I’m the kind of person who thinks you should own up to who you are. Put it right out there, unabashed, and unbowed. If you don’t like me, ignore me, shun me, unfriend me on Facebook and unfollow me on Twitter. I am what I am. So I’m going to say this right out loud, without explanation or apology. You can mock me. Snicker under your breath. Roll your eyes if you must, but here it is: I am a Dancing with the Stars fan.
I like everything about that show from the sequins and the spandex costumes to flamboyant judge Bruno Tonioli’s innuendo-laden evaluations of the dancers. I root for wardrobe malfunctions. I replay falls. I boo loudly when Len Goodman gives a low score for nontraditional choreography, even if it wakes the dog. At the risk of alienating everyone who reads this, I admit to having harbored an unspoken hope Paul McCartney’s ex-wife Heather Mills would lose her prosthesis on a risky move and Carrie Ann Inaba would still penalize her for performing an illegal lift.
The one line I have not yet crossed on my decent to sycophant status is to call in my vote for my favorite couple. But this upcoming season, I’m going to, and I hope I can persuade you to do the same. Because this season something unprecedented is happening on Dancing with the Stars. Chaz Bono, the only child of Cher and the late singer/congressman Sonny Bono, who announced he was transitioning last year, will be taking to the dance floor with professional dancer Lacey Schwimmer as his partner.
“The Gay” as Rachel Maddow would say, has always been a part of Dancing with the Stars. At least one of those lithe and limber professional dancers is openly-gay; Louis VanAmstel, who has been with the show since Season One. There has also been an openly-gay dancing “star,” Lance Bass. And this season Carson Kressley will be attempting to quick step and fox trot his way to the Mirror Ball Trophy.
Maybe it’s a sign of our maturing society that there has been no hue and cry over any of those gay dancers. The show went on without ratings fluctuations or picketers outside the studio. Good old boy Tom DeLay still participated. The Sarah Palin crowd didn’t condemn her for allowing Bristol to be in such close proximity to “the gay.” No one cared. Way to go America! Then came the Bono announcement, and the reaction has not been kind.
Admittedly, the country has not had a lot of high-profile transgender people to peek in on, so the haters crawling out from under their rocks at the thought of something outside their experience should not be unexpected. But crawl they did, sliming Chaz with every nasty insult and ignorant remark they have vocabulary enough to compose. I won’t repeat them here. But I will call your attention to the man who is enduring the insult, Chaz Bono, in his own way, every bit the groundbreaker his famous parents were in the days of hippies and the Peace Movement. And the beat goes on….
So that first night, when the dancing is done, I am going to vote for Chaz Bono. If he’s the worst dancer out there, if he falls and breaks an ankle, if he splits the seam of his shiny dancing tights and runs off the stage, I am still going to vote for him, and I hope you will too. Vote for his courage, for his dignity under attack. Vote in appreciation for his willingness to take the lead in shining a light on the fact that there are many wonderful transgender souls out there, and saying, “Look at us. We’re good people too.” Those are also the reasons why, this week, Chaz Bono is on our radar.
Jean Ann Esselink is straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle.
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