Our Rating: ★★★★☆
L Factor: Gender Bender
Short Take: Chaz Bono’s journey to manhood.
Alternate Titles:
Year: 2011
Duration: 80 min
Language: USA/English
MPAA: Not Rated
Director: Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato
Writer: Chaz Bono
Starring: Cher, Chaz Bono, Jimm Giannini, Jennifer Elia

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Becoming Chaz

Before he was Chaz he was Chastity, the daughter of singing duo Sonny and Cher. Some of us remember Chastity as a cute little girl in dresses, and others may think of Chastity as a lesbian icon – our friend and ally who was there for us before, if even in the background, at a time when queers weren’t so visible. Now, we are getting to know Chaz – the man.

After a lifetime of feeling like a man trapped in a female body, Becoming Chaz follows Chaz as he goes through sex reassignment surgery, from hormone shots, to top surgery, and his legal name change and life as a male. The documentary offers a real-world, almost full-access ride-along as Chaz deals with his personal feelings, plus those of his friends, family and his girlfriend, Jennifer Elia. The film gives the idea that friends and siblings were supportive of the transition, but with mother (Cher) and Elia, it was a ‘process.’

Viewers get glimpses of his past public life as Sonny and Cher’s daughter, but Chaz is ambivalent about his lesbian life, saying that he was never a lesbian; that the queer (lesbian) community was as close to what he could identify with at the time. Even now, post transition, he subtly draws clear distinctions between the lesbian and gay community and the transgendered community.

According to interviews with Chaz (who did the talk-show circuit right after Becoming Chaz hit the air), when first questioning his sexuality, Chaz says the movie, Personal Best rang a bell with him; it gave him the concept of other, but it was seeing Boys Don’t Cry that helped him see the possibilities of life as a man.

Filmmakers were given almost unlimited access to his and his girlfriend’s life. Couple’s counseling, he said, was about the only thing off limits to the cameras. As such, Becoming Chaz isn’t all love and roses. It shows the reality of life-change stress and the personality changes brought on by testosterone shots.

As transgendered people are feeling more free to explore and embrace the alignment of their bodies and brains, Becoming Chaz serves as a touchstone. Perhaps for those people’s family and friends, the movie serves a mini-explanation of the physical process, but also an insight into the emotion as well. This film debuted at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and was shown on Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) during May, 2011, as part of the network’s new documentary club. Bono also wrote a book about his experience, Transition: The Story of How I Became a Man. (CJ)