Chaz Bono: I'm Saving to Buy a Penis

'There's different ways to do the surgery, from real basic to more and more options. It's like a car.'

Jeff Vespa
Chaz Bono poses for a portrait during the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.
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As you know, Chaz Bono, 42, has been through some changes lately. He started off as a girl named Chastity, the sole offspring of singers Cher and Sonny Bono; appeared on their TV show in the mid-Seventies as a cute little girl with curly locks, waving at the audience; came out as a lesbian in 1995; reconsidered her sexual identity a few years later; started testosterone treatments to become a dude; got a mastectomy to remove her breasts; started lifting weights; can presently curl 25 pounds with each hand; started going shirtless as often as he could, because, damn it, he was a man now and he could; got on the Dancing With the Stars TV program; was variously called a basketball, a penguin and an Ewok; got booted off after six weeks; has continued to stay in the news, what with Warren Beatty's transgender son calling him a misogynist and him proposing to his girlfriend, Jennifer Elia, 36, atop the Seattle Space Needle, and then breaking up with her in December. It's enough to make your head spin. What's not generally known, however, is that, ever since the end of DWTS, Chaz has been studying his finances, adding up the credits and debits, and is pretty sure that within a short while he will finally be able to afford to get himself a penis.

He says he's never felt better. He no longer numbs himself with painkillers and booze, for instance, and he no longer loses himself for days at a time in video games, though he still likes to play them. He has stopped smoking, too; it was quite an ordeal, until he learned of a certain frightening possibility if he continued.

"The way I had my top surgery done," he says, "they take your nipples off, and from your old nipples, they make male nipples. They totally re-craft them, let's say, and then they graft them back on. So it's a graft, and grafts don't always heal, and then this transgender guy that my girlfriend met said, 'I know people who were smokers whose nipples have fallen off.' When she told me that, that was all the incentive I needed. I went cold turkey."

And now, to more completely match how he looks to how he has always felt, he's busily saving money to buy a penis. He hasn't really talked about it that much before. When anybody brings it up, he typically chuckles and says, "I like to keep my privates private." But now, why not?

"I could get a phalloplasty, which builds the phallus from a donor site on your body," he says straightforwardly, "but I'm leaning more toward a metoidioplasty. It's a procedure that uses what you already have down there" – he means his clitoris – "which has grown larger from the testosterone. You end up with a smaller phallus than with the phalloplasty, but it's fully functional, it gets erect, and the sensation is all there."

Does he know how big it's going to be?

He frowns. "You know, I don't really. I mean, I've never seen one erect. So it's really hard to say. But, you know, soft, probably about three inches, and it grows considerably. I don't know what the average size difference is, but when I'm having sex I probably get three or four times larger." He pauses. "I was in a fairly typical heterosexual relationship, which caused some militant members of the queer community to think I'm reinforcing stereotypes or whatever. Anyway, I think Jen wished I wouldn't get the bottom done, but she understood my need to." He shrugs. "You have to understand, though, for me the life transformation has already happened."

How much is it going to cost?

"It depends. There's different ways to do the surgery, from real basic to more and more options. It's like a car."

Like a car?

"Well, I mean, to break it down, the surgery I want to have, I'd like to have the testicular implants and all of that, and I'd like to be able to urinate through it. I mean, it's not that big a deal to sit down, but some of the toilet seats in men's rooms are disgusting. The doctor I want to use is in Belgrade. It's going to be a little cheaper there. Probably $25,000, maybe $45,000, I really don't know."

This is an excerpt of the Chaz Bono feature from the January 19th, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the rest of this story, pick up the January 19th, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone, on stands and in Rolling Stone All Access January 6th.

From The Archives Issue 1148: January 19, 2012