‘Transition: The Story of How I Became a Man’ by Chaz Bono

In Transition: The Story of How I Became a Man (Dutton) Chaz Bono, the only child of Sonny Bono and Cher publicly explores the intimate details of his adult life as he struggled to come to terms with his gender identity, and his ultimate decision to transition from female to male.

Through the book, we follow Chaz as he grapples with addiction, family rejection, and personal triumph as he becomes the man he always wanted to be.

There has been a great deal of attention surrounding the release of the book, and it suggests an exciting moment of visibility for the transgender community as a whole, and particularly trans men.

Transition offers a basic, though in-depth, look into the experiences that arise when someone transitions, both for the individual as well as their friends and family. Chaz speaks in great detail about the effects transition has had on his family, social life, and self esteem, as well as the actual physical changes themselves.

For an audience unfamiliar, or new to ideas of transition, Chaz’s detailed descriptions offer an important window into the life of one transgender man, and perhaps offers an opportunity for greater understanding of transgender people in general. Also, for newly out transgender people, or those struggling with coming out, the candidness with which Chaz speaks about the struggles his girlfriend, Jenny, and his mother had understanding and accepting his decision/need to transition could be especially powerful.

The writing in Transition was not particularly compelling, and read much more as a tabloid magazine than a memoir. I was also repeatedly concerned by the biologically reductive aspects of some of his analysis of what transitioning has meant to him.

Chaz repeatedly resorts to misogynistic and sexist arguments, such as that women talk too much or are too emotionally needy, in order to validate his own gender and create distance between himself and the women in his life including, and perhaps especially, his girlfriend.

In recent years, we have seen an immense growth of transgender literary representation. This, in conjunction with mainstream culture’s at least basic understanding of the existence of transgender people, leaves me wondering if perhaps we have reached a place where it is no longer enough for a transgender memoir, even one written by child of celebrities, to simply be a coming out story.
Transition: The Story of How I Became a Man
by Chaz Bono
With Billie Fitzpatrick
Dutton Adult
Hardcover, 9780525952145256, 256p
May 2011