The first to tell you is that Chaz doesn't have many clear memories of his early childhood. As with most of us, they consist of being around 5 years old at the earliest. What people share and remember from his parents' TV show DON'T antiquate w/ him. They are other people's memories, not his. As this book was beginning, Chaz was forced to confront the pain in his life prior to his transition. Due to most of the memories under lock & key housed deep in the mind, thus began a slew of questions he needed to answer for himself. Some relating deeply to her being transgendered. Looking back on the early years and seeing himself - as so many did - Chastity Bono - there is a HUGE disconnect. What others seen on their televisions, he doesn't remember; nor having any memory of the feeling. Chaz doesn't have any memories of his parents together, as a couple. Due to a HECTIC work schedule from her parents, the stability, love, warmth, safety & attention needed came from Chastity's nanny, Linda. Someone she became very attached to and completely trusted. The safety, love & care Chastity's working parents weren't able to provide, she received from Linda. Chastity's parents worked all the time and just weren't around that much. Working 5 days a week doing The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour and working LIVE! shows on the weekend.
Sonny was a total workaholic, and when they were together, and for a while after, he kept them (Sonny & Cher) on a constant schedule. Chastity was almost 4 years old when they divorced. Intending to do what was best; they decided she was to spend equal time with each. Trading off on a weekly basis. There was a sense of homesickness within the first 48 hours between locations. After that, time was enjoyed with her dad. As time went on, Chastity got used to being shuttled back & forth. But from that point on, Chastity has dreaded moving. Stemming from her childhood-into-adulthood, with any location, it has brought upon a sense of uneasiness.
Growing up w/ superstars as your parents isn't easy. Any child of FAMOUS parents will tell you, careers come first. Careers dominate EVERYTHING! ALOT of money is involved in everything the parents do and people are paid to attend the celebrities needs so the work is done perfectly. In the midst of these commitments, kids become an afterthought. For Chastity, she felt lost in the shuffle. Linda was there. She knew her parents LOVED her, but careers eclipsed EVERYTHING, including her. As a result, Chastity developed an overwhelming drive to avoid having any kind of emotional needs because they would get in the way of her parents' careers & priorities. This is NOT to slam or avenge her parents. It's the reality of the business as a celebrity.
Chastity had a keen desire to fade into the woodwork as not to disturb her parents, distract them from their work or get in their way. Underneath, Chastity was sensitive. Allowing her toys to take on the feelings she couldn't let herself have. This sensitivity enabled her to attune to the adults around her. KNOWING when it was a good/bad time. When to smile and when to disappear. Acquiring her to clue into being self-sufficient at a young age. The needs a child endures, Chastity displaced. Taking her YEARS to realize she had her OWN needs. One of the CLEAREST memories Chastity had from her childhood is that she felt like a boy. Maybe burring those feelings later, but they were there.
As soon as she was able to dress herself, Chastity's self-image was clear. Boy clothing and shoes. Her interests were boys' toys, games and others. Usual outfit of choice were jeans/cutoffs and typical menswear. Around the age of 5-6, Chastity went to a nearby school; the Center For Early Education, where all of her friends were boys. At school, she was accepted as a boy - by both sexes in her class. A tomboy who was one-of-the-guys. She thought of herself as a boy among them. She was a part of them and loved every minute of it. Chastity's being a tomboy didn't bother most of anyone. They took it in stride. A tomboy who was perfectly behaved and did as told. Nothing odd. Complete acceptance. Boys she was friends with shared the same interests w/ Chastity. Action figures, games & sports. Friendships were effortless. There was no sense of difference between them. Inside she was a boy. Chastity felt comfortable w/ them. She was active w/ them. She was active, creative & good natured as a kid.
Sonny treated her like the boy she seen herself to be. When she was at Sonny's, she was wearing and playing like a boy, going by the nickname Fred. She became Fred due to being at her favorite toy store. They were looking for something w/ a name on it. Since they were never going to find it, Sonny seen her frustration and suggested she picked a key chain w/ a name she liked. "What about Fred?" was born after Sonny seen the frustrations. So, Fred it was. It stuck. It was also a name called to her by her nanny prior to Sonny's visit and suggestion. From that time on, Sonny called Chastity Fred when at his house. A joke they were both in on and it strengthened their bond. She got attention from her dad. When she was with him, Chastity felt comfortable & happy. Later on, Sonny gave his daughter more traditional parent. A definite bedtime and wouldn't be permitted to miss school. (Something her mom would often do.)
Chastity imagined them as a father-and-son team. While she was growing up, Chastity had not realized that she was transgendered before he passed away, so they never discussed this issue. This was a COMPLETE OPPOSITE w/ her mom. As far back as she can remember, Chastity remembers her mom trying to get her to act/be more feminine. Making it VERY CLEAR her mom didn't like her masculinity, or her preference for male friends. Cher would remind Chastity that she herself was a tomboy when she was younger, but that Chastity should find time to be more feminine. Thus began an almost lifelong game of give/take w/ her mom. She could wear jeans & T-shirts as long as she wore girls clothes when she had to dress up. She could play a boys game but had to take tap and ballet lessons. Invite boys to her parties, but also had to invite a few girls. Life with her mother was a series of negotiations. No matter who won the argument, Chastity always felt she lost. She always felt she wasn't the daughter her mother wanted. Sonny encouraged the boyishness rather than let her be herself. The fights, and, later, snide comments about her clothes, hair & jewelry from her mom lasted into her 20s.
One such argument STOOD OUT the most was Cher trying to institute a wear-a-dress-or-skirt-once-a-week-to-school rule, so Chastity had to abide. After one day at school, that was IT! Due to being mortified, it was NEVER happening again. This memory was so vivid because Chastity voiced her opinion. Something extremely rare to her. Cher GOT the message. She never asked her to wear a dress/skirt again. Instead, Cher would come up w/ dress pant outfits for any special occasion. The no-dress-wearing rule also applied to any appearance made on her parents' TV show. Chastity & her mom developed a tactic agreement: Though she didn't wear dresses or skirts; Chastity was ABSOLUTELY NOT allowed to wear boys' shoes. Boys' shoes put Cher over the edge. Chastity was everything her mother was NOT. When Chastity's brother, Elijah Blue, was born, she finally told her mom she didn't like the color pink. Her next room was much more unisex. Due to her mom having interior decorators, Chastity wasn't permitted to have posters on the walls in her room. Due to the 70s, she would have loved a poster of Fonzie, her favorite TV character, or Rocky, her favorite all-time movie or Farrah Fawcett. Things her other friends had which Chastity envied.
Chastity Sun Bono was born on March 4, 1969 to 2 ICONIC entertainers, who introduced the world to their daughter on their HIT TV show - The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour. Although she doesn't remember much about being on television, it didn't stop the show from being the defining moment of her life. For better or worse, since her television debut at age 2, Chastity has and will FOREVER be thought of as the daughter of Sonny & Cher. Shaping the course of her ENTIRE life. Even to this day, she can't believe that the cherubic little girl on the TV screen would grow up to be a middle aged man. The prevailing idea about her identity to the public was not just about the clothes she was wearing. It was Chastity's sweet demeanor that seemed so feminine for there to be plenty of denim overalls for both mother & daughter.
Looking back on the early years of her childhood, review what she remembers and revisits old images held by others, it occurred to Chastity how tricky not only memory is but gender itself can be. For much of her life, she was seen as the little girl from her parents' show, which was in complete contrast to how she seen herself. An awkward & confusing disconnect. When you transition at a certain point in life, family members and others remember points into the road that leads your adulthood. Gender & sexuality is not always clear. For Chastity, her early certainty that she was a boy began to disappear as soon as she became aware that experiencing herself as male was somehow problematic. A direct response from Cher's additions in Chastity's first book; Family Outing to her discomfort with Chastity's gender identity was something Chastity would eventually feel about himself. Her mom's behavior - and response to it - says ALOT about why her identity was ignored for so long by Chastity/Chaz himself. He had tremendous difficulty for allowing her own needs - and expressing them. When Chastity finally did realize she was transgender, he had to overcome 40 years of putting others first ahead of himself, before having the GUTS to take her first step, an act that has become a CRUCIAL life lesson.
The irony of this books title Transition is one Chastity doesn't do well with in life. Being a COMPLETE creature of habit. One who needs things to be the same for functionality. Some of the dislike for change could relate back to childhood during which was forced upon growing up. Going between parents was just the beginning. When she was about 7 and her mom had just married Greg Allman when she became pregnant w/ Elijah, their mom relocated them to a residency in Beverly Hills and throughout the layout of Los Angeles. Cher was one who would buy properties, redo the interior, sell and move on. The same way she grew up. In much of the same way, Cher's own mother, Georgia Holt, who was married 7 times, moved Cher and her sister, Georganne, often moved them around throughout their lives. In essence, moving was so natural to Cher. Moving Chastity around for about 6 years (6-to-12 years of age.) The novelty of living in a hotel wore off fast. For Chastity, moving wasn't seen as an adventure or hardship, she just rolled with it and never complained. Just trying not to get too attached to any one place.
As far back as she can remember, Chastity always wanted a baby brother. When Elijah was born, she was thrilled and never wanted to be apart from him, which was the primary reason why she had begun to see less of her dad by this time. Due to the nanny, Harriet, Chastity felt protective of Elijah, due to knowing how violent Harriet could be. Finally she just didn't question her circumstances. Chastity was being raised to soldier on in spite of adversity. One of the enjoyable aspects of her life, in spite of Harriet; was being on tour with her mom. From the time she was 9-to-13, her mom had a nightclub act at Caesar's Palace. So they would spend every summer in Las Vegas and then go on the road. Being on tour w/ her mom and her show meant that she got to hang out w/ the singers and dancers, who were like a second family to her, one that made her feel at ease & accepted.
As a kid, Chastity generally got along better w/ adults than with her peers. (Something I personally can attest to!) While on tour with her mom, Chastity felt a special kinship to the gay dancers and female impersonators who toured with her. Once Chastity met these guys and seen them onstage, she never gave what they did a thought - she just loved it - and has been a fan of female impersonators ever since. They would let her hang out with them and tag along. Unfortunately not everybody was as open-minded about the dancers. Harriet was incredibly homophobic and often expressed it. Chastity even tried to convince her mom to send her away to boarding school. Life on the road was a blast, but dreaded Sunday nights during the year due to going home to Harriet. Chastity tried to convince her mom to let her stay w/ her on the road and stay in Vegas and allow her to miss school, which she would often do. It was truly hard to leave her mom to go to Harriet. Convincing her mom to let her stay. Cher's criticism and demeanor was better than having to stay w/ Harriet. Chastity KNEW that if anything went horribly wrong w/ Harriet, her mom would be there to stop it.
From the ages of 7-10 years of age, when Chastity was attending The Center for Early Education, she was generally at ease in her body and identifying as a boy. By the end of the third grade, Chastity had missed so much school due to being on tour with her parents, then later her mom, that she was really behind for her age/grade. Cher was told Chastity would do better and it would catch up; unfortunately this school specialized in areas that weren't effective for her.
A new school w/ 8-10 kids per class. One that Chastity didn't really have any friends at. This environment made her very uneasy an at some point during this time, Chastity was sent to a child psychologist to help ease the nervousness. Throughout this, Chastity never voiced discomfort about it. Even though she felt it was like an insane asylum to her. Giving her extreme anxiety that she couldn't keep her lunch down. Being around kids who had severe behavioral issues stressed her out. Giving her a nervous stomach that made her sick at school. She was simply behind in school due to being taken out of school so much. The damage was done: school became a place that fed her anxiety and a gnawing dreadful place to be! As she got older, Chastity was less interested in playing boyish games and was feeling a need to express herself verbally.
Right before turning 9, Chastity met a new friend who was 3 years older and the youngest sister of their weekend babysitter. They immediately hit it off. Chastity's friend, Gina, was one she could talk to! She was able to have female camaraderie, and a way of becoming a bit more feminine. With different friendships, you can be more of yourself depending on the friend.
Chastity loved staying at Gina's, due to feeling normal; hanging out and being with other kids. The desire for normalcy was just her way of rebelling against her parents. Due to Hollywood show business, Chastity was looking for reality. Even today, though it may not be quite as dogmatic about it, she still sees herself as a normal everyday guy who has lived unusual moments. Next thing to come was body changes, which HORRIFIED Chastity. While others can't wait to DEVELOP, it didn't bother until the inevitable occurred. Going from a little girl into a maturing lady. (Ex. - wearing a bra was a blatant reminder that she was not the boy she felt he was.) Chastity wanted and hoped for a boy's maturing process. The next year came a lady's physical progression. While other females were so excited about their bodies maturing, Chastity was NOT!
Chastity's female reproductive organs gave her many years of pain and complications - both physical & emotional. Doctors found precancerous cells growing on her cervix, multiple cysts on her ovaries and then another on her uterus in her 20s. After numerous surgeries and an almost lifelong battle w/ gynecological pain, Chastity finally had her uterus removed when she was 36. Her female reproductive parts caused her as much physical pain as being trapped in a female shell that caused her emotional and spiritual pain.
Right before 6TH grade, they moved to Santa Monica. The good news was that Chastity left school and got into a great Montessori school where she felt right at home. Chastity LOVED it and life was GOOD. Greatly excelling in school, even becoming class president. Cher was still on her case about being too masculine and not wearing the "right" clothes, but Chastity was learning how to navigating her mom's criticisms. Chastity stuck to guy shorts & jeans, they were passed by her mother. Chastity was just relieved to be out of that school. At the end of 6TH grade, the house Cher was building from the ground up was ready and they were ready to move in. So they moved in. Chastity also had to change schools due to the Montessori only going up to the 6TH grade. This time she went to an uptight prep school which required a uniform. The moment she arrived, Chastity KNEW in her gut this was not a good fit for her. The general tenor of the school was completely opposite of her personality. The differences led to Chastity being teased daily by the boys in her class. Going from one of the girls to being teased & rejected on a daily basis. To make matters worse, the school was way more academically challenging than expected. Even w/ extra help in school, Chastity could barely keep her head above water. The school was about one thing - academics. Then in the middle of 7TH grade, fortune finally smiled on her.
