The season before last, I really got into the gay drama of Dancing with the Stars, because one of my besties, Margaret Cho, was a contestant on the show. I got to sit floor-side a couple of times with my girlfriend and Margaret’s parents to watch Louie twirl her around live in some of the gayest sequined outfits I’ve ever seen. I also learned a little too much about the behind-the-scenes drama, like which contestant’s mom is a complete racist, which dancer had been practicing for years before officially being invited to the show, and that in person, the Hoff is a tall, scrawny, old man.
I was sucked in for the whole three weeks that Margaret was on the show, and she did really well. After she got the boot I was pissed; there were far worse dancers apparently being kept on the show by producers to guarantee that the red states would keep watching for weeks to come. Sans Margaret, I vowed not to watch the show ever again. I realize that if it weren’t for Margaret’s appearance on the show, I’d still be oblivious to what “#DWTS” meant.
More than a month ago, I was in my living room tapping away on my computer when this season’s DWTS big pre-show announcement was hitting all the TV gossip zines with the list of stars who had signed on to dance. I wasn’t paying any attention until I heard “blah, blah, blah, Chaz Bono,” and my dog ears immediately went up. Being a trans guy myself, I seem to be extra in-tune when I hear another trans person’s name in the news; it was like a dog whistle that only I could hear. I peered over the glare of my laptop to see what this breaking news about Chaz was. When I realized that it was a DWTS announcement, I was like, “Fuck, Chaz is on the show… now I gotta watch that shit again!”
I’ve been watching my T-brother perform every week, and I think he’s amazing for what he’s endured physically in rehearsals and the pressure of live show performances. We saw first-hand how the performers can crack under the pressure. I’m not going to name names, but let’s just say, “I know that there is pain, but you hold on for one more day, break free from the chains…” From what I understand, the rehearsals are absolutely friggin’ brutal for everyone competing: six to eight hours a day of intense cardio work, contorting and moving your body in ways it never has, and memorizing every step, praying to the dance gods that you don’t injure your hot partner or yourself with that final dip.
Speaking of hot dance partners, how about Chaz’s booty-popping partner, Lacey Schwimmer?! She seems to me to be the most queer-friendly dance pro on the show and I love her for it! She took on gay boy-band icon Lance Bass a few seasons ago, and Steve-O after that. OK, Steve-O is not necessarily gay, but I’m counting him on our team for the dozens of homoerotic acts he was coaxed into doing by his male castmates on MTV’s Jackass. Come on, you know a lot of that shit was seriously gayyyyyyy. Anyway, I love to pretend that Lacey Schwimmer is either a Queer High Femme or a beautiful trans woman dancing with Chazzle; it just makes the show far more digestible. Kudos to Ms. Schwimmer, who made it a complete non-issue to dance with Mr. Bono. For that I consider her queer family!
Aside from the physical and mental pressure to perform, I imagine the most difficult task of all for Chaz was remaining as gracious as he’s been in the media, while countless knuckle-draggers freely and cruelly make commentary on his irrelevant trans-ness on the show, many vowing to boycott. Listen up, mouth-breathers, no one fucking cares if you boycott, just like no one cares if I do.
Chaz being cast on DWTS was groundbreaking, not controversial. I will never understand people who attempt to disagree with things that are inarguable and inherently not theirs to dispute in the first place. I believe anyone who elects to share their identity with me is telling the truth, no matter what their body might say to the world or their biological history. How people feel about their bodies and choose to identify their gender is simply not up for public debate. Chaz’s gender, mine and yours is not up for fucking question; we are who we say we are.
My dog ears went up again when they announced that Cher was going to be in the audience to watch her son’s DWTS live performance, which makes me think that the producers of the show were either A) looking for a ratings boost and think Cher will have the “you betcha” Sarah Palin effect, except this time in the gay, blue states, or B) taking Chaz’s dance card away and wanted his iconic mom to come see him in his fairwell performance. What? You thought your votes counted on the show?
Well, we now know the answer: Cher was a big hit!
I just want to say “thank you” to Chaz for making trans history, staying strong and diplomatic in the face of idiots, focusing on the positive, and continuing to bring the conversation to the table — and not just any table, but the primetime network fucking television table! You go, activist Chaz Bono, my trans brother. Keep on dancing — I hope you make it all the way to mirror ballz!