Editor's Note: Piers Morgan talks with Chaz Bono about his transformation and what it was like growing up with superstar parents on “Piers Morgan Tonight” at 9 ET Thursday night on CNN.
Last year, Chaz Bono was legally granted a name and gender change, and now the 42-year-old is opening up on what he calls the "slow process" toward living his true identity and revealing it to the world.
Knowing that as the child of Cher and the late Sonny Bono he didn’t exactly have a ton of privacy, Chaz opted to be upfront about his transition from female to male, he told Oprah Winfrey on her show Monday. He chronicles his change in the book “Transition: The Story of How I Became a Man” and in a documentary set to premiere on OWN Tuesday night.
“When I was really little it was clear to me that I felt like a boy. In puberty, I felt like my body was betraying me,” Chaz told Winfrey. “I went from a straight up-and-down little kid to a very curvaceous woman.”
Realizing that he was transgendered was “a slow process,” he explained. When he began to go through puberty and felt attracted to women, “I just made the obvious connection - I must be a lesbian,” he said.
“That identity worked for a little while. But as I got older, there was always this nagging feeling that I’m still not fitting in. I had happy times, I went through periods of happiness, but life was always so much more difficult.”
Getting older, getting sober, gaining maturity and seeking therapy helped to uncover the core of what he was struggling with, he said.
“I always had this idea that sure, I wish I was a boy...but I wasn’t and so I’d deal with it. There were other lesbians that felt that way and so that was part of that community,” he explained. “But then I realized that that wasn’t being a lesbian at all, that’s being transgendered.” Nonetheless, he still held on to that realization for years before deciding to do something about it.
"For me, it was about how I was perceived in the world," he said. "I wanted all of this [gesturing to his body] to match how I feel on the inside...I don’t doubt that I was born this way."
When Chaz made the decision to transition, one of the first people he told was his mother, Cher. The singer had been honest about her adjustment to Chaz coming out as a lesbian – “I wanted her to grow up, get married have a child, get divorced and live happily ever after,” Cher said on a 1998 episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” – but Chaz said she was as understanding as possible this time around.
“I [told Cher] I’ve been struggling with issues surrounding my gender for a long time, and this is something that I’m going to do,” Chaz recalled.
At first, “she was shockingly cool, but as reality set in, she began pulling away from me a little bit,” particularly when his voice began to change.
“The reality sets in and this is an incredibly difficult process for parents," Chaz said. "The hard thing for my mom is because she’s a public figure and because she has this personality of being so cool and progressive, people forget that she’s a parent. A lot of parents don’t speak to their transgendered kids.”
That’s not the case in their family, however. “There’s no doubt of her love for me," Chaz said. "It’s getting better and better. She’s moving in the right direction, it’s just a process.”