Cher had been trying to become an actress for several years, but no one took her seriously. In the 1980s, if you were a singer, you couldn't be taken seriously as an actress. After years of trying to act, director Robert Altman took a chance and offered her a role in the Broadway play, which later became a movie, Come Back To The Five & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, which gave them the chance to move to New York for 6 months. While it was a BIG break for Cher, it was one for Chastity as well. Chastity fell in love with New York. A bigger plus was going without Harriet. New York felt like a HOME for Chastity, exploring what the city had to offer. It was like New York was an enormous playground for her. Having free independence that made her feel grown up. Alive & energetic in a way Chastity had never felt before. It was in New York that Chastity finally got the courage to tell her mom what the nanny, Harriet, had done to her for the first 5 years. Chastity told her mom very matter-of-factly that if Harriet came back when they returned to LA, she was going to live with her dad. Not going into any more detail. THAT got THE POINT across, because Chastity never seen Harriet ever again. A couple of years later, Chastity shared EVERYTHING ELSE done to her from Harriet,
What finally enabled Chastity to speak up about Harriet's abuse was an incident that happened right after her mom had left for New York before she & Elijah joined her. As a caretaker, Harriet tried to completely overstep her bounds. Cher was SHOCKED when she heard of EVERYTHING Harriet had done and had NO IDEA that Harriet was abusive. Several years later, a woman came up to her while they were on vacation in Aspen. The woman KNEW of what Harriet was capable of doing; including lying about her past and everything that led to her present. This woman wanted to make sure Harriet was no longer working for ANY family or in charge of children. Thanks to the parental back-and-forth between homes, the constant moves w/ Cher ; including the time spent on tour w/ her and on the go constantly, this sense of rootlessness was a reflection of Chastity's childhood. As she grew up, as her body matured into womanhood that she was comfortable with, the rootlessness took over her. In some ways, the constant moving blinded her from the discomfort within herself, Chastity's own vulnerability, her own private disconnect between her mind & body was developing, just as she was.
In the late 1970s, when Elijah was a year-or-so old Chastity was 8-or-9, Sonny & Cher were together for a few weeks of shows in New York. Chastity was with them, as was a young teacher/student who worked at her school and was to be tutoring her. She doesn't remember the woman's name who was with them. With some detail, Chastity reveals there was one incident of sexual abuse from the tutor, which left Chastity feeling very confused and guilty for a long time. Leaving Chastity to feel the perpetrator, something she no longer feels or believes. Though this clearly was sexual abuse, the event wasn't terribly traumatic for her. What strikes him/Chaz about it now is how natural it was for him to play the male role.
When Chastity turned 13, her mom flew a friend in for her daughter's birthday. They went to the movies to see Personal Best. After a certain point in this movie, when there was a kiss, Chastity came to the realization that she was a lesbian. Watching the scene of the women embracing, a light went off in her head. Feeling the physical emotions from the movie. Giving her the logical sense for her feelings. Chastity IMMEDIATELY felt a haze recede: explaining why she felt so different from girls her age. Something I can personally understand & relate to! Mine was a scene from the TV drama Dawson's Creek when Jack was forced to read a poem in class + coming out to his dad.
Understanding now why she was such a tomboy. For Chastity, being a lesbian explained so much; why she preferred men's dressing and didn't like her female body. As many other teenagers, understanding who she is. She thought identifying herself as a lesbian answered every looming question she had about herself. For a long time, it made the utmost sense. Looking back now, Chaz sees that what she was relating to on-screen was the sexuality. Skipping over the gender piece of the puzzle. This conclusion/confusion is COMMON within FTMs. (Female-To-Males) When she was first experimenting sexually, Chastity was dressing the male role. When playing house w/ girls, Chastity would pretend the husband's role. Throughout high school and her early 20s, identifying as a lesbian helped define her. At least she had some answers, felt a sense of belonging to a community and she finally began to feel comfortable in herself. It took her 30 years to detangle her sexual orientation and her gender identity. She was born in a female body and was sexually attracted to women; therefore the only explanation for this was that she was a lesbian. The idea that she was male, despite the fact that she inhabited a female body, was so foreign to her, even though TRUTH was in his face, she denied it for the vast majority of her life,
After spending a blissful 6 months in New York, Chastity finished up the school year and they moved back to LA. Cher had one more summer to play in Vegas and they moved back into the Benedict Canyon house. Cher remained in that house until Chastity was in her early 20s, when she move back to Malibu. With Harriet gone, living in that house was comfortable, but walking the halls of The Curtis School was still a lonely affair. Due to the school's remodeling process, this only added to Chastity's discomfort. They no longer had a formal gym class and the school shrunk in size. The school seemed claustrophobic. Chastity was now in 8TH grade. The campus only made up of 7TH & 8TH graders, making it more difficult to disappear. Fewer kids, fewer teachers & fewer opportunities to make friends. After Chastity's only friend, the girls' gym teacher, was gone, Chastity felt completely alone & isolated,
That summer Chastity had come out to a friend who was completely unfazed by her sexual orientation, which felt and was a HUGE weight lifted off of her shoulders to finally tell someone. NOTHING changed in their friendship when Chastity had come out to her. Chastity didn't know anyone else her age who was gay. Other than the men who were in her mother's shows. aside from them, Chastity felt a little stranded for information. This was the early '80s, no gay characters, and very little information, support or outreach was available. She felt the only way to meet gay people was in a gay bar and therefore she wouldn't connect and socialize with any gay kids until she was 21. Chastity's only refuge was the screenplay she was pouring every feeling and free minute into writing. It was 1982 and Chastity had no access to information about gay adolescence. So, she had to go by what she knew. Putting her emotions down on paper, but wouldn't show them. The only person she showed them to was her friend, Gina, whom reminded Chastity of the feeling she shared when they were teenagers w/ feeling uncomfortable w/ her body.Then Chastity fell in love.
In 1982, Cher had a tree-decorating party at her house. A bunch of them were in her bedroom watching a special Cher had done on HBO. Chastity was on the floor when a woman walked in whom Chastity couldn't place immediately. It was Joan, whom Chastity met when Joan came to visit Cher while performing in Las Vegas. Chastity had known Joan was a lesbian, but seen her w/ new eyes.
|Joan & Chastity|
Cher & Joan had briefly met when they were 17. Cher had lost contact w/ Joan, but had reconnected when Chastity was about 9. Joan and her girlfriend, Scotti, had become a part of their extended family/friends. Cher & Joan would hang out, go shopping or spend a girls-day-out together. Chastity tried to do what she could to keep Joan's attention. After a Christmas party, Chastity sought out Joan and began to call her on her own just to chat or suggest a lunch. Even though Chastity had a crush on her, Chastity mostly looked up to Joan as an older advisor who happened to be a lesbian. Joan became the first adult lesbian in her life who gave her a strong sense of hope that everything was all going to be okay. As an older teen, Chastity spent time w/ Joan and her friends any chance she got. Joan's girlfriend at the time was a woman named Dori, whose best friend was Suzanne. Chastity totally related to them as a couple. Suzanne was much more friendly. She and Chastity became fast friends. When Chastity met her first girlfriend at age 14, it was Suzanne who gave Chastity "the talk" for lesbian women.
Chastity was very attuned to the kind of relationship that Joan and her friends seemed to have within their group, which made sense to Chastity from the start. She wanted to express her identity in the same masculine way. Joan, unlike anyone else Chastity knew, had her type of gal, which Chastity seemed to be attracted as well. It was inevitable that Joan would soon become the object of Chastity's affection. Being around Joan and her friends gave Chastity hope for her future. Through her teen years, and into her early 20s, Joan became as important to Chastity as Linda was to her when she was a child. Joan opened her house to her and her heart, both of which gave Chastity a sense of stability and sensitivity. For her 14TH birthday, Cher sent Chastity to The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute for the youth weekend and then for the summer program. Although resisting, she was glad she went. In the program at the school, Chastity found herself relaxed and happy in a way that had completely eluded her at Curtis. At the wrap party for one of the performing shows, Chastity received her first kiss from a girl. She was so overwhelmed and it made her so nervous she didn't know how to respond, but it didn't take her long to figure it out.
It was a truly fantastic summer. Chastity was living w/ her mom and going to school during the day, and working at Bono; Sonny's newly opened Italian restaurant; 3 nights a week, busing dirty dishes. Chastity was also reconnecting w/ her dad, making and earning money. She received a great sense of accomplishment KNOWING she earned pay; rather than given. Sonny & Chastity were around each other and able to grow and mature their relationship and an understanding of each other. Chastity began to feel like Sonny was less of a parent and more of an ally to her. This experience truly turned her life around. Before this, Chastity's summers evoked to being on tour w/ her mom. Now she was becoming and behaving as a teenager.
Chastity's time at the school had given her confidence and made her believe that she might actually be good at acting. She was also desperate to get back to New York City to be back with the familiar that she had at school. Chastity became single-minded about getting into PA and began to bug her mother relentlessly about applying. Finally, she convinced her mom to check out the school on a trip. Cher came back impressed, but due to the chances out of thousands of kids auditioning, not to have HIGH hopes. But Chastity was determined. At the end of the summer, Chastity flew to New York w/ a family friend to audition. After auditioning w/ the 2 pieces she had written, a couple of hours later, Chastity was accepted based on her audition. She nearly fell out of her chair. Chastity was accepted to Performing Arts (P.A.) She was ecstatic! Chastity had set a goal and achieved it. Four years later, she had gotten into NYU's drama department based on the same monologue, though she ended up going to the film school instead.
A week later, Chastity arrived in New York ready to being high school. She was surprised how many people were curious about her parents and constantly asking if her parents were truly who they were, Her parents weren't Sonny & Cher to her. They were her parents. This never happened before. BIG DEAL. Here she was at her dream school, while at first she felt like an outsider, they became the BEST years of her life, When she moved to New York, Cher stayed back in Los Angeles to work. She was still trying to develop her acting career and finances, so she asked a friend if Chastity could live with them and their 2 boys.
Though Chastity enjoyed the time spent, she and her friends often butted heads. She tried to get Chastity to be more feminine; just like her mom did. Chastity would try to call Joan once in a while because she would get so discouraged, and Joan would tell to be herself and not let others get her down. It may seem strange to some that Chastity moved across the country from her parents when she was just 14, but for her it really worked. She was independent and self-sufficient. With a good kid, there was complete trust to behave well. There was no need for her parents to worry. It was the 1980s, the punk scene was big. Chastity and her friends were heavily influenced by the scene. Dressing in a similarity like Jon Cryer's character Ducky; in Pretty In Pink. Chastity had begun to feel comfortable for many reasons. For the first time in her life, Chastity TRULY had really good friends at school.
Being in the drama department at P.A. was the first Chastity felt a sense of community. Still, with thanks to Facebook, Chastity is in touch today with at least half of her class. She was out as a lesbian. All of her friends KNEW and accepted her face value. COMPLETE & TOTAL ACCEPTANCE! Academics were not the FOCUS, which were at her comfort value. First were courses you majored in; then came the curricular academics. You could still feel successful if you were a FAIR student. Then in the middle of Chastity's junior year in high school, Cher moved to New York, whom had fallen in love w/ the city 2 years prior so she could act on stage. Elijah was almost 10 and since he didn't like the city he opted to go to boarding school. Suddenly mother & daughter were living together under the same roof for the first time ever. Cher was dating Tom Cruise at the time. When he went off to do a movie, he sublet his apartment to them until they found their own place. It was a very large studio apartment connected by a door. Cher used one for her bedroom and Chastity slept on a pullout couch in the other one, which they used as a living room and kitchen. For Chastity, it was a relief to have a home instead of being a visitor.
Although she loved her freedom, Chastity felt odd caring for herself at 16 years old. Out of the previous past living situations, Chastity felt relieved when her mom moved to New York. In Los Angeles, there was help. In New York, life for mother and daughter was simple. Strangely, living in New York gave Cher as much freedom as it was for Chastity. Looking back on it now, it was TRULY a special time for mother and daughter to be together. Everything was normal. Cher's work involved being in New York making movies. They didn't stay at Tom's apartment for long. After sort of minor bouncing around, Cher bought a 2-bedroom close to Chastity's school, close enough to walk, and near Lincoln Center. Becoming a main hangout for Chastity and her friends. Although they lived together, Chastity still had her freedom. Cher was letting her daughter do her own thing. But tension was still in the air. Cher had made perfectly clear she didn't like how Chastity dressed or looked. With jabs and commentary. Expressing again-and-again how Chastity was too masculine.
Then there was the technical lie every closeted LGBT person omits to. Chastity hadn't come out to her mom, and wasn't planning on doing so in the near future. At some point, Chastity KNEW she would have to tell her she was gay but she was in no hurry. She had already come out to her grandmother, Georgia Holt, before starting high school. She wasn't surprised. Never judged and always and accepting her granddaughter. During her junior year, she came out to her Aunt Georganne a couple of very close to her Aunt. She was often more approachable than her mom - especially when it came to her sexuality. Everyone knew that Cher, who had plenty of gay friends, was not so happy that Chastity was so masculine. They had an unspoken understanding that all hell would break loose when Chastity finally discovered that she was gay.
