Following on the footsteps of his controversial turn on Dancing with the Stars, OWN presents the second documentary following the life of Chaz Bono, airing tonight at 8 p.m.
Earlier this year, Becoming Chaz took us through Chaz’s transformation from Chasity to Chaz. Now, the son of Cher and the late Sonny Bono follows Chaz as he embraces his new life, while his fiancé Jen begins to deal with living with a man.
Viewers will also see the trials and tribulations of the couple’s relationship as Chaz prepares for his debut on Dancing with the Stars amidst controversy and threats to his life over his decision to participate in the show.
In this interview, Chez talks about why he opened up his life for a second time, his difficulties on DWTS, what role Cher plays in the special and the advice he would give to other teens who are transgender.
What led to you doing the second documentary on your life?
I got a really amazing response from the first documentary. We got three Emmy nominations. Unfortunately, we didn’t win one but when OWN originally bought Becoming Chaz, they wanted to be able to do a follow-up, a special with that.
So, at that point I knew that we would be making this and I was excited to do it and have the opportunity to show a little bit more. I know that the documentary is made well. Hopefully it leaves you wanting more and wanting to know what’s going on with this person now. So, to me it seemed like a good idea.
The firestorm that ensued with you being on Dancing with the Stars, was that pretty unexpected? Were you prepared for it? What was your reaction to all that?
You know, I was prepared for something but I think it became larger than I expected. And not just the criticism but then the supportive response to that was also completely overwhelming to me.
Will we see your mom in this documentary much?
You’re going to hear her more than you’ll see her.
Now that Dancing with the Stars is behind you. Will we see you in other entertain-type things?
I hope so, I mean, you know. That’s my plan.
How has your relationship with the lesbian community changed since your transition? How do you now see yourself within that community?
I can only really comment on how it’s changed with individuals — my lesbian friends. It hasn’t changed at all. You know, I have a lot of very close friends that are lesbians. And I haven’t lost any of them as a result of transitioning.
I don’t really have a gauge of the larger lesbian community but I think that probably there’s just still not full understanding that sexual orientation and gender identity are two different things. And I kind of mistakenly thought when I was younger in coming out that I was a lesbian because I knew about gay and lesbian people. I grew up around gay and lesbian people. You know, that was very comfortable and something I understood.
And later in life I realized that wasn’t what the issue was but it was an issue f my gender identity. So, my transition was in no way a slap in the face to the lesbian community. I just realized that wasn’t what the issue was until I didn’t get the comfort that somebody who is a lesbian would get by coming out.
If you had one piece of advice you could give to a trans-teenager who’s somewhere in a small town and doesn’t have the kind of network that someone in a larger city does, what would you give?
I get these types of questions a lot and it’s so hard because it’s such an individual issue. I guess the only thing I can say is to use the Internet to try and get more information and to try to, you know, find some support and some resources. But it’s, you know, it is really hard.
Thank God there’s a lot of parents who are starting to deal with this issue with their kids and support their kids. Unfortunately there are other kids and other parents who don’t get it at all. I would never want to give advice that would put a child or a teen in danger. It wouldn’t make sense.
You’ve learned a lot of lessons doing your transformation. Can you talk about the values that you would like to pass on to other people that are going through a hard time? It may not be the same thing that they’re going through but it may be applicable
The one thing that I learned through out of all of this was … it took me a long time to find the courage to just be myself and I think that a lot of people struggle with that in different forms in being themselves or going for their dreams or something of that nature.
In so many ways we find ourselves as human beings trying to do it safe or what we think society wants us to do. And we’re the ones who really suffer for it. And so, what I got was just when I found the courage to be myself, I actually started to transition. My whole life opened up. For the first time in my whole life I’m really comfortable and happy.
And so, I think you just kind of got to let the fear go and do what you want and be who you want to be and do what you want to do. I guess that would be my message. Stop worrying about what other people think and just make yourself happy.