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All That Chaz

Cher’s son has transitioned so far that he doesn’t consider himself transgender – just call him a dude
By Nelson Branco
Don’t call him transgender. Forget about labeling him a LGBTQ2 activist. And pass on mentioning, “You’re Cher’s famous son.” Yep, Chaz Bono is just a dude trying to reclaim what is rightfully his by living his best life in the body he was meant to live in.

Call it post-transitioning.

In 2008, Chaz Bono made headlines when he bravely announced to the world he was transitioning from woman to man. His journey was even profiled in the Sundance/OWN original three-time Emmy-nominated docu-series Becoming Chaz.

Born Chastity Sun Bono after the film Chastity, the 46-year-old Los Angeles native captured the hearts and imagination of fans worldwide thanks to ‘her’ appearances on The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour as the most adorable tyke that came down the pike.

Fast forward to 2016: the trans movement is ubiquitous with the boldface likes of Caitlyn Jenner, fitness model Ben Melze and Orange is the New Black’s Laverne Cox speaking up for the arguably less visible minority – and being embraced by mainstream media.

But the former trans ‘spokesperson’ has moved on. Today, Bono is single and focused on carving out a career in the bitch-eat-bitch world of acting. And the actor is doing relatively well: he booked a recurring gig as Reverend Rydell on the most watched daily serial in the world, The Bold and the Beautiful. He debuted on March 31 – and the character’s gender and sexuality is not mentioned in the script thus far.

IN spoke with Bono about the progress the transgender movement has earned in recent years thanks to his groundbreaking contributions, if Cher is advising him on his Hollywood aspirations, and what he thinks of Jenner endorsing GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.

You’re pursuing acting full time.

Acting is something I’ve always wanted to do. I studied acting when I was younger at a performing arts high school but acting is the one profession you need to be confident in your body to do. Because of that, I had to give acting up. I didn’t know why but I knew I wasn’t going to be very good at playing a crying female. But acting has always been one of my great loves and passions. Three and a half years ago, I leapt right back in – and it quickly changed my life.

As LGBT members, most of us are forced to act straight at an early age to pass by in society. Do you think you have a leg up with an arsenal of life experience?

I don’t think about that, honestly. I’m not a method actor. Some characters are really easy and fun to get into, while other roles are more challenging. There’s no rhyme or reason. I’m very attracted to darker characters and parts that are against type. I seem to shine the most in those parts. There are still barriors I have to overcome because [I’m a trans actor.] When people look at my clips and meet me, I mainly have positive experiences. The best part of doing B&B is that I actually got paid real money to act! Usually, I work for free on web shows or low-budget movie projects. There’s always a loophole so it was nice to be paid to act.

As a pioneer, are you pleased that the transgender movement is more and more mainstream? Cool, even?

Honestly, it’s not something I think about very often. I’m singular focused on my career and trying to be an actor. I have tunnel vision. I don’t see myself necessarily as trans but a man.

It’s cool that you’re starting from the ground up… even though your mother, Cher, is an Oscar winner. Has she given you any advice or have you just told her to shut up and allow you do your own thing.

My mom’s been amazing. She’s been a tremendous ally. When I get discouraged, and that has happened, she’s the person I go to because I can really clearly remember how it was for her to be taken seriously as an actor. She always cheers me up when she tells me these horrible stories that can never compare to anything I’m going through! She has great advice. Of course, she has an opinion on everything I do, which now I really embrace. I really appreciate how brutally honest she is with me. So far I’m batting a good average with her.

I know you guys have had some hurdles in your relationship but it sounds like you’re closer than ever?

Yes, it’s taken us some time to get to this place. I’m blessed.

How would your father, the late, great Sonny Bono react to you being an actor?

Ultimately, he would be totally into it and supportive because he always wanted me to do something in the entertainment world. Looking back, it makes me a bit sad for him because he wasn’t as happy when he wasn’t in the entertainment world working as he was with other career choices.

Is performing in your DNA? Or is it just nurture?

I don’t know. I think certain things are genetic and other things are nurture. For example, growing up, I got to watch my parents’ amazing work ethic which was a big part of their success. Talent is genetic. You see a lot of second and third generation kids who grew up to be really good. But it’s not easy because nepotism is really looked down upon in this town. It never made sense to me because so many people have carved out unique careers for themselves with a famous last name. It’s like, “Hey, c’mon…”

You look amazing these days… what are you doing?

I have to really watch everything I put in my body and exercise … and all that kind of stuff. I always like to be a few pounds thinner … but I’m so much healthier now. I never thought I would be a super skinny person but I’m pretty healthy and I think I look OK.

Your type lends itself to being a successful character actor – which usually translates into longevity in Hollywood.

I agree. That’s what I would like to be: a character actor. That excites and turns me on because they’re the best parts. I have friends who are great looking and they struggle with finding the parts they really want to play.

Thoughts on your crazy U.S. presidential election? Are you and your mom planning to move to Canada?

It’s funny… my mom and I were talking about where we would move if [GOP frontrunner] Donald Trump became president but hopefully that won’t happen.

I’ve got a few spare rooms in case…

I hope Hillary Clinton will be elected and my mom and I can continue to live in California!

Did you want to comment on Caitlyn Jenner claiming the Republicans will do better by the transgender community? What is Caitlyn smoking?

[Laughs] I don’t know what she’s thinking. She rendered me speechless with that comment. She’s wrong, obviously.

Because you transitioned later in life, do you feel like you’re catching up to your physical age?

Yes and no. I feel like I’m playing catch-up in a sense … because I transitioned late in life. My life really didn’t start until then. And now I’m trying to come out in living my career as an actor which was delayed too. In a weird sense, I feel creatively and enthusiastically as I was at 17 … wanting to be an actor but it’s 20 years later. That’s why I’m so focused on the acting part of my life and less about my transition because I really don’t have any time to waste. It’s something I have to make happen sooner rather than late.

Any nuggets of wisdom as you’ve aged?

I don’t feel old, really. Aging is weird because I don’t feel old except for my body sometimes – and my hairline! The people I work with are young, so I’m always the oldest person in the room. Luckily, I don’t look my age. People usually clock me in my 30s. I’m not sure what 40 is supposed to feel like but I know it’s not what I thought it would. There’s a maturity, obviously, of me living on the planet for this long that I can appreciate. I’m happy in the sense that I know what I want. I don’t have a fear, like I did earlier in life because it’s scary, but I feel like a kid. I don’t have a lot of responsibilities most people my age have: I don’t have a wife, I don’t have kids.

Are you not ready to make Cher a grandmother right now?

I really don’t want them. It’s not something I’m interested in. I really like how my life is. I can’t imagine my life becoming about another person. I’ve watched my friends’ lives change so much in the past five years because of their families – and I don’t want that.

Are you single?

I am single.

Ready to mingle?

I’m open to it. Dating as a transgender person is not the easiest thing in the world. I haven’t been very successful at navigating the dating waters! [Laughs] Dating isn’t a priority right now because of my acting.

Does Cher meddle? Or does she leave you alone?

God, no. My mom gets the career thing and how important it is.

How does Chaz unwind?

I’m a big gamer. I’m not sure how many people know that but that’s my favourite way to unwind. I don’t get to vacation much. At this point, all my extra money goes towards producing theatre. I’d rather spend my money on creating art than on some vacation.

Spoken like a true artist.

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