Many years later. Chastity hadn't told earlier due to not wanting to put her in an uncomfortable position between sisters; Cher and Georganne. Chastity was always
Luckily this secret wasn't so hard to keep due to them both having busy schedules. She felt no pressure to come clean to her. Chastity felt too young and too naive to realize that coming out to her mom said something about her confidence in herself and her relationship with her mom. Leading to walking a GIANT tightrope w/ her mother. Things were fine; until one small disagreement lead to a GIANT argument between them. Then Chastity FELL HARD in love w/ a girl, Julie. Their relationship was problematic from the start due to Julie being straight. I can personally understand and sympathize with this due to falling hard for someone who was younger and straight. The pain from these situations HURT LIKE HELL! It became a bad cycle for Chastity and one she knew she participated in. Wreaking havoc on her ego and self-esteem. After an incident with Chastity and the girl over one night of making out, her lie of omission was now more present and Chastity began to feel uncomfortable at home.
Chastity's 17TH birthday was a week later. What followed was a few stressful months. Cher & Chastity avoided the girl make out night discussion. It meant she was gay and Cher was NOT HAPPY about it AT ALL! Although there was teenage angst and typical mother-daughter issues, this period w/ her mom was one Chaz is TRULY GRATEFUL to his mom, before becoming an adult, for them 2 to be alone together as mother-and-daughter, living their lives together. For Chastity, it was difficult to know that there was an innate part of who she was that seemed to displease her mom so much. Chaz always had a sense, years before he realized he was transgendered, that it was never her sexual orientation, but rather her inner masculinity, that bothered his mom. Looking back now, coming out was just a foreshadowing of things to come much later.
When Chastity came out at 13, she had NO REAL SENSE of the communities. She was young. It wasn't until the age of 17 that Chastity was in the sense of what community she belonged to. She had stayed in New York that summer and rented a room from a friend of a family friend. Cher hadn't bought the apartment near her daughter's school yet. During Chastity's senior year at school, Cher was working on 3 films back-to-back; The Witches Of Eastwick, Suspect & Moonstruck. While riding her bike around Central Park one afternoon, Chastity ran right into a parade. As she came closer, it was New York City's FAMOUS Gay Pride Parade. Riding her way down it, there was an INSTANT state of belonging. This was MOMENTOUS for her. At 13, Chastity had the young mind of a teenager. Making her realize there was more to being gay other than the bars. She DID NOT know of ANY LGBT movements, history or leaders. Being THERE and SEEING her surroundings, Chastity began to see that you didn't have to be in the dark in order to express who you truly are. It was a very liberating experience w/ a revelation. You CAN be out; proud and happy. Seeing this enormous parade made a sudden and huge difference in her life from that point on. Gaining a sense of community in life outside of high school. Finally fitting in to a larger world.
Chastity wasn't ready to be a part of this community. She was being herself and coming out. No one was fazed. Sometimes if out w/ someone new, questions came asking about sex w/ a man. Then that would get questioned. Chastity became so frustrated w/ the questioning. She decided to give in. She would have sex w/ a man so she would NEVER have to hear it again. Logically, it wouldn't change her mind. There was something in her that made her want to make sure. Ironically, given who her peers were, the one and only man she ever had sex with was a Marine. He was willing and safe. Chastity had known him for a long time and knew he liked women and he knew it was an experiment for her. She knew him through a girl she had been seeing.
Chastity has always had a strange fascination with armed forces. Collecting knives throughout her childhood. Having an interest & being drawn to all things masculine. Thinking it would make her feel something, that it would have a repulsive reaction. But NOTHING! Leaving her feeling flat. NO emotion involved.
Even though Chastity was coming into her own terms of her sexual orientation, she still felt some kind of societal pressure to be "normal". When she was in Palm Springs visiting her dad, she met the son of the bookkeeper for Sonny's restaurant. They immediately hit it off and seemed to have a lot in common. After going to lunch and seeing the movie About Last Night. All through the movie, Chastity sat there thinking about her ex-girlfriend, Julie, whom she was still in love with. Becoming COMPLETELY CLEAR to her at that moment that she just wasn't sexually attracted to men.
This was seen as an experimenting phase, After these encounters w/ men, this led to one conclusion: Chastity must truly be a lesbian. Her need to experiment at all speaks to the idea that her lesbian identity was not quite right either, After digging deep, Chastity's interest in men wasn't about sex, but her unconscious desire to be a man. It wasn't about wanting to be with a man, but wanting to be like a man, The connection between Chastity and a man when she was a teen was more intense or a common kinship. It was TRULY ALL confusing. Now, it all makes sense. When she attended the school in New York when her mom was doing the play, Chastity was fascinated by the guy on Broadway, seeming utterly cool. Trying to get his attention, Chastity asked him if he wanted to get together and hang out. She then proceeded to dress feminine, while still having romantic feelings for him. But once on a date, Chastity felt completely out of sorts.
When confronted w/ the possibility of a sexual encounter, it was clear to Chastity that it wasn't what she wanted. What she wanted was to be like him, not be with him. This kind of disconnect occurred when she was studying acting. While she loved acting, playing a female role felt awkward and uncomfortable. When doing a scene in which she was playing a lesbian character, Chastity felt at ease. It felt like too much of a stretch. What would've felt comfortable for a lesbian, which was what the play called for, Chastity felt she couldn't embody the character at all. Even the love of acting couldn't have this bypass, Chastity was a lesbian. It wasn't until her senior year when Chastity did a scene in MacBeth that she felt she was doing good work. When playing a male part in other plays, it was a character that was least like her, yet the simple fact the character was male, completely eradicated the uncomfortable out-of-place feeling she felt whenever portraying a female character. This was also the first time her parents were going to see her perform since beginning at PA. Watching their daughter portraying a man.
|Sonny and Mary|
Although Chastity left hints for her dad to pick up on, Sonny just didn't take the bait. That summer, Chastity kissed Joan for the first time before heading to college. After an invite to a party, it was to be her first lesbian party. When she got to the party, it wasn't what Chastity expected. Due to her younger age, she felt anxious and uncomfortable. After settling in, Chastity met with Joan and some of her acquaintances. Chastity may have had too much to drink, so she crashed at Joan's house a few blocks away. On the way back from the party to the house, they began making out. Joan was so feminine, it made Chastity feel so masculine. After that night, Chastity and Joan reverted back to being friends as Chastity went off to college.
Early in the fall, Sonny and Mary came to visit Chastity in college. They went to Smith & Wollensky's Steakhouse. After accompanying them back to their hotel, Sonny & Chastity went for coffee alone in the hotel lounge. There were a few minutes of small talk. Sonny had a feeling his daughter wanted to talk. After hesitating for a minute, Chastity had come out to her dad. Sonny had suspected this for awhile. He loved his daughter. NO MATTER WHAT! A HUGE weight was lifted from her shoulders and Chastity immediately felt more comfortable with her dad. They didn't discuss the fact that Cher didn't know yet. Sonny was well aware of his daughter's relationship with her mom. He understood why Chastity was in NO HURRY to come out to Cher.
|Rob & Cher|
Chastity tried to explain that her mom finally KNEW the truth. She thought it would make mother & daughter closer. Cher, in anger, thought this would push them apart. Cher was kicking her out of her apartment and deliberately hung up on her. Chastity was devastated and in shock. Heidi helped her pack her stuff and followed her to Heidi's apartment. Cher needed a week. NO communication. After that week, she called her daughter to apologize and asked her to come to L.A. so they could talk. Cher also wanted to meet Heidi. Chastity was feeling apprehensive, but relieved. Her mom now knows. Nothing to hide anymore. But, going home was awkward. EVERYTHING is NOW OUT in the OPEN! When they arrived, Cher had calmed down. Cher was upset that she'd been the last one in the family to find out that she was gay. Cher had her suspicions but wanted conformation and really resented having to hear it from Sonny. Cher told Chastity that when she called Sonny, he rubbed it in the fact that he knew first. All Chastity could see on her mother's face was disappointment due to the fact that her "baby girl" was gay.
After having lunch and catching up, mother and daughter began to adjust to each other in a new way. Cher didn't know what to make of Heidi on a first meeting. While Heidi was all of the attributes Cher would consider a prize, she was a bit confrontational, which made Cher uncomfortable. The next day, Chastity accompanied her mom to therapy. Their session wasn't life changing, but it was the first HONEST conversation they'd had about her sexual orientation. Being in therapy gave them a safe place to talk. Cher turned around quick. Her initial reaction was strong, but quickly adjusted to reality. A great improvement from being kicked out of her mom's apartment. Over the next few months and years, Cher gradually becoming comfortable.
When you are LGBT, you have to feel comfortable within yourself before coming out to others. When you are READY and you do come out; you HAVE TO give others time to be comfortable and situated. You are within the process; for others just finding out; they are at the starting line.
In many ways, this was the beginning of her adult relationship w/ her mom. Chastity's HONESTY about her sexuality has brought them closer. Now that Chastity was out to both parents and all was sought and done, she felt a HUGE sense of relief. Chastity's relief at coming out to her parents, of course, didn't last.
At 18, Chastity was one who fast-tracked into relationships. She and Heidi moved in as fast as they could. Having a blast doing the New York thing and exploring the city. Heidi was already an accomplished musician. Soon after they got together, Heidi taught Chastity how to play both piano and guitar chords. Beginning to haphazardly sing together. Right away, Heidi seemed a bit concerned about how Chastity presented herself as a lesbian. Heidi was a lipstick lesbian before it was a term. Putting some pressure on Chastity to lose her natural masculine style. It was the 1980s. Chastity was always trying to find her way and feel comfortable in her own skin, and having the right hair meant ALOT. Heidi wanted her to change her overtly masculine style and adopt to a feminine look just like she was. Heidi made it CLEAR that Chastity's butch style and persona just didn't work for her. At first, Chastity wasn't aware or bothered by Heidi's behavior. Beginning with Heidi's commentary. Chastity LOVED Heidi and she/Heidi was invested in who she wanted Chastity to be while downgrading Chastity's natural style.
Chastity's dynamic w/ Heidi was part of a large pattern that began as a child. She didn't want to bother her dad, mom or Harriet. Beginning to becoming attached to the need of pleasing people she loved. Becoming an expert at changing herself for the sake of a relationship. The pressure to be more feminine and less masculine was a constant in many of her relationships. Leaving Chastity to feel there was something wrong w/ her. That summer, Cher was nominated for Best Actress for Moonstruck. Cher had invited Chastity, Heidi, Elijah and, Rob to the ceremony. Chastity didn't like the way she looked, so as to ignore her reflection and focus her attention on Heidi instead. Best Actress was one of the last awards to be announced, which made for a long night w/ a HUGE payoff. Which we all know/knew, Cher won. After the awards, Cher wanted to go home and be with family. Going back to Cher's house and ordering pizza. In the end, Chastity was happy to celebrate the way her mom wanted to.
By the end of her freshman year, it was CLEAR to Chastity that she did not want to continue at NYU. Heidi was graduating and moving on, and Chastity did not want to lose her. She didn't see college as a paramount in her future. The only one in her family to have even graduated from high school was her Aunt Gee (Georganne); no one had gone to college or cared that she quit school. Due to her family's success without higher education, they seemed to take her decision in stride. One thing Chastity was DETERMINED to do at the end of her school year was to have breast reduction surgery, due to their natural growth in size. A surgery that felt like a great step toward becoming comfortable in her body. Cher supported her decision.
In June, after the NYU semester ended and Heidi graduated, they went down to L.A. for the surgery. The procedure itself was painful and recovery was miserable. After all is said/done, it was a definite improvement, but Chastity still hated her chest. A classic example of gender dysphoria, which developed after puberty. This should've been obvious evidence that Chastity was experiencing something more than a discovery of her sexual orientation. In the end, though there was little relief, it was short-lived. Whether large or small, breasts did NOT belong on her body. After being healed enough to travel, the family went to St. Troupe for their annual summer vacation. Chastity was totally psyched to go back to Europe and was thrilled to have Heidi join them. After about a week w/ the family, Chastity and Heidi were ready to go off on their own. All through the trip, Chastity kept thinking about how good she felt being with Heidi.
The stress of what they were going to go once they returned home began to mount. They were both stressing of their life plans for themselves. Heidi thought to go into film or TV production. Chastity didn't have a clue. As they traveled, ideas flowed depending on the city they roamed. Then in one summer night in Paris, Chastity got the idea and blurted out that they should make music together. She had been thinking that she should try to have a career as a singer-songwriter, even though she didn't have a passion for it, but Heidi always had fun playing music in their apartment. Chastity had a voice like her mom's. Heidi's passion about music was just the push they needed. Heidi had the knowledge of what to do. After their trip to Europe and returning to New York, they went to work on what to do. When Chastity is motivated, she's motivated! Creating music was no different. FOCUSED! Chastity was very independent and wanted to accomplish her goals on her merit. She used her own merit of getting into P.A., NYU and now with a recording career. Taking INDEPENDENCE to an EXTREME. MAKING SURE it was EARNED ON HER OWN. NOT due to parental relativity. Chastity inherited from her mom an incredible work ethic to have to work for it.
Cher KNEW this. When she was a kid, she was put in the position by Georgia of taking care of Georganne. Having to work after her divorce from Sonny, splitting from Greg Allman and being left w/ 2 small kids to raise. It never entered Chastity's mind to ask her parents for help.
Chastity never even played any of her music for her parents in its early stages. Throughout time, Chastity has always preferred to care for herself without help from her mom. Needing help along the way due to being young and knowing NOTHING about the difference between making music and forging a career in music. They were highly influenced by BIG bands of the '60s & '70s. Trying to find their own game. Chastity had used some money from her appearances on The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour as a child and they bought equipment. Then they got their first BIG break, thanks to one of the singers of Grateful Dead. They made 3 songs on a demo. After playing for him, he liked them and suggested they (Chastity & Heidi) put a band together. The music itself was really bad, but he encouraged them to keep going for it. By the end of 1990, the band was formed, and Heidi and Chastity had a batch of new, well-written songs. The next step was making another demo. Chastity had broken her own rule of not using her parents' connections for her own goal - but in this case it seemed more than necessary.
