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Chaz Bono on Dancing With The Stars controversey

someshine's picture

Chaz Bono, left, and Lacey Schwimmer practice dance steps while rehearsing for "Dancing of the Stars". AP Photo/Matt Sayles

Dancing With The Stars isn't exactly my cup of tea, but both of my younger sisters absolutely love the show. I wouldn't have become aware of Chaz's inclusion on the show if I hadn't heard them talking about it over this break. My sisters have definitely become less prejudiced against LGB people because of my coming out to them, but don't seem to have the same open-mind toward people in the T part of the acronym. Their discomfort is one view along the spectrum of DWTS viewers who think the producers' choice to add Chaz Bono to the cast was/is wrong. 

ABCLocal has a video summary of the "issues" and a few "normal" people putting their two cents in about Chaz's appearance:

Dr. Keith Ablow provides his "professional" commentary here: the decision to allow kids to watch the show or not is, of course, one of personal choice. No question, Bono’s appearance on the show is allowing transgender individuals to become more a part of the mainstream, said Karen Ruskin, a psychotherapist based in Sharon. “And that means society will be more accepting of the behavior, absolutely.”


But as Ruskin also pointed out, “the world is shifting every day and ... TV merely displays those shifts.” It also invites us to feel compassion for those whom we don’t normally encounter in real life. “We can feel empathy for Chaz’s struggles and not choose to go the same route,” she said. So can our kids.



AmyMay's picture

Starting a Conversation

I am SO glad you brought this up!  I was just talking to my sister about this over break, and I got a bit of a reality check on how out-there/abstract/liberal/insane some of the ideas we banter around in class seem to people outside of academia.  Over break I visited my sister in Clarkesville, Tennessee, a very military-heavy town due to its close proximity to Fort Campbell, Kentucky.  Her area is very conservative by my standards (I will be generalizing a lot in this post, I realize that.)  Every time I visit, I am always startled at how racially segregated social life is,  and how gender is overtly enforced and enacted (I was told TrueBlood, knitting, dancing, and a number of other things were for homosexuals, and I was a bit weirded out when all the women in the house congregated in the kitchen while the men watched football and drank beer.)  Anyhow, we were watching Dancing with the Stars one night on TV, and Chaz came on.  At this point my sister pointed out that Chaz is trans, to which her boyfriend wrinkled his nose and asked why he was on television.  Minutes before, when he had not known Chaz’s gender status, he had had no problem with the show (aside from the fact that there was a gay guy on from Queer Eye).  My sister also started asking me questions about gender reassignment.  She seemed to expect me to be an expert on the subject since she knows I take a lot of gender/sexuality courses and I’m one of those damn liberals.


This whole situation brought me back to ground a bit with respect to some of the things we have been talking about in class.  Though a lot of what we talk about in class makes so much sense when we discuss it, how can something as complicated as the deconstruction of sexed, gendered, raced, and (dis)abled bodies be enacted in reality?  How do we explain such things to someone whose religion, experience, and/or life views are so different?  In the situation, I was being called on as a representative of liberals/feminists/gay rights advocates generally, so I knew whatever I said would be taken as a pretty broad representation (just as I was taking their views to be a representative of general social conservatism.)  I wanted so badly to give them gender/sexuality reality check, but I didn’t even know where to start.  How do you explain the problems with discriminating against a trans man on television, or even the problems with gender as a social category in general, to someone who uses faggot in everyday speech?  I thought about using what we had read in evolution’s rainbow, to rely on the hegemony of “scientific evidence” to get my point across, but I wasn’t sure if religious beliefs would supersede science’s authority, and I was also uncomfortable commandeering a hegemony I personally find so problematic.  I still not sure how I could have broached the subject in a productive manner, yet I am also not comfortable with the idea of just saying nothing. So I guess the question I have is, how can conversations such as this occur between individuals with such different perspectives?  Is it possible to have a productive discussion in this context?  Can two such different perspectives be diffracted with one another to produce new possibilities and perspectives, or are they doomed to cancel, conflict, and get plain ugly?