The Life & Times of Chaz Bono

Chaz Bono

Imagine for a moment being the child of a well-known musician and celebrity such as Cher. Add to that coming to terms with your gender identity and developing into a media figure and author. Chastity Sun Bono was born on March 4, 1969 to music and TV performers Sonny and Cher in Los Angeles, California. Chaz Bono shared details of his transition in the Emmy-nominated documentary, Becoming Chaz, and has written about coming out as a lesbian and becoming a male. Chaz Bono has been through many changes, including that of gender reassignment surgery, in his life.

Not So Humble Beginnings

Sonny and Chaz, Sonny Bono and Chaz BonoChaz started out life in the spotlight of celebrity fame. Chaz often appeared on The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour when a toddler and child. Chaz was often uncomfortable in dresses and yearned to appear more like his father in appearance. After the divorce of his parents in 1975, he split his time between the two households and attended the High School for the Performing Arts in New York City. He started college at New York University but left to pursue a musical career.

Bono and Chance (Heidi Shink) formed Ceremony, a band where Bono sang lead vocals, played percussion and guitar. Ceremony attracted the attention of Geffen Records and landed a contract. Hang Out Your Poetry, was released in 1993 and combined a pop sound with strong 60s influences. Jerry Garcia plays on the album. The album did gain some media attention. It was Ceremony’s only album.

Journey as Activist and Author

Bono faced many challenges during a career as an activist and author. In 1990, he was publicly outed when Star magazine published an article declaring Bono as a lesbian. He personally announced that he was a lesbian in The Advocate in 1995. Bono wrote for the gay publication and in 1996 Bono became an activist, working for the Human Rights Campaign and holding the position of media entertainment director at Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). In 1998, Bono left GLAAD soon after controversial comments about the sitcom, Ellen. In 1998, he published Family Outing, exploring his transgender issues and family relations when opening up about his sexual orientation.

Bono continued to write. Bono put out a memoir, The End of Innocence, in 2002. The story chronicles his musical career and his relationship with an older woman.

Changes and Challenges

Bono struggled with substance abuse for many years and became addicted to painkillers since being prescribed them for endometriosis. Bono has been sober since 2004. In 2006, he appeared on the show, Celebrity Fit Club to reduce the consequent weight gain related to the addiction.

In 2008, Bono began to transition physically to that of a male. In 2009, Bono announced that he would like to be called by the name of Chaz and legally changed his name and gender to Chaz Salvatore Bono at a California hearing.

The Transformation Continues

Chaz has been busy. In 2011, he wrote Transition: The Story of How I Became a Man, and shared his transformation in the documentary and follow-up special, Becoming Chaz and Being Chaz, respectively. He was also the first transgender contestant on Dancing with the Stars, calling it “a wonderful, life changing experience.”

Chaz continues to challenge himself and enjoy life as a transgender man, bringing attention to gender issues.

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