Right before Christmas, Chastity got a call from her mom's publicist saying that Star Magazine was going to OUT her as a lesbian. She freaked out. Chastity called her mom immediately. Cher actually felt terrible for her daughter and helped her to calm down. Now, Chastity & Heidi had to pretend they weren't lesbians, just friends. At the time, Chastity believed w/ all of her heart that you could not be a recording artist and be openly gay. That was back in 1990. Chastity began going out to public events as a beard to try to refute the article. Heidi & Chastity had to be closeted within the public, but the damage was done. The tabloids had already known for years that she was gay and were just waiting for her to do something that would classify her public figure. This ENTIRE situation made them feel extremely paranoid. The hysteria went on for almost a year, completely wrecking any sense of privacy or safety. This was Chastity's first REAL experience in dealing with the press in such a negative way. She felt victimized and powerless to protect herself. Paranoia set in of incriminating evidence - a photo or love letter - her budding music career would be ruined. At the same time that Heidi & Chastity felt pressure from the music business to stay closeted. The gay community was angry that Chastity wouldn't come out publicly. They felt torn, boxed in and humiliated.
For the next 3 years, Chastity denied her sexuality; living behind closed doors and windows. Convinced that if Heidi and Chastity were gay and a couple, their fledged music career would be destroyed . Living her life in an emotional & physical straitjacket. One that preyed on her worst fears and insecurities. Driving home the challenge of being a public figure. Chastity isn't one who is a celebrity, but due to her parents, she is often hounded by the press, Most of what she does is under public scrutiny, a fact that she has to adjust to in her life! The fear of the repercussions from being outed made her deny who she was. Over time, living a lie became more-and-more difficult. Giving her all-too familiar feelings. Of course, when you're young, you're still learning. Taking cues from her mom on how to handle the stress inherent to a life led in the public eye. Looking back on her first run-in w/ the press, going through that experience actually ended up teaching her how to deal w/ the press and helped to thicken her skin. In the end, it took Chastity 5 years to finally take her power back; when she told her story, her way and came out on the cover of The Advocate.
Heidi and Chastity moved to L.A. in December 1990 and began collaborating on songwriting for the album right after New Years. They then moved, along w/ a roommate, moved to Sherman Oaks, not too far from Chastity's mom, who was living in Malibu. Chastity really missed living in New York, but knew the move was good for their career in L.A. A BIG bonus about the move was seeing family and friends, especially Joan, who was diagnosed w/ cancer 2 years prior. She was doing very well after initinal radiation and chemotherapy meds. Chastity and Heidi spent time w/ her. After a few months in L.A., Heidi was showing change in overall temperament. Irritable and short-tempered. Inappropriate sexual advances was being made towards her. Mark was sexually harassing Heidi. Chastity was outraged. Heidi didn't want to do anything due to the help Mark gave them for their record deal. Chastity kept a closer eye on her and tried not to leave Heidi's side due to the harassment incident. They put everything they had into their careers, after already sacrificing so much to get where they were. Already giving up their sexual identities and were now deeply embedded in the closet. The next casualty of their career was the only thing they had left - their friendship.
Since Chastity and Heidi were in need of Mark, he just got worse once he realized their dependency on him to speak up on what he was doing to Heidi. They had clearly lost their sense of worth and talent. They were convinced that Mark TRULY did have the power to make/break their careers. His hitting on Heidi impacted their relationship. The music business was unrelenting. Although practicing 7 days a week, they were still closeted with slowly having less-and-less to give each other. The very core of their relationship was ebbing away. Their romantic connection was waining.
In the spring of 1991, Chastity and Heidi went on a short trip to San Fransisco to rekindle that spark. On the way up there, Heidi casually threw out that once they were famous, she wanted more freedom from their relationship. It threw Chastity for a loop. This was something from way out of left field. She seen that Heidi didn't look at their relationship the same way that she did. This caused Chastity to detach from Heidi. In the early fall, Chastity realized she had completely fallen out of love w/ her, that trip was a turning point in their relationship for Chastity.
In May, Heidi and Chastity were at home working on a lyric deadline for songs to play. After they were done working, the doorbell rang. It was Joan & Scotti, whom were next door neighbors. Inviting them to a get together. After hours, since they were working, Joan brought the party to them. After drinking for awhile, they were hungry, so Chastity and Joan went into the kitchen to find sustenance for everyone. As food cooked in the oven, they were in the backyard while waiting. Holding hands in a casual friendly manner - but things suddenly changed. Not only was Chastity beginning to feel a sense of excitement + more, Joan was too. This was yet another turning point in her relationship w/ Heidi.
Over the next few months, Chastity & Joan had a few more encounters which they KNEW was not only their attraction to one another, but their feelings. As much as Chastity wanted to be w/ Joan, and their enormous attraction, Chastity was worried about how breaking up w/ Heidi might affect her recording career w/ her. She felt that breaking up and turning to Joan would completely undermine everything Heidi and Chastity worked so hard for. So, Chastity hesitated. She wanted to be w/ Joan, whom she was deeply drawn to. But her attachment to Heidi held her back. Chastity's frequent absences that Heidi began to notice were taken up due to spending more-and-more time w/ Joan. Soon enough, there was something going on.
After one night in November, after months of flirtation w/ Joan, Chastity finally had the guts to tell Heidi the TRUTH. Heidi became very sad and upset which shocked Chastity. Confessing to Chastity that a month prior, Heidi had gotten involved with their hairdresser. She had wanted to do the same thing w/ Joan. Just stating that they were not in love anymore. Both wanting to move on! Heidi wanted them to reconnect w/ their relationship, but for Chastity it was too late! Looking back now, they were both young and didn't truly understand how to take care of their relationship. What hurt them was the intense pressure of working and living together. It was fracturing their bond as lovers. Not to mention the situation with Mark and how powerless they felt. After her implications, Chastity had begun to withdraw and was no longer easygoing in the face of her being so controlling. She should've just been honest about her emotions. The romantic part of their relationship was over. Considering their past and what they've accomplished, Heidi pleaded for Chastity to stick it out. Instead of standing up for themselves, Chastity agreed to not even broach the subject of the breakup until after the record was made. But she did begin her affair w/ Joan.
For the most part, Joan understood Chastity's hesitancy to go through with the breakup with Heidi while still making the record. He seen that now as a moment in her past that makes her cringe. Chastity's had been seeing a therapist trying to work through her hesitation in being honest w/ Heidi. This fear was irrational. The same fear that kept Chastity from coming out to her mom. Joan was kind, compassion & understanding. Although showing her frustration, she never lost her temper with Chastity. More importantly, Chastity was not afraid of Joan. They began recording their album in November and the studio atmosphere was not fun, to say the least. TENSION was everywhere. Chastity felt like an outsider in the studio. Mark was completely focused on Heidi, who was completely focused on every aspect of the recording process. Nobody seemed to care about Chastity's opinion or feelings. Aside from recording a track, Chastity felt like she was just there to protect Heidi from being blatantly sexually harassed. In total, it took 10 months for the record to be made.
Despite her promise to wait until they were finished, Chastity tried again to break up w/ Heidi. She felt that part of her with Heidi was over and wanted to move on with Joan. She was in a no-win situation. When she was younger, boundaries were always hard for Chastity, but with Heidi, they were TRULY PUT TO THE TEST! Chastity had an irrational fear that something bad would happen if she left. So she stayed.
In the middle of all of this, Joan planned to spend 6 weeks in Maui. Chastity housesat for her while she was gone, finding it harder to be around Heidi. When Heidi decided to go home to New York, Chastity jumped at the opportunity to visit Joan in Hawaii, which pissed off Heidi. By now, Heidi was completely convinced there was something going on between Chastity & Joan, but Chastity continued her lie. She believed that if Heidi KNEW about her & Joan, Heidi wouldn't finish the record. Chastity's continuing to lie to Heidi was a HORRIBLE thing to do, and she KNOWS there was no excuse for it. After Chastity arrived in Maui, she was the center of Joan's attention. This was something she just wasn't used to. Chastity got a taste of what her life would be like if she could ever just find the courage to be HONEST!
The recording of the album was finally finished at the end of the summer. Their next step was putting together a new band to perform LIVE in advance of their album release. Things between Heidi & Chastity were at a stand still, but Chastity was still unable to be HONEST w/ her and completely end things with her once-and-for-all. Her only solace was with the time she could spend with Joan. The more space away Chastity needed away from Heidi, the more she would spend with Joan. Chastity didn't quite understand her dynamic w/ Joan at the time. Joan really responded to Chastity's masculine energy in a feminine way, making her feel incrediblyly like "the man" in their relationship. That was when they learned Joan's cancer had returned.
|pinball machine KISS|
After they finished putting the band together, Mark began working w/ them to craft a LIVE show. While it goes w/ the flow to answer questions over-and-over again. As unpleasant as it was to answer questions, questions about her parents immensely got under her skin. She also despised having to do photo shoots even more. Nothing made her feel uncomfortable or disconnected more than doing this. For a male in a female shell, the styling and prep for a photo felt humiliating & degrading. The self-consciousness she felt as a woman became self-confidence after transitioning into Chaz. Working regular hours for rehearsals and doing press allowed Chastity nights and weekends to be with Joan. They were now officially living together, and everyone in their lives KNEW about their relationship.
Of course, Chastity was nervous to tell her mom that she was involved with Joan. After going to her mom's in Malibu and standing in the kitchen, Cher was visibly nervous. She (Cher) laughed and seemed relieved after finding out about Chastity's & Joan's relationship. Cher KNEW Joan was a good person who would treat her daughter well. A good life experience for Chastity. By this time, Joan was back on oral chemotherapy medicine. Despite a busy schedule w/ the record, they did manage a couple weekend getaways. They were happy, compatible and being with each other.
Ceremony, as they now called they now called their band, began playing around Southern California, and then a mini-tour that ended in New Orleans. While on this tour, Chastity made 2 alarming discoveries that re-enforced what she already suspected.
1. perhaps she had chosen the wrong profession for herself
2. how lonely it can be on the road.
Chastity had gotten into music to be w/ her girlfriend, but they had now broken up. A plan that was backfiring on her. Due to the territory that comes with touring on the road, Chastity just wanted to be at home with Joan and their animals. Something that wasn't all that surprising. Chastity always has been a home body. When she & Heidi were together, she felt that sense of togetherness that felt like HOME! Even more than this, Chastity was completely shocked how much she DID NOT like playing LIVE! Something she never noticed back in New York. When playing with their original band, their closest friends were their audience, like a cohesive unit. Now, when she was onstage, all she felt was uncomfortable. Feeling like she was pretending to be someone she wasn't. Chastity had been busting her ass for almost 5 years to be successful in a career she truly didn't enjoy. Living out a dream that wasn't hers nor was it genuine. Feeling trapped in the record industry, and with their record release blooming, was it a fear of success than failure. By this time, they completed the tour, the release of the record was delayed. Chastity & Joan went to Hawaii.
Before they were set to go, Joan seemed to come down with what they thought was the flu. All signs seemed to head that way. She just didn't have the energy for such a big trip, nor did the doctor think it was a good idea, so they canceled the trip. After a couple of days, Joan began to feel better and Chastity asked her mom if they could use her house in Aspen. After arriving and taking in Aspen, Joan began to feel symptomatic again. She had called her doctor who sent her to a doctor locally to get blood done. The next morning, Joan's blood results were in. The news was not good. Her non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, which began as a small-celled non-aggressive variety, moving into a new aggressive strain of the disease. The doctor wanted Joan home for more testing immediately! After arriving home 2 days later, Chastity had turned to her mom for help, who was there for her daughter. Cher has always been great when the chips were down. Cher was the one who was calm and took control in a way that Chastity had come to depend on.
After getting home in L.A., a bone marrow biopsy showed that the cancer had spread to Joan's bones, which explained so much of how she was feeling. Her doctor wanted to start Joan on I.V. chemotherapy. Chastity felt really scared for her to begin this treatment, especially after her first series of chemo, Chastity began a 3-week radio promotion tour to kick off the release of her first record and it's first single. Almost immediately after Joan had the first of her treatments, her symptoms were waining and feeling better. As much as she hated to leave her at the time, Chastity did feel better going on her promotional tour knowing that Joan was improving.
The tour that Geffen planned for Ceremony was designed to get radio stations to add their single on their playlists and it was grueling to say the least. Bouncing around plugging the album. The schedule was exhausting, and many of the radio programmers they had to wine & dine and practically beg for their single to be added to their rosters were quite unsavory characters. Giving Chastity shit about her family, come on to her & Heidi and plainly treat them as meat. Before it was time for Joan's next chemotherapy treatment, her symptoms began to come back. Becoming a pattern. The cycles of responding well to the chemo treatments shortened. Joan's treatments weren't working. Chastity was anxious to get home and have the doctor try something new. On top of that, after the radio tour, no one was playing their music. By the time she got home, Chastity began to feel pretty worn down and had herself gotten really sick. The exhaustion took its toll and her body completely shut down. Once again, Cher was there for them, telling them to come to her house. Being a mom taking care of them until Chastity was strong enough from MONO to go back home and resume care for Joan. Before completely recovering, Geffen sent Ceremony out for performances & TV plugs of the album. Chastity's MONO was worsening with all of the traveling around the country.
