Chaz Bono: “The Negative Comments Are Motivating”
BY Jeremy Kinser
September 01 2011 8:15 PM ET
With the simultaneous publication of Transition, his memoir, and release of Becoming Chaz, his documentary, transgender activist Chaz Bono was seemingly everywhere last May, including on the cover of The Advocate. On Tuesday, when the announcement was made that Bono will appear on the next season of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, it seemed like a win-win for everyone. The network will likely see a new audience for the 13th season of its hit dance competition series. More important, Bono will able to represent trans people on a bigger platform than ever and on a weekly basis. He has potential to shatter expectations and transcend labels.
But being the show's first transgender performer also comes with the inevitable backlash from conservative viewers. More than a thousand comments were posted on ABC’s message boards. Many of them were extremely negative and accused the network, which also cast Carson Kressley on DWTS, of promoting the LGBT agenda. Bono's mother Cher has tweeted her anger over the negativity, and his DWTS partner, Lacey Schwimmer, has spoken out against the haters as well. Bono, still happily partnered with Jennifer Elia, takes it all in stride. “It’s not surprising to me,” he says. Besides rehearsing and working out to get in shape for the series, he’s also filming Chaz & Jen, a follow-up to his multiple-Emmy-Award-nominated documentary.
Bono tells The Advocate how he feels about the controversy surrounding his casting, pressure he feels to represent trans people, and the spectacular impact he’s made during the past year.
The Advocate: How did your being cast on Dancing With the Stars come about? Did producers pursue you or vice versa?
Chaz Bono: They had mentioned it to Howard [Bragman, Bono’s publicist] last season when I was in the middle of promoting my doc and book. When I was finished with all of that we went back to them. We took a meeting with them, and I think I was the first person chosen to do it.
Having both you and Carson Kressley on a prime-time network program is obviously a huge step forward for the LGBT community.
It is. I keep saying it’s the queerest season of Dancing with the Stars ever.
Besides having to be a good dancer, you also have to represent. What kind of pressure are you feeling?
The more I hear people bitching and moaning about me being on the show, the more it makes me really want to do well. It’s the most motivating thing for me.
Were you surprised by how nasty some of the comments on ABC's site have been?
It’s not surprising to me. What I’ve seen from message boards in general, it brings out a lot of negative-minded people who have negative, bitter, hateful opinions.
Do you think this will be a problem when it comes to the public voting?
I don’t think so. It’s a show where people vote for you, not against me. The people complaining weren’t going to vote for me to begin with, you know?