Choosing Respect

I don’t really watch Dancing with the Stars, in fact, we just got rid of our cable last month. But I noticed that this particular season there was a flurry of news stories everywhere about one of the new contestants on this seasons show, and the comments on these news stories are shocking to me.

The raging controversy was over the participation of Chaz Bono, a female to male transgendered person. Chaz lasted six rounds of dancing before receiving the dreaded combo of lowest scores and lowest number of votes and had to leave. But while he was a contestant, I saw an endless stream of news articles on this topic. Many of them complained about Mr Bono’s weight (size discrimination is a whole other problem) or debated if he really qualifies as a star. But the main point of most of these posts, articles and comments has been hatred for the fact that he is a transsexual, many of them angry that Chaz is living as male, debating the state of his genitals, making crude jokes about his sexual orientation or performance.

Here is one example of the type of “new” stories I’ve been seeing on this topic. The Fox News website, (which ironically claims to be “fair and balanced”) Hosts this article which outright mocks Chaz, making light of his medical condition and struggle, and then exhorts readers to keep their children from watching the show, lest they catch the condition from Chaz.

This sort of hate-speech baffles me and angers me. No person would ever make the choice to feel the way Chaz does. No one sits down and tries to come up with ways to be more hated by society. In his wrestling with this condition, Chaz has made the decision to live more closely in line with how his gender feels to him and that is his choice, no one else’s. No one watching TV is affected by what medication Chaz takes or what clothing he puts on in the morning. And the people close to him may be able to relate better to Chaz now that he is caring for his condition: much as anyone who faithfully takes their blood pressure medication or anti-depressant meds is better able to be the spouse, parent, friend and employee they want to be. Transgendered persons are just as human as the rest of us, and in fact there are more of them then you think. Chaz just has the misfortune of being from a well-known family, most transgendered people are anonymous to most of the world.

Regardless of one’s beliefs on whether or not people should use medical intervention to aid in their struggle as a transsexual, I completely fail to see how spewing hate and anger and judgement does anything productive or helpful. After the writer of the Fox article mocks and degrades Chaz Bono, he goes on to say that Chaz should be treated with dignity, as if this writer even knows the meaning of the word! He talks about how every other step should be taken before acquiescing to surgical options.

Don’t you think that any person wrestling with gender dysphoria would try anything and everything to deal with their condition before opting to become a member of one of the most hated groups in America? I find it disgusting that this Dr who has never treated Chaz, goes on and on about how he would treat his condition if only Chaz had come to him. He even sounds somewhat offended that Chaz didn’t ask him for his opinion!

And warning people to not allow their children to watch the show? Why? Because watching a couple dance could cause your child to question their gender identity? How does that make any sense? There have been gay contestants on the show, does that mean that kids start questioning their sexuality after watching a gay contestant dance? Or what about an overweight contestant, maybe a child could be tempted to become obese! All the contestants wear clothing when they dance, a child wouldn’t see anything different watching chaz dance than they would seeing anyone else dance. Either watch the show or don’t watch it, but don’t make this a “moral” position.

Supposedly the writer of this article is a “fair and balanced” dissenting “empathic” person. He is wrong. He is hateful, not empathic. He is not fair or balanced, he is judgemental and presumptive.

Here is another link . This article describes the relationship between a Catholic Nun and a Transexual woman. No judgement here, no alienation or proclamation on what she should have done. Instead there is acceptance, love, encouragement and support.

There is so much emphasis in both the religious and secular community on how GLBTQ people “choose” to live. What will you choose when faced with someone who experiences life differently than you do, someone who believes or acts differently than you do?
Does an opinion matter more than our common humanity?

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Re-Post: Rights of a Child
Brave New Life: Part 5: Tolerance
  • Michael Mock

    Thanks for writing this.

  • Rebecca

    I admit I felt very uncomfortable watching Chaz dance this season, but at the same time I think it's ridiculous that people sent Chaz death threats and said crude things about him. I happen to believe he made some bad choices but he's still a human being and worthy of respect.

  • Jessica

    Thanks for sharing the wonderful article about the nun and the transsexual woman. It always warms my heart to know that there are people out there ignoring the hate rhetoric and simply living out the Gospel.

    I agree with everything you said here. It's a shame that somewhere along the line someone discovered they could make money off people's fascination with people who are different from them, and the more that they write "news" stories calling attention to that fact, the more acceptable it became to point out and mock those differences. And fear has always followed difference, as well, which saddens me.

    Thank you for taking the time to write this; you've added a little more fairness and common sense back into the world.

  • katidyd

    I had no idea this was going on, as I am not that attuned to that show (or a lot of shows, though I do watch quite a few), but that's absolutely despicable. Mind you, I grew up in a family where there was no agenda pushed and I was allowed to come to my own conclusions about things, but I just can't imagine ever coming down on a person who already has such a hard path to go down. You said it, no one would ever choose such a difficult and alienating path.
    I have a friend from high school (which, good lord, was almost 15 years ago!) who took to a lesbian lifestyle for a long time but has now finished counseling for sexual reassignment. It's now just a waiting game until the surgery can be completed, but he and his family have been through a lot in this journey. Life would be a lot easier for him had he just stuck to what he'd been doing, but it wasn't for him and that's okay.
    It has always perplexed me that people think people choose this kind of lot in life. But I suppose, coming from a background where things were short of (or not short of) being beaten into you, I guess they think the same can apply to anyone.
    Kudos to you for breaking the mold!!

  • Peter and Nancy

    I don't let my kids watch the show, but it's not because of Chaz. I just think it's generally *way* too sexualized (costumes, dance moves, etc.) for children to watch, period. He has only been on for one season, so if people are worried about their kids seeing something unhealthy/not age appropriate, they should've been worried about that a long time ago!

    The thing I object to most of all is more about our celebrity- and gossip-saturated culture. The producers wanted him on the show precisely because it would cause a lot of chatter and increase their ratings. I don't like to see anyone used that way, or see celebrities agree to be exploited just to sell their movie or revive their careers.

  • oneperson

    A youtube clip I watched recently:

    When Did You Choose to be Straight?

    I have a friend who is transgender and Christian. Boy, have my views changed from 5 years ago.

    Thanks for this blog post…

  • Jessica

    That's a really good point. A lot of these "reality" shows are about using people, particularly if they're unusual or different in some way, to drum up ratings and sell ads. And it just reinforces the notion that we should gawk at and talk about other people (their personality issues, their bodies, etc.).

  • Personal Failure

    Thanks for this.

  • michellemybelle

    great blog! thank you for writing this. :-)