Monday, May 09, 2011

Chaz Bono on biology (by Suzie)

Yesterday's NYT quotes Chaz Bono, formerly Chastity, on biology and gender.
“There’s a gender in your brain and a gender in your body. For 99 percent of people, those things are in alignment. For transgender people, they’re mismatched. That’s all it is. It’s not complicated, it’s not a neurosis. It’s a mix-up. It’s a birth defect, like a cleft palate.
"I never really understood women before, to be honest, but I had a tolerance for women that I don’t have now. No, really. There is something in testosterone that makes talking and gossiping really grating. I’ve stopped talking as much. I’ve noticed that Jen [his longtime partner] can talk endlessly. I just kind of zone out. ... I just don’t care!
"I’ve learned that the differences between men and women are so biological. I think if people realized that, it would be easier. I would be a great relationship counselor. I know the difference that hormones really make.”
The weirdest guy thing he does now?
“I got way more gadget-oriented, I have to say. I don’t know why. Definitely since transitioning I’ve wanted to be up on the latest, coolest toy.”
I've yet to see scientific proof that testosterone makes people more interested in electronics. The idea that women talk more than men is a myth. For more on gossip, please read my post here. I've also written (4/18/2008) on the danger of thinking that men and women behave differently from each other (and in stereotypical ways) because of brain differences. This thinking has been used to justify discrimination against women for eons.

If a conservative said, even with humor, that he could barely tolerate women and all their chattiness; if he said men and women have different brains, and suggested that testosterone makes a person like gadgets, wouldn't a "lifelong liberal" like writer Cintra Wilson challenge him? So, why doesn't she question Bono on his retro view of gender? Perhaps she doesn't because she's too busy confronting "a whole swag-bag full of transphobias that I didn’t know I’d had."

Wilson repeatedly asks if Cher influenced Bono's gender identity. He says no. (She doesn't ask if Sonny Bono, who became a Republican politician, influenced Chaz's ideas on gender.) Our culture, our parents, other aspects of socialization have no bearing on our identity as male or female. For Chaz Bono, it's all biology.

In interviews, Wilson brings up "how uncomfortable we are as a society with people who don’t fit into the usual gender roles. ... To finally usher a complete color wheel of sexuality into the mainstream, perhaps it takes a child of Cher."

It's as if Wilson never heard what Bono said. He isn't confronting gender roles or sexuality. He describes himself as "very traditionally male." He's a man who loves a woman. He finds that people, especially men, treat him much better now. “I’m constantly shocked by how friendly and cool straight men are to each other." (Hey, Chaz, welcome to the patriarchy.)

It's telling that this article was published in the Fashion & Style section.
Keep your comments civil or I will delete them. Do not hog the discussion.
Whoops, I forgot to mention that Bono is publicizing his book, "Transition: The Story of How I Became a Man,"
which will be released tomorrow. Also tomorrow, the documentary “Becoming Chaz” will premiere on the Oprah Winfrey Network.