Chaz Bono’s TV appearance sparks ‘Dancing’ boycottAround the Nation, Bottom Highlights Wednesday, September 21st, 2011
LGBT activists call for ‘Pro Bono’ parties
Legendary civil rights activist Robin Tyler and famed civil rights attorney Gloria Allred would like you to forget the traditional meaning of the term “pro bono” – at least for the next couple of weeks.
Instead of professional services rendered free of charge, think of Pro Bono as a Dancing with the Stars (DWTS) viewing (and voting) party in support of Chaz Bono, transgender son of entertainment icon, Cher.
However unintentionally, Bono has become the transgender community’s living symbol of hope, strength and defiance against vitriolic hate. Since ABC Television announced that Bono would appear on DWTS, he has faced vile slurs and death threats from a group of trans-phobic women and men.
Longtime friends, Tyler and Allred, along with comedian Belinda Carroll, recently launched what is fast becoming a viral Facebook campaign to inspire members of the LGBT community and others to host and attend Pro Bono viewing parties. The movement is meant to counteract a right-wing effort to stir up a boycott of the hit ABC celebrity show because of Bono’s scheduled appearance.
“This is completely unacceptable and Christians should not watch the show, no excuses!” One Million Moms wrote in a public statement calling for the entire country to boycott DWTS.
Dancing with the Stars premieres Sept. 19, so there have been no viewing parties yet. However, some viewing party venues will incorporate dancing as part of their support-Chaz efforts.
“Of course, the most important thing you and your friends can do at a viewing party is to pick up your cell phone or landline and vote for Chaz Bono,” Tyler told San Diego LGBT Weekly during a phone interview. “We need to show this country that this is a new day, a day when people in the LGBT community and mainstream society tolerate and celebrate people who are different from them; and that we won’t tolerate hate and bigotry.”
For his part, Bono, an accomplished author, journalist, LGBT activist as well as a celebrity in his own right, is circumspect about the boycott.
“People who don’t have gender dysphasia aren’t going to catch it by watching me on television,” he said during a recent edition of ABC’s Good Morning America, adding that the only thing he will be talking about during his appearance on DWTS will be dancing.
So why all the controversy?
“People like to feel comfortable,” Tyler said. “Some people feel their comfort zone being threatened anytime something new or different enters their life directly or indirectly.”
Tyler and wife Diane Olson were the first same-sex couple to marry in California during the brief period in 2008 when such marriages were legally recognized in the state. A fitting advent, considering Tyler’s and Olson’s fight for the right to marry each other after 17 years together ultimately became the historic state supreme court case that led to the undoing of California’s ban on same-sex marriage. Of course, Proposition 8 reversed the state’s policy on same-sex marriage. Nevertheless, according to Tyler, gay people enjoy new heights of acceptance in society, acceptance that still eludes their transgender brothers and sisters.
“Now, it’s become acceptable to be gay or lesbian,” she said. “Even though we still don’t have marriage equality, that is coming; and we’ve started to become comfortable.”
Tyler says the temptation to get overly comfortable and rest on our collective laurels as gay men and lesbian women with newfound acceptance and inclusion is great. She fears that threatens similar progress for the trans community.
While transgender people are most vulnerable to violence, bullying, isolation and oppression, they’re not the only ones at risk, according to Tyler.
“If you’re a masculine gay male, or a lipstick lesbian, society will accept you,” she said. “I’m talking about our own communities as well as overall society … but, if you’re an effeminate boy or man, a butch woman or girl or a transgendered person, you can find yourself the target of horrific treatment at the hands of people who are full of hatred and fear.”
Two transgender San Diego women couldn’t agree more.
“You’ve got to remember, we live in a world full of hatred,” said Cinnamon Brooks of San Diego. “I’m not surprised by the hatred these people are spewing.”
Having just learned about the Pro Bono viewing party campaign, Brooks is considering hosting one.
“Of course our friends support us,” Brooks told San Diego LGBT Weekly. “But in order to educate people who actually think we are, and call us ‘freaks,’ we need more education.”
Brooks believes that, for the most part, gay men and lesbians are sufficiently supportive of the trans community. But, she believes there’s plenty of room for improvement.
Emile Olea, a transgender woman who lives in the Los Angeles area but spends her weekends in San Diego, is less complementary to gays and lesbians.
“No,” she said. “There’s not enough support. It’s my experience that people in our community are caring and loving of their transgender friends, but not so much to transgender strangers.”
Olea, a Cal Poly student, is impressed by Chaz Bono.
“He is very courageous to be doing this,” she said. “I’m inspired by him. I’m going to try to be a part of hosting a viewing party.”
As of press time, San Diego LGBT Weekly found no Pro Bono viewing parties scheduled for the San Diego area. Those interested can search “Pro Bono viewing party” on Facebook, or tweet their interest to “WeSupportChaz” on Twitter.
“When it comes to civil rights and overcoming hate on the scale of this group called One Million Moms – who I doubt have anything like a million moms – one person can be very powerful,” Tyler said.
Tyler had a colorful analogy to help novice activists get started with their own viewing parties.
“If we look at the problem as a mountain of shit, all we need to bring it down is for each one of us to shovel away a single spoonful. That’s how grassroots campaigns succeed, and we must defeat injustice wherever we find it.”
Short URL: http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=15090