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Chaz Bono: His own man

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The last Sunday of June every year brings the San Francisco Pride Parade. The event is one of the largest in California, drawing an estimated 1 million spectators. It also draws a wide range of celebrities and other public figures who are members or friends of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, community.

This year, there will be celebrity grand marshal parade cars for Oscar-winning actress Olympia Dukakis, “Top Chef Just Desserts” contender Yigit Pura, “The Amazing Race: Unfinished Business” champion LaKisha Hoffman and — putting a shine on the T in LGBT — Chaz Bono.  

Bono is, of course, the former daughter of entertainers Sonny and Cher. As towheaded Chastity, Bono enchanted audiences with televised parental upstaging. She later came out publicly as a lesbian and became an activist for her community.

The evolution to selfhood took another major step when Bono identified as transgender and began the journey of physical transformation to match his emotional identity. Already in the public eye, what should have been a private experience became a public discussion.

It has been documented in Bono’s memoir, “Transition: The Story of How I Became a Man,” and Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato’s film “Becoming Chaz.”

The latter, shot partly here in The City, is screening today at the Castro Theatre as part of Frameline’s 35th San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival. Bono, his partner, Jennifer Elia, who is extensively featured in the film, and the directors will attend.

 With all the scrutiny and self-disclosure, Bono still has a sense of privacy.

“Believe it or not,” he says, laughing, “there’s certain things I don’t talk about. Certain things are off limits.

“I also felt like I had to really open up my life in order to have the kind of effect that I wanted to have in changing people’s perceptions about what it means to be transgender. I felt that in order to really do that, I had to let people get to know me.”

The physical aspect of changing genders receives the most attention, but Bono said the emotional changes have been more interesting, particularly “how people around you also have to go through a process of transition as well because you are different.”

One of those people — present, but not featured in the film — is Bono’s famous mother.

“I think she realized that if she was doing too much it could overshadow me and she respected that. Someone asked me recently if I consulted with my mother about all this,” he says, laughing. “I’m a 42-year-old man. I don’t consult with my mother that much about anything! I’m a grown up now, ya know?”


Becoming Chaz

Presented by Frameline

Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., San Francisco

When: 7 p.m. today


(415) 703-8655, www.frameline.org


SF Pride Parade

Where: Market Street, from Beale Street to Eighth Street, Civic Center Plaza, San Francisco

When: 10:30 a.m. Sunday

Free; grandstand seating available for $35

Contact: (415) 864-0831, www.sfpride.org

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