After several rounds of treatment, Joan's doctors did another bone marrow biopsy and found the cancer was still present. Joan's best chance was to undergo a stem cell transplant, but first she had to go into remission. The new plan was to start Joan on a different type of chemo and hope for remission so she could have a stem cell transplant. Right before she was about to begin this new phase, she became so sick and was in so much in pain she had to be hospitalized. The TRUTH of running out of medical options rocked Chastity. There came a point where sadly REALITY hits and nothing can be done due to lack of options. Chastity had to quickly leave the hospital before breaking down in front of Joan, and went to see Heidi, who by now had become a trusted friend and business partner. This was the first time Chastity talked about the possibility that Joan might die. Although the chemo was doing its job, it made Joan so sick to have to be in I.C.U. for a couple of days. During this time, Geffen sent their band to Flint, Michigan to play a local radio station. That was the LAST thing anyone wanted to do, especially Chastity, due to leaving Joan's side. Yet, Chastity went to Flint.
When they finally took the stage, something TRULY amazing happened. As their guitarist began playing Could've Been Love, the audience went crazy. They turned around to see who was being celebrated. Once Chastity began singing, the audience was going along, loving the music. Finding out later that the single was a HIT in Flint. Chastity had always been grateful that she got a taste of what it must be like to be a rock star.
|not exact, but an example|
Not terribly aware of what she was doing regarding Joan, Chastity began to dip into some of Joan's Percodan in order to ease her anxiety & pain of watching her girlfriend die in FRONT of her. THIS soon began to alter the course of Chastity's life. When Joan was in the hospital, Chastity didn't have to stay every night, but she didn't have the sense to go home or go to her mom's or a friend's to have the night off. Chastity just didn't know how to take care of herself. She was GENUINELY CONVINCED love & support could heal. Chastity was so bad at self-care, at tending to her own physical and emotional needs, unknowing that she set the stage for some even worse times ahead. By early December, Joan had gone into remission, and doctors began to harvest her stem cells for transplant. She became deadly ill from this process, and such a high risk for infection including flowers, fresh fruit or vegetables in her room. After 5 weeks in the hospital, Joan was stable enough to come home. Meanwhile Geffen Records informed them that they had stopped working to promote their first single and release a new one shortly. Then their manager decided he didn't want to work w/ them.
In spite of this bad news, Chastity & Heidi were determined NOT to let their record die. Thinking that Joan was stable enough for her to leave for a few days, Heidi & Chastity decided to go on a brief tour to the Bay Area to play some gigs to support the record. TRUTH BE TOLD after months of no sleep at night, the isolation & stress of caring for Joan was depleting Chastity. It was a relief to cut loose for a bit and BE a 24-yr-old w/ her friends. It was a relief to be friends w/ Heidi after their history together. When Chastity got back, Joan looked horrible. It was the first time that Joan seemed really disoriented and mentally not quite present or clear. WEAK for a long time after the transplant, so Chastity was not surprised by Joan's need to sleep. Joan's mental state began to TRULY bother Chastity.
After waking up one morning, Joan's disorientation worsened, unable to dissuade from day/night and delusionally incomprehensible. They were set to go to the doctor the next morning, but Chastity called the doctor to inform them. He suggested that maybe the cancer had spread to her brain. Telling Chastity to hold on tight until the morning. Chastity had left to go give blood for Joan at the hospital. Joan's red/white blood cell counts were still very low from the transplant and needed regular blood transfusions. Returning home, as Chastity approached the house, she seen an ambulance in the driveway. Scotti was taking care of Joan while she was gone. Joan had fallen down and was having DIFFICULTY breathing so Scotti called 9-1-1. EMT docs were about to take Joan to a small hospital near their house. By the time they arrived at the hospital, Joan's doctors overrode the EMT's to take Joan to Ceders-Sinai in West Hollywood.
Joan was admitted into the I.C.U. That night, Chastity & Joan had their last lucid conversation. Over the next couple of days, Joan's delirium increased, until she was virtually unconscious. Joan passed away 2-4-1994. Chastity was one month shy from her 25TH birthday. Joan's autopsy revealed that she died cancer-free, but actually from pneumonia, which she had contracted as a result from the stem cell transplant.
Not long after Joan's funeral, Chastity moved into a small apartment in West Hollywood after a brief stay with Heidi. She began running headfirst into a new relationship as a way of trying to avoid the tremendous amount of pain she was in over losing Joan. After being dropped from the label and not having the strength or willingness to start over again. Plain & simple, Chastity didn't have any idea of what she wanted to do, or how to re-invent herself. She DID KNOW that she was DONE w/ music.
Without any idea of how to move forward in her life, she went to bartending school and got a job at Girl Bar, a popular lesbian club in L.A. in it's reign of time. Although she wanted to make money, but this was a COMPLETE DISASTER for Chastity. She was the world's WORST bartender due to being horrible under pressure, but more than that, Chastity was constantly singled out due to who she was. She HATED this kind of attention, and soon quit. Then a friend got her a job working in corporate real estate for $10/hr. For Chastity, it was BORING & UNINSPIRING, but she needed to make money and get out of the house and do something. (To jobs that pay the rent without help.) Not helping her general depression and still trying to avoid the pain of Joan's death, Chastity began partying with a friend. During this year, her menses got really bad. Every month when it came time, Chastity experienced intense pain. She was prescribed Vicodin to help with the pain.
Around this time, the then editor of The Advocate, had been courting her to come out in the magazine. Chastity wasn't ready. Her confidence was at a low point. She was responding to advice her mom had given her. Never do press if you don't have something important to talk about or a specific project to promote. When it comes to the media, Chastity has often turned to her mom - who has reliable radar for when a story is worth it or whether it's fluff.
After a year of so of bumping around from one job to another with no direction, Chastity approached Judy about a job at The Advocate. DIDN'T MATTER on what it was, all Chastity cared about was as along as she had a place to go and make a contribution. She had spent so many years back in the closet, the idea of doing good work that served the community now became very appealing. Then in January 1995, a musician had a new record coming out, and Judy Weider asked Chastity if she wanted to interview her. This led to becoming a writer for the magazine. She had to learn ALOT about writing and magazine editing. After a few months, Chastity was finally feeling like her work had value, and that she had something to say. So, that February Chastity came out on the cover of The Advocate, telling her story to the world. She was soon being contacted by all sorts LGBT organizations who wanted Chastity to get involved in their cause. Chastity then started working independently, doing speaking engagements at LGBT events and conferences. A year later, the Human Rights Campaign hired her to be its National Coming Out spokesperson.
Chastity's political activism career happened very quickly, but taking to the role naturally. After getting into the work, she was truly astonished by how often gay/lesbian people were treated as less than equal, not only in their lack of civil rights but also in their portrayal in the media. Neither Sonny or Cher ever told her directly that they were proud of their daughter for this big career change, though Sonny seemed to get a big kick out of his daughter becoming politically active.
Chastity's work life began to take traction, and she felt she was carving out a place for herself in that world, one that had MEANING for her. At the time, this was very important to her. In the record industry, she was seen as Sonny & Cher's daughter. Chastity wanted something that was hers - on her own merit. She was 26 and felt a growing confidence that she could actually help people out, make a contribution to the community, and become something larger than herself. When she got her first book deal, to write Family Outing, this sense of working for a larger purpose was cemented. Around this time, Chastity and her girlfriend moved to San Fransisco on a whim. They felt that given her new political profile, San Fransisco was a better fit. Very quickly after unpacking, Chastity KNEW the move was a mistake. It was socially and politically just too radical for her. She also really missed Los Angeles, her friends and her family there. Not realizing that L.A. had become home to her once she left. You don't know what you got 'til it's gone. - (Big Yellow Taxi by Counting Crows)
Chastity felt like a fish out of water the whole time she was living in San Fransisco. Her girlfriend had a normal job, so Chastity was left alone in the apartment for that duration. She soon began to feel isolated and really depressed. When GLAAD offered her a great position with a big salary at the end of the year. Chastity didn't hesitate to accept. Now she had to convince her girlfriend, which she promptly did. But she soon realized that even though her career was thriving, Chastity was not. Something inside of her began to shift. The enormous pain of losing Joan and never gone away, and Chastity began to increase her drug use, not only in the Vicodin WHEN NEEDED! She soon began to use them and becoming dependent on its HIGH and its numbing effect on her overall discomfort. Beginning for one source, then later using it for more.
On January 5, 1998, the very day that Chasity turned in the manuscript for Family Outing, Sonny died in a freak skiing accident. Chastity got the call from her stepmother, Mary, right after Chastity had gone to bed. When Mary gave her the news, Chastity went totally & completely numb, then focused on others around her. Putting all of her energy into how Mary and her siblings were coping. After planning on meeting them the next day in Palm Springs, Chastity hung up the phone and began to track down her mom. Since she was in Europe, Chastity called her Aunt Georganne for a way to get ahold of her mom. After hearing from her aunt, Georganne asked if Chastity wanted to break the news to her mom, because she thought Cher would be extraordinarily upset. Chastity was the one who called her mom to tell her what happened. Chastity had never heard her mom as DEVASTATED as she was by the news of Sonny' death. Chastity tried to comfort her mom as best as she could. Chastity had left for Palm Springs the next morning.
Heidi, her new girlfriend, and Chastity's new girlfriend accompanied her to Sonny's compound. Cher & Elijah, along w/ Sonny's oldest child from his first marriage, Christie, and Sonny's closest friends all made it. They stayed in Palm Springs for the next week, getting through a private & very public funeral together. The REALITY of her dad's death didn't HIT until she was sitting in the church during the private service that was held for him. She was OVERCOME w/ grief. Due to political differences that had arisen between them; Chastity as a gay activist and Sonny's role as a congressman; they hadn't spoken for a year. After Sonny had spoken out so blatantly in favor of anti-gay legislation, Chastity began doing press to basically blow the whistle on him, saying he reversed his position. Unfortunately, they never talked about the situation. When he died, a year passed without either of them saying a word to the other directly. As others began talking about Sonny, Chastity began to realize the mistake it was for letting politics affect their relationship. As REALITY SET IN, Chastity cried for the first time since the moment she found out about his death. It was a week she'll NEVER FORGET! For the next couple of years, Cher invited EVERYONE to spend the whole weekend at her house. PURE QUALITY TIME! It brought them ENORMOUS catharsis and really helped them begin to recover from the shock of Sonny's death.
Chastity's body began manifesting physically in consequence of not expressing emotionally, including chronic headaches. When she went to see a neurologist for her chronic pain, Chastity was prescribed more drugs. Others were becoming concerned, but neither of them was aware of the growing dependence on a daily, habitual way. Heidi had told Cher. When Cher confronted her daughter, Chastity denied the problem, instead justifying the reason. Cher called Chas' doctor, and together tried to come up w/ an alternate to treat. NO HOPE! To make matters worse, during the summer, Chastity was fired from GLAAD.
Ellen Degeneres had come out publicly on her sitcom. Through her job at GLAAD, Chastity got to spend a lot of time on the set of Ellen's show. Due to her work on an episode, it earned Chastity her Screen Actors Guild card. She was doing an interview about a letter writing campaign GLAAD had launched to try to save the show when the journalist asked point-blank if she thought the network was homophobic and if that was why they were considering dropping Ellen's show.
The next thing they knew, Chastity comments were exercised from their contexts and repeated on the cover of Variety. Chastity began getting hate due to her comments in the wrong way. After she was fired from the GLAAD Media Awards, Chastity felt angry, frustrated and betrayed by the gay community. Once it was out there, there was no way of retraction. Chastity didn't know what she was going to do, after so much of her identity was wrapped in being GLAAD's media director, she was now treated like a pariah. A couple of years later, Chastity was able to put this experience into perspective for herself and see it as part of a learning experience on how to deal with the media. By the next year, much of the gay & lesbian media had actually began to echo her view of the Ellen show on Chastity's excised comments.
|Chastity & Ellen|
By the summer of 1999, Chastity was using so much Vicodin that she went into liver failure. She didn't realize the Tylenol in the Vicodin could be so damaging. Doubled by her pain, Chastity took herself to the E.R., where she was admitted. As soon as was released, Chastity switched to a new pain management; Vicroprofen. By Christmas, Chastity was back in the hospital for an ulcer from too much pain medicine that was now adding to her pain. She was using too much. After her release from the hospital, Chastity and her girlfriend went to her mom's for New Years Eve. She was still in pain and sleeping around the clock. Chastity was becoming an addict.
Chastity's trigger was her life, which was full of pain & death. The only thing she thought would get her through were painkillers. In the beginning of January, right before Chastity was about to commit herself to a mental hospital, Heidi went to her and spoke to her. Pointing out Chastity's misery was from her drug use. Of course, addicts think outsiders are crazy in the denial stages of addiction. She then promised Chastity that if it was guaranteed for Chastity to stop using and get into a recovery program, Chastity would feel better, whom Chastity believed. But she was also at a point to do ANYTHING to make the pain feel better.
January 20, 2000 was Chastity's first sobriety date. All addicts know that getting clean & sober is NOT that easy. After Chastity had broken up w/ her girlfriend, she met someone new right away, this time at a recovery support meeting, Kathy, whom Chastity wasn't drawn to physically, as she was with Joan, or others. Chastity was impressed w/ Kathy's longevity of sobriety. She was 12 years sober and Chastity needed a role model in sobriety. She was smitten and didn't want to waste time and asked her to move in w/ her. They began hanging out w/ other sober lesbians. Trying to be outgoing, thinking if she connected more with people and more at ease with herself and less depressed. She wanted to be part of a community of like-minded people, which she thought she found. It was always a habit for Chastity to be more observing than participating. As she watched the women interact and listen to their lesbian-oriented conversations, Chastity began to question if she had ANYTHING AT ALL in common w/ these women?
