Chaz Bono — the transgender son of entertainer Cher and the late Sonny Bono — who recently announced he will be contestant this season on ABC’s hit show “Dancing With the Stars,” has set off both a firestorm of criticism, and a groundswell of support.
Bono has been attacked by online commentators over his gender identity and some “Dancing” fans and conservative media groups have criticized ABC for casting him in the first place.
One longtime “DWTS” insider said the criticism “has been more vicious and in larger volume than was anticipated,” the Chicago Sun-Times reported. “Some of the comments are downright scary,” the source added.
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On Friday, Dr. Keith Albow of Fox News called Bono “the ‘transsexual’ woman who underwent plastic surgery and takes male hormones in an effort to appear to be a man, and who asserts she is a man…,” and warned parents not to let their children watch the show:
“The last thing vulnerable children and adolescents need, as they wrestle with the normal process of establishing their identities, is to watch a captive crowd in a studio audience applaud on cue for someone whose search for an identity culminated with the removal of her breasts, the injection of steroids and, perhaps one day soon, the fashioning of a make-shift phallus to replace her vagina.”
The website OneMillionMoms.com said “Dancing With the Stars” has “spun out of control,” and called for a boycott of the series for casting Bono and openly gay performer Carson Kressley.
“Both are LGBT rights advocates and promote this destructive lifestyle. DWTS is helping them create visibility for the LGBT community,” the website said.
Bono himself has said the criticism has inspired him to work harder.
“I thought that it would be a challenge, I for so many years was so uncomfortable, and since transitioning I feel so comfortable now I want to do something physically challenging and fun in that way,” Bono said of his decision to join the cast.
“I thought it would be a great way to further my message I started with my book and my documentary.”
But among the criticism has also been widespread support.
“At a time when transgender representation in the media is sorely lacking, Chaz Bono joining the cast of a series like Dancing With the Stars is a tremendous step forward for the public to recognize that transgender people are an important part of the fabric of American culture,” said Herndon Graddick, GLAAD’s Senior Director of Programs.
Bono will be partnered on the show with dancer Lacey Schwimmer, who responded to criticism of her dance partner by saying, “No human is perfect, so why are they pointing out what they perceive to be an imperfection in someone else? It’s not cool. We’re all taught to not bully, or harass, and treat everyone as equals yet all these people are doing exactly the opposite.”
And Bono’s mother, Cher, took to Twitter in defense of her son and asked her fans to support him:
Bono’s representative Howard Bragman, told the Los Angeles Times that “the sky will not fall when Chaz Bono dances.”
“Parents will have a teachable moment with their children; transgendered kids will have a role model, and since that group has such a high suicide rate we may save a life; and finally we can see a transgendered person as a human being and not a label.”
“DWTS” Executive Producer Conrad Green addressed critics, and said, “We don’t have an agenda of any sorts. I think of the 120 celebrities we’ve put on the show, we’ve had, I think now, three transgender or gay contestants. If that’s a [gay] agenda, we’re not doing very well at it.”
The new season of “Dancing With the Stars” premieres Sept. 19 on ABC.