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 trans-gender 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.
At the moment, he’s in a steakhouse called the Grill on Hollywood Boulevard, right down in the thick of things, near Grauman’s Chinese. He’s a big, friendly guy, with a big, friendly head, and a glowing, light-up-the-room-type smile. That’s one of the things that makes him so popular on a show like DWTS. He’s a beamer. The other, of course, is the undeniable audience-drawing curiosity factor of the guy. Seriously, what are the odds that Sonny and Cher would have had a transgender child? Sonny and Cher — “I Got You, Babe,” “The Beat Goes On,” groovy late-Sixties, early-Seventies hippie-looking duo, pleasing pop for the masses, no scowls for them from Ed Sullivan. They were one in a million, so how could they get a child who was one of the one-in-500 (according to one study, anyway) who are born transgender each year? From their perspective, it had to be crazy. Then again, Sonny never had to deal with it, having died in a skiing accident in 1998, well before Chaz’s transition. Not that he would have minded; he was always on Chaz’s side, didn’t mind that he wanted to wear guy’s clothes and hated anything frilly, didn’t mind that his favorite movie star was Sylvester Stallone, didn’t mind that his favorite spectator sport was boxing, didn’t mind when he came out as a lesbian, and probably wouldn’t have minded if “Chas” had spelled his name “Chaz” throughout his childhood and also referred to himself as a him. Sonny was that kind of guy. Mom, on the other hand, fought her child every step of the way.
“As far back as I remember, my mother always seemed to want me to look and act more like a girl,” Chaz wrote in his recent book, Transition: The Story of How I Became a Man. “She made it very clear that she didn’t like my masculine style or my preference for only male friends.”
Cher wanted Chaz to dress in a girlie way and be happy with her girlie room, pink wallpaper, pink bedspread, matching pink pillow shams, pink shag carpet. She never really yelled at Chaz about anything; mainly, she was baffled by her daughter and how different her daughter was and, as a result, she sometimes found it easier to just ignore her and leave her upbringing to a nanny named Harriet, who turned out to be abusive. More recently, however, Cher has been pretty vocal concerning her support for Chaz. His decision to appear on DWTS in the face of heated criticism from Fox News and other close-minded nitwits led her to tweet, “It took guts to do it. I support him no matter what he chooses to do.” In private, though, it seems that she has yet to fully come to terms with the whole Chastity-into-Chaz thing. And, no, she won’t talk about it (despite repeated requests). “Yeah,” says Chaz, “she’s not 100 percent comfortable. For her, it’s a process. Has she read my book? I don’t think so. I haven’t asked her. I tried to be as kind as possible, but it’s very honest.”
As for himself, 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.”
Before he can say another word, the waitress shows up. “You guys ready to order?”
Chaz gets the filet mignon, fried onions on the side. He’s smiling — probably because she said “guys.” It’s still a novelty.
But back to the penis. 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.”
So bottom surgery would just be the icing on the ——?