"Transition" by Chaz Bono
book review by Cynthia Rodriguez
Yes, your favorite, friendly, gayborhood A.D.D pain-in-the-ass book reviewer is back! Sorry for the six month hiatus. I'll try not to let that happen again. Okay, moving right along...
So I wish I had known about, and read Bono's other two books "Family Outing", and "End Of Innocence" prior to getting my hands on "Transition". I felt like I was watching a movie sequel without catching the original. And I hate watching sequels without seeing part one, and two, and...ten, etc. I understand that it's not necessary in this case, but I'm still interested, which of course is a pretty good indication that I enjoyed this book.
I must say, I feel like it truly takes some major cojones to really put yourself out there in the public eye, and open up with such a tell-all story such as "Transition". I highly commend Chaz for it. No doubt, it is a courageous act, and not just in the actual physical transition itself but for sharing it with the whole world. You can tell how hard-core honest he is with his experience. Both the good, the bad, and everything in between, especially when it was all so recent at the time. The only thing about that I am curious about is how his family, friends, and then partner feel, or felt at the time knowing it was such an expose on not just himself, but everyone around him. In a memoir like that, there is no changing the names to protect the innocent, and the guilty. There is much name dropping. Certainly not in a malicious way, but just at times I'm sure it was painfully honest. I wonder if there were any of that, "I can't believe you mentioned that about me!" going on from someone talked about in the book.
One thing I have to mention before I go on is I couldn't help but think that she did sometimes suffer from what she calls the "poor little rich kid syndrome". I was torn. I realize she did obviously go through A LOT with this whole ordeal, but at the same time I thought to myself, "I'd seriously consider giving up my left tit for your kind of life." Traveling, traveling, traveling. Being a recording artist/rock star for fifteen minutes. Growing up with that kind of fortune, and fame. It's better than collecting unemployment. Okay, po' person bitterness aside...
I most definitely walked away from it with a much better understanding of what a trans person must go through. I won't say I'm some kind of expert now because I read his book about it. Like he says, it's different for everyone. Like everyone else, everybody has their own path. Meaning I won't go around telling every trans person I know, "Hey, I know exactly what you're going through because I read Chaz's book!" I'd say that would be pretty darn ignorant.
It also concretely confirms my own sexual gender indentity once, and for all. Meaning that at one point in my younger life, (as I've shared this with few people), I too once thought about transitioning. This was more in my earlier, developmental years. This was before I even knew what the word "transition" meant, (in that context), before EVERYBODY knew what it meant. I don't even remember that word used in the 80's! Now everyone talks about it, or at least has heard of it.
I actually shared with my girlfriend not too long ago, (yes, I have one of those now, thus my hiatus), using the book as an example. I told her, "He said he never wanted his then "her" breasts touched during sex. That it didn't feel right, natural, or good." I believe this was the clincher for me. Personally, being that although I wish I would have been a little more endowed, I know for a fact I enjoy my breasts very much, and I like them being enjoyed by someone else too, so I was like, "You know what? I LOVE being a woman." I never felt those things he did, so I know I'm in the right body, as imperfect as it may be, it suits me just fine.
I'm glad I never acted on those feelings when I was younger. (Not that I would have been able to afford it anyways), but this is exactly why I must say I have mixed feelings about some of our "transgender youth", especially since I personally know of some that have felt the same way, and it turned out that it WAS temporary. A phase. Not saying this applies to everyone, but I know it happens. Just my own belief but I feel that taking the hormones and actually physically transitioning should not be done until a person is at 18 years of age, when they would be considered a "legal" adult. I HAVE seen the documentaries on transgender youth, and I know it's a very real issue. Not disputing that fact, however, that's where I stand on that.
I attended a trans health conference a few years back for my then job, and it was also very enlightening, and educational. I feel like I still had many questions on the subject. More than what I came in with. I certainly want to learn more in order to erase any unnecessary fears, and ignorance I know I still have, including the fact that I am still in disagreement about unisex bathrooms, although there seems to be more, and more of those popping up in places, especially like in Philadelphia where I had my first experience with a unisex bathroom, and felt like I was in an episode of Ally McBeal.
I really don't like the idea of sharing a public restroom with men. Biological OR Transgender males. I have to admit, it makes me a little uncomfortable. I've always looked at a woman's public restroom as a safe haven of sorts where women (unlike men) usually travel to in flocks, but not just for it's original purpose. It's also a temporary escape from the official social gathering waiting outside it's doors. It's a place for the 5 minute gossip about the evening, where your femme friends touch up their make-up, where you can ask a total stranger (another woman) if she has a spare tampon, and if you're lucky, occasionally have that drunken, slutty moment at the local gay club where you end up making out with someone in there you just bumped, and grinded with on the dance floor. All of the above, not so much possible in a unisex restroom.
(A little post book update, the book itself ends with Chaz getting the top surgery, and being with his then girlfriend Jenny. I believe now they are not together anymore, and he is going for bottom surgery.)
I know I totally digressed as usual, but Chaz really does touch on almost all of these things in the book. This is just my take on it. I like to think that is part of what these types of books do. Crack open wide some dialogue.