Chastity began to realize that no matter what/how these women identified themselves, they identified as women. They were all comfortable w/ their female identities and enjoyed being women. Chastity always assumed there was a small portion of the lesbian community who felt she had, wishing that she was born a man. Early in her life, when she was w/ Joan, Chastity assumed the butch women in Joan's circle felt just as she did. She didn't immediately associate this discomfort w/ being transgendered. She thought being transgendered required feeling more desperate. She thought transitioning meant different than she pictured,
Yes, she was never comfortable in her female body. But she had to make the best of it. As part of a large diverse group of lesbians around her age, after hearing from these women, this was the first time she began to question she was something other than a lesbian. For some reason, the idea that she might be transgendered hadn't begun to register until this point.
The previous year, in 1999, the biographical film Boys Don't Cry had come out. Chastity's realization that she might be transgendered was a coincidence. She seen the film as a forefront into culture around being transgendered as a concept and REALITY! Showing her that transitioning was a possibility. Over the next few months & weeks, Chastity pondered the idea she might be transgendered. Casually questioning her then girlfriend or making commentary. Thanks to her girlfriend working at the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center,ind she had suggested that maybe Chastity should talk to a transgendered activist she knew from the Center. Chastity called him up and said she was doing research for a book.
After making plans to meet to meet and some talking, Chastity was blown away by how many feelings & experiences they shared. What he shared, Chastity identified this within herself. She became comfortable enough to come clean and told him she might be transgendered, too!
After her girlfriend found out, this had slowly ate away at their relationship and at Chastity. They began arguing all the time, most of their fights ending w/ her girlfriend going for a DIG! Becoming pretty clear to Chastity that the idea of her being transgendered was an abstract notion, she could handle it. As soon as it was more of a reality - which Chastity was considering the process - she freaked out. Chastity then started seeing a transgendered therapist about this. Gaining more clarity about the fact that she was indeed a transgendered person. Though she didn't feel like she was getting closer to what to do?
Chastity began researching everything she could find about transgendered people and transitioning. Throughout all of this, Chastity was still suffering enormous pain during her menses. When she first started getting sober, Chastity needed to see a pain management therapist. She was put on Oxycontin for that duration, unaware how potentially addictive it was, and for over a year she took the drug for the duration of her menstrual time. She was still going to meetings and thought of herself as sober.
At home, Chastity was trying to deal w/ her girlfriends growing hostility; including couples therapy and her girlfriend even tried going to a support group in San Fransisco for partners of transpeople. Although Chastity was still hearing something was wrong with her from her girlfriend. You can only hear something for so long; you start to believe it. Taking her negative feedback and use it to suppress the belief in her being transgendered. The emotional pain & stress began to manifest itself physically. Right about this time, Chastity's pain management doctor moved, and the replacement wasn't AWARE of her dependency on them. Thus began a familiar cycle. After being at a point for needed surgery, when she went in to be examined, a cyst was found on one of her ovaries that needed to be removed. A cycle that repeated a few times in her 20s & 30s. The new doctor gave her more pain medicine to deal w/ the cycle. She still didn't think she was relapsing due to working w/ a doctor. She thought it was safe.
In late 2001, another form of the same surgical procedure, Chastity's pain decreased for awhile and she began to wean herself off the pain meds - down from 12-to-9 per day. Now, it seemed to be for the HIGH of it. Not as much for the pain, but for the feeling from the HIGH. Once again, Chastity was hooked. For any addict, even a little bit, completely resurrects the addiction. In 2002, Chastity's book, The End Of Innocence was published. While on the book tour, Chastity's usage was becoming evident. The drugs had dominated her life, After a very mutual breakup w/ her girlfriend, Kathy who was also moving out, Kathy had told Cher that Chastity was now taking Oxycontin for her menses and that Chastity believed she was transgendered, which made Cher begin to worry. She sent her daughter to a doctor, who recommended her to a new therapist, whom Chastity has now seen ever since. For addicts, they want to bypass the doctor and go straight for the meds. Chastity was now physically addicted.
Losing along the way thanks to her addiction. After Heidi, who had become like a sister after their breakup, was out of her life, Chastity was socializing anymore. Only seeing people she HAD TO see. But Chastity was keeping up the charade. Only just to keep using. Cher began to figure out that something very serious was going on. After suggesting they'd go back and look at houses, Cher had her suspicions that her daughter was back on drugs. Chastity may not have had obvious signs in her eyes, but her bodily function said it all. Her eyes gave her away as well. When they found a house they both liked, Cher gave her daughter an ultimatum. She wouldn't help unless Chastity went away to treatment. Chastity was happy to stay where she was. At this point, there was NO WAY Chastity was going for treatment.
Within the time of 2003, Thursday were the only days Chastity could get out of the house. "Telling" others she was trying to cut back on her usage. Then go to a meeting and act out sobriety. Then she'd go home and collapse. Her days consisted of TV, video games or reading. Smoking multiple packs of cigarettes a day. Her items within her house had cigarette burns on them. Her diet changed to one of an addict with her drug of choice - Sugar. Her life revolved around one thing - Chastity's drug of choice. In the middle of addiction, Chastity could not see a better life for herself. She was in a mental prison, completely enslaved in drugs. For Christmas 2003, Chastity went to Palm Springs to visit Mary and her siblings. While with them, Chastity was keeping track of her usage to keep in spare. Vaguely time passed. For New Years, Chastity went to Hawaii w/ her mom & Elijah. She completely shut herself indoors. By this time, Chastity HAD TO go to a hospital pharmacy for refills. Regular pharmacies didn't carry enough to fill her prescribtion. She had confessed that she was waiting to die and felt NOTHING! Hearing her words for what they were, there was a moment of clarity. Chastity KNEW she had to STOP!
Chastity didn't know how to go about it. She wanted to stop using and LIVE! She also knew it would require medical attention. Her home felt like an unsafe environment. She had asked a friend to take care of her animals if Chastity were to leave and go somewhere. Then she called her mom and asked for help to be sent to treatment. Of course her mom was there. Chastity chose to go to a facility called Sierra Tucson in Arizona. Chastity liked the environment & principal of the place. Treating not only the drugs, but also the intention behind it. Chastity was ready to take care of business if she wanted to be sober and stay that way, beginning on March 7, 2004. Chastity used one last time that morning to prevent getting dope sick along the way there. When she went into withdraw, she felt like the world flipped upside down. Withdraw lasted 5 tortuous days while in the hospital area of the rehab. Once the worst of the withdraw was over, Chastity had joined and integrated herself within the rehab.
Slowly Chastity began to come back to life. Feeling human again and interacting with others. She began to engage and take it in. Chastity loved treatment. It had the applications that appealed to her personality and worked for her so well. Her bodily functions began returning. Parts of within her human nature.
Chastity truly enjoyed the graduation ceremony rituals. When it came time for hers, Cher & Elijah were in attendance. Coming up for family week, the program had pushed her to deal w/ issues that were hard on her. ALOT of writing and confronting her mother about some issues, including Harriet and her mother's disappointment due to Chastity's masculinity all her life. It was also an opportunity to make amends w/ her mom for her cause to worry over her daughter's drug use. The ENTIRE experience of family week turned out to be quite healing for both of them. After 30 days of intense treatment and sobriety, it was Chastity's turn to celebrate. When she left, she was excited and scared. It was the beginning of the second half of Chastity's life.
Chastity took her sobriety SERIOUSLY by enrolling in after treatment care on an outpatient basis for 4 months. Continuing what she's done in rehab. To stay sober, Chastity established structure in her day-to-day life. She was also a participant in multiple support groups. Whatever it took to keep her SOBER! Chastity was very lonely and missed sharing her life w/ somebody. She was so used to being in a relationship and wanted to meet someone. Her BIGGEST trigger at home was boredom; so Chastity cocooned herself in recovery-based activities to avoid it. After a couple of months at home, Chastity began talking about transitioning. It was suggested that Chastity be a year sober before actually starting to transition. She also reached out to the F-T-M therapist whom Chastity had seen when she thought she was transgendered while with a girlfriend within her past. Talking w/ counselors helped Chastity begin to see how fear & confusion about her gender identity was one of the reasons that caused her to use drugs. She knew she would have to DEAL w/ her feelings around this issue. In preparation for starting her transition, Chastity did take a BIG step.
Chastity mustered up the courage to broach up the subject w/ her mom. Surprisingly Cher stated that due to her daughter's age, Chastity shouldn't wait any longer. Cher than suggested they go to family counseling about it. Cher wasn't overjoyed by the news, but it was more positive than Chastity had anticipated and felt relieved. Chastity KNEW that her transitioning from F-T-M would be hard for her mom, and she felt a responsibility to include her in Chastity's process. Chaz tried not to make the same mistake twice. This time, Chastity wanted to re-direct the situation differently. She wanted to do her best to honor & respect her mother. In March 2005 of that summer, Chastity had her uterus removed to deal with, once-and-for-all, her chronic painful endometriosis. Now truly sober, he was very limited on what he could use for pain medications.
What complicated matters was a genetic blood disorder Chastity was diagnosed with in her early teens that affect her ability to clot. After a slew of anti-inflammatory meds she had been using to manage the pain was recalled, Chastity decided to have a partial hysterectomy to alleviate the pain once-and-for-all. An END to a lifetime of misery.
After Chastity had asked friends if they knew anyone they could set her up with, they had brought Jenny to a barbecue at Chastity's the following week. It was 8-15-2005, right after Jenny's 30TH birthday, Chastity felt awkward about meeting her. While in the middle of cooking, Chastity went over there and introduced herself as Chaz then went back to cooking. Ever since he was sober, he has been referring to himself as Chaz. After the get together and people had left, it was starting to get late and soon it was Chaz and Jenny. At the time, her ex-girlfriend, Kathy, was living in the guesthouse, but had gone to sleep. It was just Chaz and Jenny. It was kismet. Effortless. Chaz liked her as a person right away. Like Chastity, Jenny had celebrated her first year of sobriety recently. Chastity wanted to take things slow this time. She really wanted to get to KNOW Jenny before making the mistake of making their relationship sexual before they were ready. Although there was a bond, Chastity didn't want to add undo stress by making their relationship physical. Chastity didn't want to get too attached if things didn't go well.
In her 30s, Chastity was trying to be wiser in her relationships. They stayed up late talking in an effortless & engaging manner. The next morning, Chastity woke up realizing that she really liked her. Chastity called and asked to meet later that night. In the next week, they went out every night but once. Within a couple of weeks, Jenny moved in with Chastity.
|Chaz and Jenny|
At this point, Chastity wasn't ready to begin the actual transitioning process. But, there was no guarantee she would NOT transition in the future. Jenny seemed nonplussed. Chastity had read books and sought out information that helped people deal w/ the situation. Afterward, Chastity was very consciously avoiding anything that had to with the topic. Chastity's desire to transition was a disease, hoping it would've come out of remission and wreak havoc on her life. Like a comic book character, being transgendered felt like the hero ready to explode from within and run for her life. Chastity had it all backwards, being a transgendered man was her REAL identity, and that fear itself was the TRUE applicant. Chastity & Jenny each had 18 months of sobriety under their belt. Chastity began to feel like it was time to figure out what she was going to do with her career. Chastity really enjoyed her activist work she had done in the gay & lesbian community, but had felt it was no longer an option.
Then that fall, the producers of VH1's Celebrity Fit Club came calling. Chastity was being paid to lose weight. Taking after Sonny's side of the family. During the years of drug addiction, the downers really slowed down her metabolism, plus poor eating habits and little physical activity brought quite abit of weight. Doing the show was very frustrating. The whole program was focused only on strict dieting and hard-core cardio exercise. In the 3RD week, she plateaued. After asking another contestant of their success and hearing they ordered The Zone Diet, that was what they all ended up doing. It worked! They all wanted to spark their careers and get healthy. The producers of the show had the opposite in mind. Activities were reckless and they didn't feel safe - LITERALLY! After the show aired in January 2006, Chastity tried to use it as a springboard for more work. The show had a POSITIVE impact. Chastity did get positive reviews and responses from her work. No one wanted her to do anything but straight on Reality TV, which was not what she wanted. Chastity then wrote a treatment for a video game w/ a friend, who was a film producer, but she found that industry UNtouchable. She was/has been into gaming since she was a kid. Sonny had a pinball machine and the original game, Pac-Man and they had a table-top version of the game. Chastity loves playing all sorts of video games.
Finally, Chastity & a good friend from high school landed a development deal from a gay television network called HERE TV to write a script for a TV movie. Working on the script for the next year and needing work on it after fixing what had been written when she was using. Here TV seemed to SEE the story. Chastity had originally plotted out the story while still working on The Advocate. After hearing the story from an interview, it got Chastity thinking about how sexuality is fluid for many people, like Jenny. The title to the story was In The Name Of Love. By April 2007, after re-writing the script several times for the network, they decided not to make it into a film. Chastity began to get disheartened & depressed, wondering where to go now. When she got sober, Chastity made the conscious decision that she was going to be happy & GRATEFUL for EVERYTHING! A wise friend of hers w/ over 40 years of sobriety had told Chastity when she was newly out of rehab; "it is impossible to relapse if you live your life with an attitude of gratitude." Chastity knew she had ALOT to be GRATEFUL for, but Jenny seemed to sense something was wrong. She was right. The career stalls & disappointments were getting to her. In hindsight, Chastity realized not transitioning was one thing that was really stopping her from moving forward in life.
