Chastity Bono was the blonde haired little girl who stole America's hearts in the 1970’s when she appeared on stage with her famous parents, the iconic musical duo Sonny and Cher.
That little girl is no more. Now emerging in her place is a strong and well adjusted adult who has gone through a lot emotionally and physically to embrace her true nature: that of a man.
As Chastity has gradually transformed into Chaz, he still has years before the gender reassignment (sex-change) procedures that he began in late 2008 will be completed.
In a candid new TV interview, Chaz revealed for the first time that he has already had his “female” breasts surgically removed as part of the gender reassignment.
He said it was easy to have them removed, and actually a "huge relief," because he had hated goning through puberty as a girl when his breasts had begun to grow.
"I'm going through another puberty right now -- the way it should have been," he said.
He laughed happily saying he "finally" feels like the male he has always been inside.
"I'm one of those who believes gender is between the ears, not between the legs," he said.
Chaz, 40, has is also writing a memoir about his transgender experiences, and has been photographed throughout the process to document the physical changes as they occurred.
The new interview, which will aired on Entertainment Tonight, is his first since the medical gender reassignment procedure began. In the interview, Chaz also acknowledged that he speaks in a deeper tone, adding that is a continuing process because hormones are changing his body.
"It happens in stages," Chaz said of his voice.
It takes about five years for all of the changes in his body to end, including the hormone treatment. There also may be additional surgery he will undergo for the reassignment to male.
Chaz tells ET that he felt like a male from, "the time I was a child."
The gender reassignment procedure is a long one by design, to ensure that the radical procedure is the right decision for each person who elects to undergo it. Doctors and therapists also work to help patients accept and understand the overt and subtle changes occurring over time in their bodies. It is also painful, patients not only enduring various surgical procedures both minor and major, but also recovering and adapting to the changes that are happening to their bodies.
Chaz acknowledged the changes, including beginning to grow facial hair.
"I shave about once a week now,” describing the hair as "peach fuzz."
"It's great, I've always wanted to shave," he added, laughing.
The hormone treatments also have numerous drawbacks, leaving most looking quite bloated until their “new” bodies adjust to the gender reassignment.
Chaz publicly announced his decision to undergo gender reassignment in June 2009. “After many years of consideration, Chaz has made the courageous decision to honor his true identity,” said publicist Howard Bragman at the time. “He is proud of his decision and grateful for the support and respect that has already been shown by his loved ones.”
Chaz’ life-partner Jennifer Elia, and her famous mother, Cher, 63, are supporting him with the decision. Once the sex-change is fully completed, it is expected that the couple will exchange vows in a commitment ceremony.
Chastity had endured a life-long struggle with her identity, and only came-out as a lesbian in 1995 when she graced the cover of The Advocate magazine, which was just one year before her then-partner Joan had died of lymphoma.
Both her parents had trouble recognizing their child's sexuality. Her father, Sonny, who was a Congressman at the time, actually voted to deny same sex marriages before he died tragically in a skiing accident.
However, after Chaz announced the transgender procedure, superstar Cher publicly backed the decision made by her daughter to become a man.
On June 12, 2009 Chastity/Chaz announced in an interview with ABC's Good Morning America, that she would be undergoing a sex change operation to become a man. Even then, Chastity was already referring to herself, as male. Chastity Bono said she would forever be known as Chaz Bono.
During the Good Morning America interview, Chaz said that Cher was lugubrious when she learned that he preferred the company of females. "Cher went ballistic," Chaz said.
“You have to remember that Cher was thinking of her cute little blond haired baby girl, when hearing this information,” Chaz explained.
Reportedly, Chaz and his mother are already planning to launch a reality show after the gender transition process is completed.
When then-Chastity told Sonny about her plans to become a man, he was a little more tolerant, but sadly their relationship eventually became strained.
At the time of the interview with ABC's Good Morning America, Chaz had yet to undergone an operation to further her transition toward being a male, but had been undergoing counseling and was beginning drug therapy to begin the change.
In the pivotal 1995 interview in The Advocate, the leading American gay and lesbian news-magazine, Chaz first publicly identified herself as a lesbian, and on June this year it was publicly announced that Chaz would undergo the gender reassignment, after years of anguish as to whether she should actually go ahead with the procedure.
Chaz initiated the procedure by taking hormone injections around June 2008. The gender reassignment is scheduled to be completed sometime this year. Reportedly, Chaz also underwent an invasive gastric “band” lapro-scopic operation to limit food intake and ensure the final steps of his gender transition.
After the completion of the entire procedure, Chaz is expected to publicly highlight the issues confronted by the transgender community. Thursday’s interview is a step toward that goal. As the most famous celebrity in the US to have undergone the procedure, Chaz is expected to be able to provide encouragement to other people struggling with the same decision.
The terminology surrounding gender issues can be confusing. "Transgender man,", "transmale," and "affirmed male" have all been used to refer to a biological female who transitions to a male.
What exactly does transitioning mean? It's the period during which somebody starts to live as his/her new gender. It can include changing a name or legal documents, taking hormones, and getting surgery. One misconception is that transitioning requires surgery. It doesn't. As Mara Keisling, the Executive Director for the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) told CBS News, "Most transsexuals don't get surgery. This is about gender identity, not about genitals."
There's a lot of controversy and confusion but experts agree on two crucial concepts:
1) Being transgender is not a choice.2) Biological sex and gender identity are two different things.
There are people whose external appearance is female but who have felt they were male since they were toddlers - and vice-versa. Norman P. Spack, M.D., an endocrinologist at Children's Hospital in Boston, Dept. of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, has been treating transgender patients since 1985 and significant numbers of teenagers since 1998.
Most of his patients have told him "as far back as they can really remember that they were in the wrong body." Dr. Spack said, "there's a heavy skew to under 6 years."