WASHINGTON: When Chaz Bono takes to the floor on American television's “Dancing with the Stars” later this month, he won't be lacking for fans - or detractors.
The 42-year-old LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) activist formerly known as Chastity Bono is the first transgender contestant on the US version of the globally popular reality television series.
He's the only child of entertainers Cher and the late Sonny Bono, and his debut on prime-time television comes hard on the heels of the release of his autobiography “Transition: The Story of How I Became a Man”.
“I'm an activist, first and foremost,” said Bono when ABC television, part of the family-oriented Disney media empire, introduced its 12 couples who will tackle the tango, the foxtrot and samba when the series begins September 19.
“I will look at this as just a wonderful opportunity to kind of bring my message to even more people than I've had the chance to.”
But not everyone is caring to hear that message.
“This is completely unacceptable and Christians should not watch the show, no excuses!” exclaimed the American Family Association through its onemillionmoms.com website.
“Email ABC Network and let them know that we will not tolerate” either Bono or another contestant, openly gay television presenter Carson Kressley, on a prime-time program “when children are awake.”
On the Fox News website, psychiatrist Keith Ablow warned parents Friday against their kids watching “someone whose search for an identity culminated with the removal of her breasts, the injection of steroids and, perhaps one day soon, the fashioning of a make-shift phallus to replace her vagina.”
Cher took to Twitter to defend her child, saying “I support him no matter what he chooses 2do,” hailing his “unlimited supply” of “guts” and denouncing “bigots” outraged by his career turn.
Bono, who made his television debut as a baby on his parents' top-rated “The Sonny and Cher Show”, came out as a lesbian when he was 18. Three years ago he undertook a physical and social gender transition that led to a California court in May 2010 granting his request for a legal gender and name change.
A documentary on his journey from woman to man premiered at the Sundance film festival earlier this year, then screened on talkshow diva Oprah Winfrey's television channel.
Support for Bono's appearance on “Dancing” was robust on his website (www.chazbono.net) on Friday, where one contributor wrote: “I applaud your willingness to subject yourself to so much scrutiny in order to help others.”
“The weird part is that I didn't expect to see such hateful and discriminatory things said because you are choosing to 'Dance With The Stars'.....you are a star! What is the problem America?”
Clearly grateful, Bono declared on his Twitter feed: “I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of support I received from everyone. Thanks so much. I don't listen to the haters, but embrace the love.”