During all of this, Chastity's discomfort w/ her physical body really started to re-emerge. She was trying for the past couple of years to be male but in her female body. NO MATTER how she acted or dressed in that body, Chastity was still terrified to transition, so she came up w/ another plan. She decided to move forward w/ the TOP surgery. At the time, Chastity thought she could have the TOP surgery and no one would notice. She had decided that summer. After talking to Jenny about the idea, she seemed unfazed & supportive. Jenny KNEW of Chastity's discomfort with that part of her body. So the plan was SET! As soon as she had extra money on her own, she would go ahead with the surgery. In the fall, she got offered a job to do a Q&A on various LGBT issues, on a cruise ship for the lesbian company Olivia. The surgery cost the same amount as she was being paid. She didn't move forward at that time due to a realization in therapy that she was deluding herself into thinking the press wouldn't find out. So, she decided to wait.
For the next year, in every therapy session, all Chastity talked about was the need to transition, and the fact that she was too scared to do so. Her realization that she wasn't going to be able to have TOP surgery without anyone noticing led her to one conclusion: top surgery wasn't going to solve her problems. She would HAVE to transition; which meant he was going to have to come out again. She was TERRIFIED! Reigniting the exact same fears one acquires when coming out. Chastity could no longer bury her desire to transition. The only way she was ever going to feel happy or complete was if she transitioned. She had to do what she had to do. During this time, Chastity's REALITY was too difficult that she threw herself into gaming. Gaming gave her a way to zone out. For the first time, Chastity began writing about the pain & confusion she was feeling. Afterward, she started discussing the subject with Jenny as a definitive reality. Trying to explain to her what Chastity was going through and how she was feeling. Asking Jenny of her emotional & physical position to Chastity's transforming. Chastity was terrified to lose her. When Jenny's response was positive, Chastity felt positive & hopeful that together they would figure out how to manage her transition. They would get through ANYTHING together. When Jenny gave hesitancy, Chastity would let it go, only to broach it again a month or so later to see her reaction. If Jenny was positive about it, Chastity pushed the subject; if it was negative, Chastity KNEW to back off.
In 2006, Jenny had relapsed. She had been waiting tables at the time, and one of her friends would give her Vicodin. When she got home, Chastity was a nervous wreck. Jenny had been out late drinking & partying w/ friends. As an addict herself, Chastity couldn't be w/ someone who was a substance abuser and not 100% sober. As much as she wanted Jenny to stay clean, you can't FORCE someone to stay clean. They HAVE to want it for THEMSELVES. When Chastity showed Jenny what the finalization of what she would look like after surgery, Jenny had thought of a breast reduction, but Chastity was getting a 100% removal. Chastity was also scared of what her transition would do for her mom. Though Chastity had told Cher that she felt ready to transition, and needed to do so in order to be happy. During the preceding year, Cher had to started going w/ her to regular support meetings Chastity began attending after Jenny's relapse the summer before. Cher had her own reasons for attending these meetings and they ended up bringing them closer together.
Chastity was working HARD on her resentment towards her mother for how she was raised. By coming to the meetings, Cher was making an effort to have a relationship w/ Chastity. For the first time in a very long time, Cher & Chastity were really close. GETTING TO KNOW EACH OTHER AS ADULTS! The thought of breaking this new closeness by telling her that she was finally beginning to transition made her feel like she had more to lose than ever. During the same time when Chastity was using drugs, she experienced another moment of clarity: she was powerless on how others were to react if she transitioned.
Chastity drove home from therapy single-minded. When she walked in the door, Jenny was sitting on the couch and they talked; which Jenny had a reaction. Chastity tried to explain how much pain she was in, living in a state of limbo, and how tortured she felt inside by not taking steps towards transitioning. Chastity tried going "recovery talk"; the stuff you would hear from a counselor. Jenny's reaction was out of spite; launching a litany of mean comments. Chastity felt anger rising in her throat. Jenny pushed every button Chastity had. This time, Chastity was not retreating w/ an apology. Taking a different direction than in the past. Jenny was relying on Chastity's addictive habit of putting her pain before Chastity. Instead of assuring her that she wouldn't transition unless she was okay with it, Chastity became enraged by what she perceived as a blatant attempt to be controlled by playing the martyr. Chastity had CLEARLY experienced a breakthrough.
Chastity is NOT one who explodes. EVER! You can only hold something in for so long until it manifests and EXPLODES outwardly. Chastity had reached such a level of heightened rage she KNEW she had to leave the house. In the range of venting, Jenny was in a state of shock. Chastity had gotten into her car and left. After driving for a few blocks, Chastity called a close friend who lived nearby who told Chastity to come to her house. As soon as she heard her friends calming voice, Chastity began to feel a bit better, so she called Jenny from her car, on the way to her friends house, to assure her she was okay and apologized for scaring her. Chastity spent time at her friends talking until she calmed down, going home a few hours later. KNOWING of the day's plans a day ahead, Chastity knew Jenny wouldn't be home. Emotionally exhausted, Chastity HAD TO crash and go to sleep. After EVERYTHING had BLOWN & CAME OUT the day before, things were changed - but fine. Over the next few days, they kept talking, deciding the BEST way to handle Chastity's decision to transition was to begin going to couples therapy.
The first step within therapy was about releasing control. Taking a leap of faith that Jenny & Cher would eventually get to where Chastity was. The next step was to talk to a medical doctor. After the appointment, Chastity felt elated. With her doctor on-board, Chastity's MAJOR obstacle was to tell her mom what she intended to do. The Saturday after, Chastity seen her mom at a morning support group meeting and asked to come by her apartment and talk. After telling Jenny of her plans, Jenny became nervous. Chastity had been putting this off for months, waiting for the right moment. Driving over to her mom's, Chastity was surprisingly calm.With absolute clarity, NOW was the moment. When she got to her mom's, they sat down on an oversized sofa. After catching up on family news, Chastity eased into telling Cher the truth about her transitioning. Cher was so calm. Then Cher asked about Jenny's feelings and position in all of this. Chastity told her mom the TRUTH. Cher understood, after being in the entertainment industry for 50 years, Jenny's hesitation about the tabloid ramifications. Chastity explained her own fears; what transitioning from F-T-M, the mental, physical & emotional differences that can/would arise. Chastity left her mom's apartment at 11:00P, feeling like an ENORMOUS weight was lifted.
In most ways, Chastity's decision to transition turned HIS ENTIRE life around. As he headed into the fall, Chastity was becoming HEALTHIER within ALL aspects. The one healthy habit Chastity took away from Celebrity Fit Club was exercising on a regular basis and stepping it up. Chastity & Jenny were in a good place. The couples therapy made a big difference in their relationship in general. Jenny had ALOT to work through and make decisions and look DEEP inside. For Jenny, the HARDEST part was telling her parents. When she told them, they reacted very lovingly. On Christmas Day, with Jenny & the rest of the family at Cher's, Cher felt distant and Chastity felt something was off between them. With Chastity's transition discussion, the tension was in the air w/ the elephant in the room. A few days after Christmas, Chastity got a call from Deb Paul, Cher's assistant, saying that her mom wanted to have a meeting w/ their therapist and the rest of the family. There was a sense of urgency to the meeting, so Chastity called everyone right away and then got back to Deb to set up the appointment. But days, and then weeks, went by without Chastity hearing from her mom. After hearing from Deb again, because of the holding of the appointment time not working for Cher. Suddenly the urgency was gone. Chastity felt like a nag for pushing the issue.
At some point, Chastity got a call from Deb saying the doctor wanted a meeting w/ him, Cher & the therapist. Before the meeting could be arranged, Chastity had an appointment to have labs done. Everything was good and Chastity could start testosterone. During the appointment, Chastity asked why the meeting with her, Cher & the therapist? Explaining that Cher had questions & concerns and thought it would be helpful if they all got together. But, Cher hdn't agreed on a meeting time. After getting the greenlight from the doctors, Chastity tried to reach her mom to let her KNOW that she was starting her transition on March 20TH. No reply, so Chastity sent her a text message; once again, no response. Chastity KNEW Cher was avoiding her and the REALITY of Chastity's impending transition. Chastity had told her brother, Chesera, the news, but had not told her sister, Chianna or their mother, Mary. When they were invited to Chianna's 18TH birthday, Chastity thought it was a moment to tell her what's going on. Once in Plam Springs, Chastity approached Mary and told her about her plans. After stating her questions, Mary was completely supportive. Mary asked if she could tell her new husband, Connie Mack, who was supportive of it. This was one of the first times Chastity got to KNOW him and was thrilled.
Chastity then told her sister, Chesera, who was the most supportive of it all and was genuinely happy for her. NO EXPLANATION needed; JUST SUPPORTIVE! Chastity was blown away after constantly explaining to others. Teaching Chastity a HUGE lesson: NEVER JUGDE A BOOK BY ITS COVER! In many ways, this experience of telling her family in Palm Springs was a turning point in her relationship w/ them in general - all for the better. Chastity hadn't grown up in a family-centered family. Sonny barely had any contact with his own extended family. Chastity didn't know his sisters, his father or mother. Chastity spent ALOT of time w/ her mom's family. There were times when Cher wouldn't speak to her mom, Georgia or sister and they wouldn't talk or be close, but other than that, Chastity didn't have a lot of comfort for the idea of cherishing family. While there is family, sometimes your friends BECOME/ARE your family. On the other hand, Chastity couldn't get her mom on the phone or Georganne. In the one conversation she had with Elijah, he'd made it CLEAR her transition made him uncomfortable. It wasn't direct negativity; but his questioning made her feel like she was on the witness stand.
In March, Chastity had turned 40 and was 5 years sober, and an appointment to begin taking male hormones - all within a few weeks of each other. After a basic checkup & bloodwork, Chastity left with a perscribtion. After all the years of fear, ambivalence, doubts & emotional torture, the day had finally come. Chastity was on testosterone and never looked back.
In April, Chastity finally had the meeting w/ her mom, the doctor & the therapist. Chastity had been on the hormones for 2-to-3 weeks. In the meeting, Cher was shocked that Chastity had already started and never received Chastity's text. Cher was very afraid of the way the press would handle the transition, of Cher's own career being negatively impacted due to Chastity's actions and how her friends would react. Although the doctors were being informative and answering all of Cher's questions, she was having a HARD time with this new reality and was clearly upset. It was NOT a good meeting. A few days later, Cher called to tell how bad she felt in the meeting and she thought the doctor misled her into thinking Chastity wouldn't transition for a long time. Something to happen within time; NOT just sudden. That was Cher's perception. At one point on the phone that day, Cher asked how this would affect Chastity's activism work. How would Chastity going to go about it? Cher also didn't understand why Chastity hired a publicist and why she needed to discuss her transition publicly at all. This was where they differed in opinion ALOT. Cher was having a lot of trouble understanding Chastity's point of view, which became an HOUR of conversation. She KNEW no matter what happened she would be okay and would be taken care of. Cher had to find her own path on this journey.
Once she was on the hormones for awhile, Chastity started to feel really good. She had more energy, focus & was less afraid of making changes. She felt motivated to move forward in all ways. It felt like her body had finally gotten something it needed to function. Prompting Chastity to go back to school and finish her bachelor's degree. It bothered Chastity that never got a college degree. She thought an advanced education would provide her w/ a good backup plan for her life. Accessing the tools to take care of herself. So, Chastity applied to Antioch College and was accepted. From the moment she began taking testosterone, Chastity was outwardly progressing as a man. The only negative physical side effect that she experienced from testosterone was acne. Chastity had suffered from moderate-to-bad acne. Thank goodness for Proactiv Solution. The other worse side effect is perspiring, especially in nervous situations. Another note was the way he experienced his increased sex drive, it was more of a man's need. But, the VERY BEST significant change was how INCREDIBLY HAPPY he was. The more male he looked/felt, the more joyous he became.
Chastity's goal was to try to get through the first few months of transition privately, to be more adjusted. Outside of friends & family, NO ONE KNEW. That is, until his voice began to drop. Howard Bragman, the publicist he hired, had been talking to a couple of news shows. They thought that Chastity would break the news in that kind of setting then write a book. Then TMZ got hold of the story and Howard came to an agreement w/ them on how to break it using a statement he would write. Chastity & Jenny were in Palm Springs when they got news of this. They sent the statement to Cher's publicist so they were in the loop. Chastity called Jenny, who was now in grad school getting her master's degree in education, to tell her that the story was about to break. Although prepared, Chastity sat frozen, feeling all of his life flash before him. He was feeling relieved. He wanted to do it this way although, after past lessons w/ the press, he was still trepidations about how it was all going to unfold. Chastity called his mom so she KNEW what was going on. As always, Cher was always calm in a crisis. After wondering if his grandmother KNEW, Cher & Georganne had to tell their mother, Georgia Holt, the weekend before a birthday party. Georgia KNEW and was fine. Chastity was relieved. Cher was being a mom for her child. All of the messages were POSITIVE! After all of the midst & hoopla that has escalated, in a millisecond, all the attention shifted, and Chastity was back in his own life in the midst of where she had began: his transition.
Now that Chastity was out as a transgendered man, he was anxious to be in touch w/ other transgender men. Other than reading books, Chastity had never really been in the same circle of those who have been there and understand. Due to who he is and the desire for privacy, Chastity didn't feel like an F-T-M support group was an option. Howard put him in touch w/ a gay transgendered male who worked for GLAAD. Talking w/ him on the phone made him feel good. Although meeting in person, Chastity immediately felt comfortable, and he gave him an instant sense of camaraderie and kinship that Chastity loves. A couple of weeks later, he & friends were all together in his living room. Chastity was overjoyed to be out & in a room full of guys just like him. Not surprisingly, Chastity had a lot of questions from within the group. They had talked about what these men remembered from the first stages of their transition, how their families & spouses dealt with the process. In general, they were all happy about the way the media was handling the situation and Chastity's story. Telling their experiences throughout the ENTIRE process; compare & contrast.
