BY Jeremy Kinser
May 11 2011 11:00 AM ET
Yet as familiar as many people are with Bono’s life and career, perhaps the biggest revelation in both the book and film is that there are still so many revelations to be found. Among them, Bono divulges that he has few clear memories from early childhood, when America first met him as Chastity. He doesn’t remember the heartwarming spots he filmed on his parents’ television program in the early 1970s, in which he was brought out to wave good night to the audience. He does, however, recall that as a young girl, he wanted to be a boy named Fred.
In the documentary Bono tells of going to bed at night as a little girl and praying that he’d wake up as a boy. In the book Bono also recounts his youthful love of classic horror movies such as Frankenstein and The Wolf Man. Are there parallels between these supernatural tales of transformation and the desires of a young boy trapped in a female body? Bono is momentarily perplexed. “I never even thought of that,” he says. “Maybe subconsciously, but at that point I didn’t even know this type of transformation was possible.”
Bono cringes at the memory of living in the 1990s as a lipstick lesbian, comparing it to being trapped in an awkward work uniform. “It was torture,” he says. “I was uncomfortable every minute of my life.” But then Bono watched Boys Don’t Cry, the Academy Award–winning 1999 film about murdered transgender man Brandon Teena, and suddenly the possibility of change seemed real in a new way. Bono also sensed that the film coincided with a general shift in the cultural attitude toward transgender people. America was a little more open to the idea of someone like Chaz, whose understanding of himself didn’t match his body.
Bono began to contemplate whether he was transgender. He became acquainted with Masen Davis, a California-based transgender male activist, who helped Bono recognize the truth about his desire to become physically male. He soon began to see a transgender therapist and catalog his fears about transitioning. “Every single fear you can think of, from wondering what the neighbors would think to being disowned by family,” he recalls. “I just kind of slowly worked through the list, seeing that [my fears weren’t] realistic, so the list got smaller and smaller.” Bono began to realize that how everyone else reacted to his decision wasn’t his responsibility. “It wasn’t my job to make other people feel OK about this,” he says. “It was time to take care of myself. When that clicked it was full steam ahead.”