TV Review - Becoming Chaz

Pop stars Sonny and Cher had a daughter who grew up to be their son. Chastity Bono is transgendered, and this movie, which aired on OWN as part of its "Documentary Club," follows Chastity as she continues in her journey to change from a woman to a man.

Chastity changed her name to Chaz. Chastity was an adorable little girl and an even more beautiful, long blonde-haired woman who now looks like she could be Michael Chiklis' body double. Chaz is in the process of having his breasts removed. He talks about having surgery to get a penis, but, at the beginning, he is still biologically a she. Nevertheless, Chaz prefers to be referred to using masculine pronouns.

When filmmakers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato drop-in on Chaz, he's been on male hormones for six months already and is only a week away from the top surgery that will remove his breasts. Chaz claims to have always hated his body, especially his breasts, so he goes off to San Francisco to have the top surgery.

The filmmakers don't narrate. They do offer context and also provide a timeline graphic that highlights key moments in transgender history. They even have Chaz's doctor explain in interview that transgender is akin to diabetes. This is similar to what a doctor told reporter and former talk show host, Lisa Ling, on her show Our America with Lisa Ling.

The doctor told Ling that she would treat a transgender patient like she would a diabetes patient, and breast removal surgery is part of that treatment just as insulin shots are treatment for diabetics. The question that Ling never asked is that without proper insulin a diabetic could die, but having breasts is not a life-threatening affliction. Breast removal, unless it's to remove cancer, is merely cosmetic surgery.

No one really knows what causes transgender identities. Like with being homosexual, transgender is merely a feeling a person is born having. According to this movie's timeline graphic, it is a medical condition.

After the movie, a special TV program hosted by Rosie O'Donnell aired on OWN, which interviewed Chaz and asked him to comment on the premiere of the movie. Chaz said, "Being a man has nothing to do with what's between your legs." He was responding to a question about him choosing not to have the cosmetic surgery to get a penis. If what Chaz said is true, then why did he have the breast removal?

I don't deny or discount the feelings or condition, but, based on statements that Chaz himself makes, I do question the solution for it. In this movie, we see the pain and the ugly reality of removing someone's breasts. If what Chaz says is true, that not having a penis doesn't matter, then why does having breasts matter? My guess is that it comes down to perception, cultural and societal perception. Yet, the filmmakers never explore this.

What's most interesting about this movie is Chaz's relationship with his girlfriend Jenny who is a lesbian. Hearing Jenny speak about the evolution of their relationship is what's most compelling.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-MA for language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 20 mins.


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