Chaz Bono's rep: 'The sky will not fall when Chaz Bono dances'
Chaz Bono is used to grabbing headlines. And since the announcement of his participation on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” last week, the headlines have been many.
Bono, 42, was selected by the show’s producers to be among the cast of celebrities to appear in the hit dance competition’s 13th season. (Headline.) And he’ll be partnered with a female dancer. (Headline. Headline. Headline.) The child of Cher and the late Sonny Bono, Chaz underwent a gender reassignment surgery and legally changed his gender from female to male last year — a transition detailed in the Emmy-nominated documentary “Becoming Chaz.”
The announcement has drawn hostile responses from some “Dancing” fans and conservative media groups in the short time since the cast was announced.
All this has led to Bono, his publicist and the network to enter the media circus in response to the fury. Bono’s rep Howard Bragman appeared on “Good Morning America” Friday to address the protests.
Bragman told Showtracker on Friday via e-mail: “The sky will not fall when Chaz Bono dances. Parents will have a teachable moment with their children; transgendered kids will have a role model, and since that group has such a high suicide rate we may save a life; and finally we can see a transgendered person as a human being and not a label."
OneMillionMoms.com, an online activism group consisting of mothers, thinks otherwise and is calling for the boycott of the show. On its website, the group calls Bono’s casting “completely unacceptable and Christians should not watch the show, no excuses!”
"Dancing with the Stars" producer Conrad Green told Showtracker, "I think it's unfortunate that people have gotten so angry when they haven't even seen him on the show. It's important to try to get a sense of perspective. And he's part of a really interesting cast that's really varied. I'm sure the vast majority of our audience will be more than happy to watch the show and take Chaz as he is.
"When we booked Chaz, I, of course, expected some people to have an issue. But that's true with every season's cast.... One of the great things about the show is you can go into it with a preconception about a celebrity, and that often changes once you see the show because you see a completely different side to them. It's a process of discovery. We booked him because he's a great guy with an amazing story."
Bragman said, “Million Moms is truly a homophobic transphobic hate group — past 'DWTS' contestants have had sex tapes, Playboy spreads, etc., with nary a word. You'd think they'd like Chaz — he used to be a lesbian, now he's a straight man with a fiancee. All the controversy is only making Chaz stronger.“
The protest didn’t stop with Moms. Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist and member of the Fox News Medical A-Team, penned a piece, “Don't Let Your Kids Watch Chaz Bono On 'Dancing With the Stars' ” which ran on FoxNews.com. Dan Gainor of the Culture and Media Institute called Bono's casting "a ridiculous, agenda-driven move by 'Dancing With the Stars’ … the latest example of the networks trying to push a sexual agenda on American families.”
Bono’s mother Cher reacted to the ire on Twitter on Wednesday, posting “lovelies! Chaz is Being Viciously Attacked on Blogs & Message boards about being on DWTS!This is Still America right ? It took guts 2 do it” and has continued the dialogue with her followers.
Bono replied to the comments on his Twitter page saying: "Thanks for all your support mom. The haters are just motivating me to work harder and stay on DWTS as long as I possibly can."
Even his competitors are coming to his defense. HLN legal analyst and talk show host Nancy Grace told ABC News, “"Unless Chaz commits a felony, I don't have a problem … I just don't think it's our business to be judging other people for their personal decisions. "
Bono is not the first transgender person to appear on a reality TV show. Isis King appeared on the CW’s "America's Next Top Model" in 2008 and is slated to appear in the upcoming cycle of "ANTM's" all-stars edition. And transgendered woman Laverne Cox competed against 13 contestants to be Sean “Diddy” Combs personal assistant in VH1’s “I Want to Work for Diddy” back in 2008.
The LGBT-friendly vibe extends beyong Bono's inclusion, with gay TV personality Carson Kressley also competing. The producers considered pairing the former "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" with a male dancer but decided on Anna Trebunskaya as his partner.
Says Green, "Regarding Carson and a male partner: We thought about it, but we decided not to. It came up with Lance Bass too. Ultimately, we're trying to mimic competitive ballroom. And in competitive ballroom dancing, males partner with females, regardless of their sexual preference."
As for criticisms that the show is trying to push an LGBT agenda, Green responds, "To be honest, when we had Bristol [Palin], I had an enormous group of people saying we had right-wing agenda. Now with Chaz, they say we have a left-wing agenda. All we're trying to do is make an interesting and varied cast. We don't have an agenda at all. We've had 120 contestants, two of whom have been gay, one transgender. If we were pushing an agenda, we're not very good at it."
Will America embrace Bono? We'll begin to find out Sept. 20, when the first couple with the lowest scored and votes are sent home.
-- Yvonne Villarreal
Photo: Chaz Bono, son of Sonny Bono and Cher reveals the process of his sexual reassignment in the documentary, "Becoming Chaz." He was photographed in Los Angeles on April 22, 2011. Credit: Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times