In the past year, Chaz Bono has become the unofficial spokesperson for the transgender community. Right now, gay marriage in the US is an issue that most people are familiar with to some extent, while transgender individuals still puzzle and scare some people. With the opposition that gay Americans have received for demanding the same rights attained by their heterosexual neighbors, you can only imagine how a transgender individual would be received. The subject itself is still very taboo and saved for satirical movies like The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Often, transgender and transsexual individuals are considered more of a freak or joke than individuals with thoughts and feelings.
When I heard that Chastity Bono was going through a sex change, I was as surprised as much as anyone else. I've known several transgender people, none of whom have made the transition. It is understandable why there are not more people in the world like Chaz Bono. Most people would not be open and comfortable being their true selves when it so brazenly goes against the grain of what public opinion currently deems acceptable. But imagine what it would feel like to be born in the wrong body. That is often how a transgender person describes the way they feel about themselves.
One of my best friends, Jordan (not her birth name but a name she gave herself at the age of five) recently came out in a big way. From the time she was a little girl, she was attracted to the same sex. In addition to these feelings, she also felt like a boy trapped inside a girl's body. Growing up, Jordan was considered a tomboy by many and dressed more like a boy than a girl. She gravitated towards sports and even then, her androgynous look was no accident.
Jordan grew up and as an adult was an undeniably beautiful woman, however, the prettier she looked the more uncomfortable she felt. Slowly she chopped off her beautiful ebony hair a few inches at a time, until it was very short. This was the beginning of her transformation into the Jordan she always wanted to be; the Jordan she always felt like on the inside.
Soon after, she told her friends and family that she was a lesbian. Everyone was supportive though some were confused. Jordan lived in small town New Hampshire, a state known for its conservative family values. Rather than shun her, her presence actually opened up the minds of people who believed in traditional Christian values. Though their religion disagrees with homosexuality and likely transgenderism, her community still treated her with love and acceptance.
I greatly admire my friend Jordan's courage to come out and unapologetically be the person she was meant to be. I also admire Chaz Bono for the same reason. People like them reshape the public's view of transgender people just by being in the forefront. By putting themselves out there, more and more people will understand what it means to be a transgender individual.
So will Chaz Bono's gig on Dancing with the Stars offend some people? Most definitely. What's more important is the courage that Chaz lends and will continue to lend to other transgenders who haven't yet gained the courage to be themselves. His appearance on Dancing could make a big difference in a lot of lives.
People like Chaz and Jordan serve as inspirations for all; like them, we should always speak the truth within our hearts and strive to honor the unique thumb print within our spirits in a bold and unapologetic way.