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Gay Pride grand marshal Chaz Bono: No dancing around questions about transition, LGBT politics

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

Sonny & Cher’s only child knew early in life there would be no privacy, no matter what. Not in 1995 when Chastity Bono announced she was a lesbian or 15 years later when Chaz Bono confirmed he was transgender.

“There’ve been times in my life where I had to come to that conclusion. I really don’t have a choice in it so I’m going to take the situation and make the best of it,” says Bono, grand marshal of Sunday’s Miami Beach Gay Pride Parade and a speaker Monday at Florida International University.

Bono, 43, says his second-coming out was the toughest.

“It was much harder when I was trans and having to do a transition and do it in the public eye,” he says. “It took years and years to get the courage to do that.”

Bono, who documented his journey in the book Transition: Becoming Who I was Always Meant to Be (updated in paperback available May 29), says there is still much misunderstanding about gender identity, even in the gay community.

“We’re a part of the community that the general public knows little about. Maybe there are some people in the LGBT community who are more involved in the community and politics and have more awareness, but it’s really limited,” Bono says. “With some exceptions, I don’t think there is as much understanding in the LGBT community as there is in the general public.”

Bono has well-documented his famous mother’s personal struggle adjusting to life with a son, not a daughter. Cher eventually became Chaz’s biggest cheerleader when he competed last season on Dancing With the Stars.

Parents Sonny and Cher divorced in 1975 when Chaz was 6. Sonny later became a politician and was elected a congressman from California in 1994. He died four years later in a skiing accident and his widow, Mary, succeeded him in the House.

“Mary and I have always gotten along very well since we first met. I was 14,” Bono says. “I’m a staunch Democrat. Mary’s a moderate conservative. She’s not got a bad record on LGBT issues. She will hopefully continue to follow her heart and mind on these things. We don’t talk politics very much. I learned from my dad not to let politics get in the way.”

In 2007, Mary Bono married U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV of Fort Myers, a Republican now running for U.S. Senate in Florida.

“Mary and Connie have been incredibly supportive of my transition from the beginning,” Bono says. “I spent Christmas with them and had an amazing time.”

Bono says its important for LGBT activists to work with both Democrats and Republicans.

“It’s so important. One of the things that frustrates me so much about the political system, it seems the two parties have gotten so far apart. I feel there is common ground that anyone can find, even one small kernel. It’s time to build with what we have in common.”

IF YOU GO

  • Chaz Bono will be grand marshal of the Miami Beach Gay Pride parade on Sunday, Ocean Drive from 5th to 14th streets.
  • Bono will also speak 6:30 p.m. Monday at FIU’s Wolfe University Center Ballrooms at the Biscayne Bay Campus, 300 NE 151st St., North Miami. Free for students, faculty and alumni; $10 advance; $20 at door. Call 305-919-5524 for tickets.

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