Sunday, July 24, 2011

Transition by Chaz Bono **

I am sure there are many good books about the transgender experience; this isn't one of them.

First, consider the "recovery" experience. As someone who has been to 1000s of 12 step meetings, I can recognize early recovery symptoms from the first narcissistic, optimistic fabrication. This book documents this chaotic, euphoric, and fragile, stage of early recovery.

12 step groups support this stage (Fake it 'til you make), but it doesn't make good reading with its irrational repetition of self-justification and fabrication - often simultaneously. People in recovery must learn to like themselves and take control of their lives. Support groups do just that: support - unconditional love.

A poignant story I still remember from decades ago was a women in her early 20s with many problems. After missing a few meetings, she returned and happily reported that she had had a hysterectomy because her current (inappropriate) boy friend didn't want children. We cheered. That was non-judgmental support and unconditional love.

The second problem is perspective. A FTM (female-to-male) transition is a major change and certainly requires some time to pass the gather perspective. This book was written to fund the necessary surgery, thus necessarily had to be started before the advance could be received to get that surgery. Thus, written in the midst of the transition, this book has all the perspective of reality television, but without the drama.

How can such a story lack drama? Though ghost-written by Billie Fitzpatrick, the book reads like the straight transcription of audio tape - jumping around in space and time, indulging in irrelevant tangents, and lacking narrative direction. As I said in the opening, I am sure there are great books written on the important subject of transgender people.

On a more personal note, I can clearly remember when Chastity Bono was born to Sonny and Cher in 1969. For me the 60s were coming to an end. I was working for the Department of Defense in a Top Secret research lab and planning to start graduate school (also funded by the DoD) in September. I remember thinking - Chastity? what an name to give a child? I wonder what will happen when she goes to school? [Historical note: Johnny Cash's "A Boy Named Sue" by Shel Silverstein, top the charts that summer.]

Well this book answers my question: Chastity rather quickly became Chaz - or Fred for a while - and the name was the least of her challenges.

Fun fact (without comment): Sonny Bono had four children (with first wife) Christy, (with second wife Cherilyn aka Cher) Chastity, (with third wife) Chesare and Chianna.

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