Chastity was much happier w/ the results he was getting, and the money he was saving, by switching to injectable testosterone. Giving Chastity the results he had been waiting for. The acne increased and his breast tissue began to break down and started to drop. Your genetic background is going to impact how you respond to testosterone. Due to his being half Sicilian and a quarter Armenian - Chastity expected to be hairy. But, that isn't the case. Over the course of the summer, body hair began to grow thicker, voice began to deepen and overall physique became even more male w/ irracticial body changes. Overall, Chastity felt an enormous sense of empowerment. Going back to college to finish his undergraduate degree, formulating way in which he wanted to become politically active for the transgendered community. Jenny was taking the journey w/ him and they were handling the twists & turns very well. Chastity was finally falling into place - with the exception of his relationship with Cher & Georganne.
Looking back, after trying to talk to Georganne ever since Chastity KNEW he was going to start to transition. Georganne KNEW that Chastity had begun the transition process, but had not spoken about it. Chastity tried to reach her, but it was felt Georganne was avoiding the conversation. Chastity eventually got annoyed. After finally getting her on the phone, Georganne admitted that she was having a hard time w/ his transition. He tried to talk w/ Georganne years ago when he first suspected he might be transgendered. It was disappointing that Georganne was so adamantly opposed to the idea that he might be transgendered. Due to the stubborn streak, they never broached the subject again, As they talked and Georganne shared her thoughts & feelings on the subject now, he tried to be less empathetic as he could. Explaining Chastity's point of view That wasn't the case w/ his mom.
At the end of June, Chastity got a long text from his mom. Cher had heard Chastity's outgoing message w/ a different octave in his voice and how it dropped. Hearing the change devastated her. The REALITY of the transition HIT HARD! Cher was TRULY having a HARD TIME! She had to distant herself from him for the time being. In some ways, Chastity was relieved by the text. Now he KNEW. Chastity had decided to take this as a need for his mom to grieve the loss of her daughter. During the summer, returning to life as it were, Chastity began to notice that people reacted to him differently. Not sure of what/how to address him due to how he looked. It's like he put himself through a strainer and got rid of all the girl pulp. Sydney (Carrie Preston) - TransAmerica Meanwhile, his publicist received some calls from people interested in doing a documentary about his transition. After taking several meetings getting things done, deciding on the production company World Of Wonder after Chastity really liked some of their other films, W.O.W really GOT what they were trying to do. Filming began in September 2009 and continued for 18 months. Ever since working for GLAAD, Chastity understood the power of media to open hearts and minds about LGBT issues.
Also that summer, Chastity was able to afford top surgery. Booking the procedure for when he knew he'd have a break from school. After researching surgeons for awhile, he decided on a surgeon in San Fransisco do the surgery. Next came the medical workup. With any surgery and Chastity's addiction, there was a worry about painkillers. Due to his very low pain tolerance, and pain medicine would be needed, Chastity made arrangements for someone to hold the medication and dole it out as prescribed. In the week or so before the surgery, as he was getting ready for it, shooting for the documentary began. Jenny had finished her first year of graduate school at the end of summer. In preparation for TOP surgery, it was recommended for Chastity to quit smoking cigarettes, something he's done at the age of 16. QUITTING cold turkey without any form of nicotine replacement. Chastity & Jenny, along w/ the film crew, left for San Fransisco, where his surgery was going to take place, the day before. After the meeting w/ the surgeon, Chastity felt very assured & confident about his surgery. Chastity texted his mom with the date that he was having TOP surgery, and Cher called him the next day before the operation (pre-op). A quick conversation, but it felt reassuring to talk to his mom. He was glad to hear from his mom.
When Chastity woke up from the surgery, he was in less pain than he'd thought he was going to be. The medicine worked just fine; Chastity was comfortable and felt really happy it was over. Jenny informed the families that everything had gone well. He was pretty out of it the first day in the hospital, by nightfall Chastity was feeling lucid. Checking out of the hospital first thing that morning and went to a friend's house to recover. Next came HOME aftercare. After 5 days, he went to see his doctor for the first follow-up visit. After the bandages were removed in the appointment, Chastity seen his chest for the first time. It took his breath away. His female chest was finally gone. He felt relieved & overjoyed. Soon after, Chastity & Jenny flew home to L.A. Very minimal assistance was needed. In the weeks & months following the TOP surgery, Chastity looked in the mirror and seen a man. A TRULY AMAZING feeling. His new chest made him feel completely free & completely male. Now, he rarely wears a shirt at home.
Soon after his TOP surgery, Chastity began speaking out to the media. He wanted to put a positive spin on his transition and wanted to take control of the way the media covered the story of his top surgery. He always look at these media appearances as a way to reach people, and now he wanted to educate others. To him, being a spokesperson is about opening people's hearts and minds and prompting tolerance. After 3 weeks after the surgery, Jenny's family had a reunion in Las Vegas. A first time Chastity would be seeing Jenny's family since transitioning. Now, Chastity was loving being addressed as SIR. When they do, they acknowledge his TRUE identity. It just felt RIGHT! Now and then he was/is given an ettiquette man's lesson. From stance to the men's restroom. Male behavior has been very easy for him to adapt to. He KNEW how to live as a man. As the year was winding down, he was starting to feel at home in his new physical body, after more than 40 years, this was amazing. He was settling into place, very positive about what the new year had to offer, including a hope to truly reconnect w/ his mom before too much time passed. As an ending to an eventful year, the calmness of the Christmas holiday season felt like a perfect cap.
Ever since transitioning, Chaz has been happy, comfortable & present. He TRULY is. The recognition of how comfortable he is now in his own skin means ALOT to him and is a further affirmation he made the right choice, despite how hard it was. After his transition, Chaz's siblings find him easier to relate to. When he was female, they had nothing in common. They didn't know how to relate to him as Chastity. Since the transition, they seen him as a guy. Making more sense to them, bringing upon more of a closeness. Now he is their big brother and gives advice from a male perspective. Chaz's brother, Chesera, was the first person on Sonny's side of the family he told about the transition, and they were cool. Elijah wasn't comfortable right away when Chaz first told him of his transitioning. Elijah wasn't unsupportive, he was in fear of something happening to his brother. Since transitioning, Elijah has been very supportive and seen Chaz as the person he has always been. Plus, there have been improvements within Chaz's close circle and relationships. This is also true to who he is out in the world.
Before, Chaz was perceived as a woman who was displaying extremely gender-variant behavior and both men & women were standoffish. With there being an alignment between internal & external identity, Chaz's self-consciousness is gone. Now he's being treated as just one of the guys. It feels good for Chaz to be shown kindness & acceptance by those of other men. Chaz's interaction w/ straight women has changed too. Before his transition, he was often a bit uncomfortable around straight women; now he's more at ease. Now that he looks & acts appropriately male, the world has become a much friendlier place. Over the past year, as his transition progressed, Chaz has found himself reaching out to people from his past. He was inspired to do this by his mom, who recently reconnected w/ and old friend of his mom's, Paulette Betts. Paulette had been part of their lives since Chaz was a child. When he heard from Georganne that Cher & Paulette were back in touch, Chaz was very excited. He couldn't wait to see her again.
Paulette wasn't a bit fazed that Chaz transitioned. Chaz was deeply struck by the realization that all his life Paulette had known, now it felt amazing to share his REAL self w/ this woman he'd KNOWN & LOVED for so long. Getting reconnected with Paulette was the trigger for him to reach out to many other people from his past. Those who slipped away from his life when he was using drugs. One of the people he reconnected with was Heidi, his ex-girlfriend & former bandmate. For him, it was really important to re-establish the connection as part of a larger healing process. To be honest, Chaz was really nervous to reach out to Heidi, being almost a decade since they spoke. But he took the leap & reconnected w/ her. When they met again in person, it was healing for both of them. A good thing all around. Due to their differences in lesbianism, Heidi thought she was liberating Chaz to be his own kind of lesbian.
Reconnecting w/ people from his past has been a gift of transitioning that he would have never have anticipated before starting this journey. From best friends in childhood-through- teenage-hood. They had reconnected when going out to dinner. Chaz can't really express in words how profound it is for him to finally let people of his past get to know and understand him for WHO HE IS.
In the new year, one person has continued to keep their distance - his mom, whom Chaz hadn't seen since and hadn't had any contact since conversing pre & post-op. As time went on w/ no contact with his mom, Chaz began to feel more rejected, hurt & angry. He felt sad that something that was making him feel so bad. While understanding that Cher was grieving the loss of the person she seen as her daughter, as her son, he still missed his mom. In late January 2010, Cher made contact w/ him, asking for Chaz & Jenny to come to dinner. Cher was dating someone new and Chaz hadn't met him. This man encouraged Cher to face her fear and see her son. Elijah was there for part of it. It was all very casual. It felt really good for Chaz to see his mom after so long, since the therapy session. While it felt like nothing changed; but obviously ALOT has. Sticking to common conversations and no HOT button topics. Chaz figured his mom would talk about the transition when Cher was READY!
After transitioning, Chaz has experienced male temperment after testosterone. His outward physical changes continue, though very subtly as part of the gradual, evolving process of transforming into a male. Same as going through a second puberty. When impatient, he has to remember that boys don't change into men overnight. Taking years before growing out of that awkward in-between stage. Changes that are less aware of are also happening. Though he doesn't miss Chastity, watching the documentary Becoming Chaz, has made him more aware of how much change both physically & emotionally occurred over the past 18 months. Giving a film crew such intimate access into his life, and the life he shared w/ Jenny, has helped Chaz to understand the process of the transitioning everyone has gone through w/ him.
Buy life intervenes, no matter how happy Chaz is now. After Christmas that year, Jenny & Chaz began having a hard time. Chaz began to feel like their lives were going in different directions. Jenny was drinking & smoking pot, they never really dealt with the impact the transition had on their relationship. Over time, Jenny's addiction progressively worsened. Going from non-alcoholic beer and into regular beer once a week. She then added pot into the mix. Chaz didn't know the extent of her using for quite awhile, because she would wait until Chaz went to bed to do it. As a late bloomer, Chaz had to do ALOT of work to catch up. Here was Jenny acting out in ways Chaz had addressed himself, but then again taking in the age difference. THIS is something I DO/CAN PERSONALLY Relate to! At first, Chaz didn't want to see it. When he finally did see it, the level of anger he was feeling toward her was something new for him. In the past, when Jenny had relapsed, Chaz felt sad & disappointed, but now it was bitter anger & disappointment. This caused him to shut down and become very distant & cold to her.
In the weeks that followed, Jenny realized she had fallen behind on her schoolwork. With the deadline, she deliberately stopped drinking and immediately refocused her attention on her dissertation. They weren't spending ANY time together, but the issues lied in dealing w/ anything about their relationship. Knowing things weren't good between and not wanting anything to disrupt her goal, literally the day after Jenny's graduation, EVERYTHING exploded! A brunch was held in Jenny's honor, and she wanted to cancel it. They started to fight and Jenny's temper flared! Chaz was so angry he almost walked out. They barely made it through the day. Most of it was caught on camera in the documentary. Over the next couple of months, things went from bad-to-worse. After Jenny's relapse, Chaz wasn't able to have her trust, or if their relationship was going to last. A friend had pointed out to Chaz that he was probably too focused on Jenny and it needed to put the focus back into himself. Just the reframe Chaz needed.
After talking to another friend of his, which was a transgendered guy in the program, this friend pointed out that by staying so focused on Jenny's behavior, Chaz was losing sight of his own. Pointing out that Jenny was entitled to her reaction considering. Chaz's sex change was no small event. This was Chaz's first adult sober relationship. He was NOT trying to have history repeat itself. By this point, Chaz & Jenny had been together for 5 years and had been through so much. Already having a lot of history together. Now, after months of incredibly painful therapy sessions, and barely getting by at home, they finally had a breakthrough that allowed him to begin mending their broken relationship. With insight, it's easy for Chaz to see why Jenny thought he had changed so much, because he had, in relation to Jenny & their relationship. Hearing that, it struck Chaz that while he was admittedly emotionally shut down, Jenny had been very cold & distant to Chaz as well. Jenny had missed the person she fell in love with. The female part of Chaz was gone and Jenny was angry. When Jenny was heard about what she was feeling without Chaz being defensive, they were finally able to begin healing their relationship. Over the next several months, they had to re-learn how to be together. Re-establishing their relationship for what it is NOW after the transition. Their annoyances & irritants were heightened. Chaz found himself more impatient & quicker to become angry.
They both began to make an effort. Chaz began to slowly understand and accept he has changed. Their dynamic was truly different. Jenni felt she was being yelled at when in fact Chaz's voice was a deeper octive and louder. Chaz had to learn and watch how to use his body & voice. He needed to react to situations differently. Those past 2 years, since he was beginning his transition, this has been an intense & exhilerating ride, both personally and for them as a couple. Working to get their relationship back on track. Having positivity in their relationship and putting them in a good place. A complete do-over. Chaz's relationship w/ his mom may have been painful for awhile, and she may not have seen him for a year, Chaz was able to get through it. Process of Cher's acceptance continues to move forward. Seeing each other several times over the past year; even saying to David Letterman on his late night show at the time, expressing how things were/must've been for Chaz to transition. Talking about his transition publicly has helped Cher to come to terms with the fact that he is a man w/ still room to grow. While it's HARD for ANY parent to ACCEPT, for Cher & Chaz, it's a work in progress.
In January, Becoming Chaz premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, a HUGE highlight in Chaz's life. Due to being received with overwhelming positivity, the film had a world television debut on OWN. A gift that has come from finally summoning the courage to be himself. As Franklin D. Roosevelt had said wisely: The only thing to fear is fear itself.
Chaz's life has been an extraordinary journey so far, and while it hadn't been easy, it's been a pretty good one!
|Chaz Salvatore Bono|