for your passion!

Babs said...

I so love you
I so love this
I am so sharing it with everyone I know and then some
and we are SO vacationing in texas next summer so I can meet you

Hannah_Rae said...

I don't feel like I know enough to comment on the majority of this issue, but one thing that stood out to me was your comment about what parents have exposed their children to if they have let them watch that show at all.

Totally. Right. On.

I've always been in a conservative home, and sexual explicitness on television makes me cringe, but even I enjoy a good episode of "Friends" every now and then....unless my kids are around. Boy, did that simple change in our family take my filters off. I hear and see SO MUCH more than I did.

So regardless of the current debate...Parents: Be aware of what your child is seeing and hearing.

The end.



Laura said...

"If you are already letting your children watch "Dancing With the Stars," you have openly exposed them to a myriad of choices, lifestyles ... not to mention a full time slot of deliberately sexual costumes and dances."

No kidding! When you referenced people not wanting their kids to see Bono on DWTS, my first thought was "who in their right mind would consider DWTS to be a children's program, and how would they find Bono to be the most offensive image on that program!?"

Laura said...

I apparently live under a very large rock. I had not heard of any of this, I couldn't figure out who this "Chaz Bono" was at first. I rather detest DWTS though, so I'm pretty happy under my rock ;)

Threads of Light said...

I accept that transgender issues exist, that they are painful and real to those suffering the conflicts these issues can bring. I do not understand why it happens. Why someone who presents as one gender, desperately feels they are the other gender deep inside.
Christine, I don't want to present the 'religious card' to you or anyone else. All I can say is what is in my heart: I feel with a passion that gender is an essential character of each and every individual. I trust God to work all of this out in the end. In the mean time, it is the duty of every one of us to treat ALL our earth-family with love and respect.

I am horrified and ashamed when my children parrot attitudes of ridicule from time to time toward people experiencing differing sexual/gender issues. We have taught our children all of what I described above, yet sometimes they still laugh. If I am brutally honest, perhaps I will have to admit that I still struggle with these concepts myself, and maybe they have picked up on that. My prayer is that as time goes on, all of us will learn to see people as people. To see into the hearts of those around them, and to learn compassion no matter the differences between our belief systems.

God bless you, Christine! In some ways we are so different, you and I, but in the most important deep rooted underlying principles we are the same. Love will conquer all!

Christine said...

Even with differing opinions, this is one of the most kind exchanges, I have seen in a very long time. Granted, I don't allow anonymous comments! ha! But let me at least believe that parts of the planet can function in love and civility.

May we continue to be the anomaly!

ManyBlessings said...

I have a friend who's young child is transgender. Believe me, it is not a path that one would willinglychoose. She and her daughter are facing a tidal wave of prejudice and misunderstanding. As mom of this precious little girl, she is my hero.

I am passing this along to her. She could use the encouragement today.

Bless you.

Babs said...

"May we continue to be the anomaly!"

this may have to be my next T-shirt creation!

Rock on :)

Robinsunne said...

I love your comment about how watching week after week of sexy costumes/moves isn't already a pile of information destined to overload our children - or maybe all of us. We can't open Newsweek magazine or watch the evening news without an unsettling amount of sex, drugs and violence, but a show about dancing is somehow toxic??

malva said...

Don't know much about Chaz and the dance show but i REALLY am thankful that you posted these videos. Intersex was especially great. Going to see these with the kids. THANKS!

Bryna said...

thank you for GETTING IT. and for sharing your opinions with your friends, family and readers - who i'm sure include people who have never been exposed to this opinion coming from someone they respect. i'm proud to say my kids have lots of trans folks in their life, most of whom they don't even know are trans, and are also much more interested in whether someone will play Nintendo DS with them than what the shape of their genitals might be.

Gracefire said...

Oh, sh*t, Bria just had to show up for this one.

I am a queer, genderqueer individual. This means I am not straight and I do not identify with the conventional genders of "male" or "female". Hell, I don't even believe in the gender binary. Sometimes I am male, sometimes female, sometimes both, sometimes neither. Sometimes, I go through several of those options in one day. Genderqueer falls under the "transgender" umbrella, as you don't solely identify with the gender you were assigned based on your sex characteristics, so I kind of know what I am talking about. (Yes, there is a difference between sex and gender.)

First, to those saying how much you love "Chastity" and respect "her" even if you don't agree with "her" "lifestyle choice", just freaking stop it. You obviously do not respect him if you cannot even call him by his correct name and pronoun. Even if you believe being trans* is sinful, if you are going to say that you respect trans* people you best be ready to not just pay lip service to that claim and respect them enough to use their correct name and pronoun.

Second, to all of you pitying him, saying how "confused" and "hurt" he must be to "want" to live like this, again, just freaking stop it. The only times I ever felt wrong or ashamed of my gender or sexual identity was when there was some "well-meaning" Christian trying to "help" me because they just knew in their hearts how much I must be "struggling". So, no, being trans* or queer does not automatically equal misery. Actually, the moments that I came out to myself were some of the most freeing moments of my life. I could stop trying to be the the proverbial square peg in the round hole. Hell, I didn't have to be any peg in any hole if I didn't want to be. I could just be me, perfectly queer, perfectly sometimes but not really male or female. Just. me.

Third, go do some research on the violent crime rate against trans* people and then talk to me about it being a "lifestyle choice". You have obviously never had to deal with taking a box cutter to your genitals in a desperate attempt to get rid of something that makes you want to vomit at just the sight of it. A friend of mine did this. It's called gender dysphoria. You also have probably never had to worry about being assaulted multiple times in one day for daring to leave your house. This has happened to multiple trans* people I know, all of whom live in a major, blue through-and-through cities in the US. And please do not tell me how "sorry" you are that this happened to them, how even though you don't "agree" with them, you still recognize their "rights". Because I'm about to lay down a blunt, gory, uncomfortable truth. By doing things like calling trans* people incorrect names and pronouns, you are contributing to a society where it is still seen as acceptable to do these very things to trans* people. You are contributing to a society where things like gender reassignment and hormone therapy are seen as optional, and therefore not widely covered by insurance plans (and never covered by government-sponsored insurance plans). You are contributing to a society where it is okay to laugh, snigger, point, stare and get violent when some one doesn't perfectly fit your idea of male or female. You are contributing to a society where the suicide rate for trans* and queer kids is astronomically disproportionate to their straight peers. Because, whether you recognize it or not, by doing something as "simple" as misnaming and misgendering trans* people, what you are really doing is erasing trans* people. You are letting the people around you know that, to you, trans* people are not really people at all, but some freakish aberration that just desperately needs "curing".

brandonandmandycox said...

I've been wanting to comment on this for a long time... so here are my two cents :)
I don't think the solution is to question God about gender or to do more research... as Christians, we are called to trust Him. Trust Him with everything - things we understand and things we don't. Someone earlier mentioned the Gospel. Jesus came to redeem sinners. He came to change us. He died to show us His love so that we would trust Him. Who are we to question Him? He has a purpose for everyone - everything. When circumstances are confusing - trust Him.