Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Yesterday's Pictures, Today's Reality
Just watched Becoming Chaz, a documentary by The World of Wonder company, the people who did one of my favorite documentaries of all time, The Eyes of Tammy Faye. What I love about the World of Wonder documentaries is the thoughtful approach to subjects many people don't understand and the beauty they find in those worlds. Chastity Bono, daughter of Sonny and Cher, has recently decided to have a sex-change operation and start living as a man. The first transgender surgery was performed on Christine Jorgensen in 1953 (she died in 1989 on my 18th birthday) and is still in a fairly primitive form that requires testosterone shots, breast removal, and for some, "bottom" surgery to construct or remove sexual organs with varying degrees of success. Despite this incredible level of difficulty on a practical level, the documentary really speaks to the difficulty of growing up in the spotlight, the child of famous parents. Equally difficult for Chaz is the fact that his mother is considered a progressive gay icon and yet cannot refer to his new incarnation with the correct pronoun. He takes a philosophical approach to this inability, reminding us that Cher is like any other mother in struggling with his decision.
Everything is always in flux, whether we know it or not. Change happens in a way that is both unseen and dramatic. We are never who we were yesterday; realizations about our bodies, our marriages, our children, our jobs are always permeable. Most of us don't struggle with gender identity in the way that Chaz does, but we are always something different as each year passes. It strikes me as fitting that one of Cher's most famous songs is "If I Could Turn Back Time." It's kind of an anthem for her life in which she has sought through many surgeries to stay the same woman we saw on her variety hour in the 70s. It makes a strange paradoxical sense that a woman who has turned to surgery to retain a former look has a hard time with a child who has undergone surgery and pain to gain an identity that has never been but feels intrinsic to his psyche. Chaz has become who he believes himself to be while Cher strives to remain who she was. Watching clips of Chastity as a little girl is an odd nostalgic experience. If Cher could turn back time, she surely would while Chaz who is presented in his full human glory, warts and all, walks into the uncertain future, a brave pioneer in the body of a chubby forty year old man. He expresses a certain sadness about not coming to this body sooner, but the journey for all to become who we truly are is a long one and it doesn't matter when we get there, just so long as we do.
Michelle's Spell of the Day
"One man cannot hold another man down in the ditch without remaining down in the ditch with him." Booker T. Washington
Cocktail Hour -- any World of Wonder documentary!
Benedictions and Maledictions