TV fans had something to celebrate as yesterday's Dancing With the Stars cast announcement included an impressive list of next season contestants, including transgender activist Chaz Bono and gay reality show maven Carson Kressley. Bono will be the highest profile transgender person to ever compete on an American reality TV series, and one of the first ever in prime time.
"At a time when transgender representation in the media is sorely lacking, Chaz Bono joining the cast of a series like Dancing With the Stars is a tremendous step forward for the public to recognize that transgender people are an important part of the fabric of American culture," said Herndon Graddick, Senior Director of Programs at GLAAD. "His documentary, Becoming Chaz, was a great chance for viewers to meet the man behind the headlines. Appearing on such a high profile show will allow millions of Americans to get to know him in a whole new light."
When Dancing with the Stars premiers Monday Sept. 19 on ABC, Bono will be joined by Queer Eye for the Straight Guy's Carson Cressley, whose current TV series, Carson-Nation, on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), has him traveling to small towns throughout the U.S., transforming lives one person at a time. The men will be joined by Nancy Grace, NBA star Ron Artest, Ricki Lake, soccer star Hope Solo, Chynna Phillips, David Arquette, Rob Kardashian, Kristin Cavallari, Elisabetta Canalis, and J.R. Martinez.
Bono won't be the only transgender person on prime time this year. Earlier this month, the CW announced that transgender model Isis King and openly lesbian Kayla Ferrel would return for the all-star cycle of America's Next Top Model, debuting Sept. 14.
Bono and King certainly aren't the first trans reality show cast members. Transamerican Love Story, a Bachelor-style dating series that aired in 2008 on Logo, revolved around trans actress Calpernia Addams. Laverne Cox, a trans woman who came out on VH1's I Want to Work for Diddy in 2008, became the first African American trans woman to produce and star in her own television show in 2010 with the VH1 makeover series, TRANSformMe. And trans cast mates have showed up on several other realty series (some out, some not) from MTV's Real World series to Fox Reality Channel's Seducing Cindy. But Bono is certainly the most recognizable of these faces, a member of showbiz royalty who has put a face on LGBT issues for decades, so hopes are high that he'll help move the conversation about transgender issues forward.
"With both gay and transgender contestants represented, ABC and the
CW have created prime time firsts that reflect the growing acceptance of
gay and transgender people in America today," said Graddick.