More fail in the NY Times profile of Chaz Bono: Sexism, no matter who says it

Chaz BonoAs Vanessa wrote yesterday, author Cintra Wilson (who has a history of fail) comes off pretty terribly in her New York Times profile of Chaz Bono. You know who else ends up looking bad? Chaz Bono.

Given Wilson’s self centered, transphobic (yes, even though she has trans friends!) article, I’m willing to give Bono the benefit of the doubt. He could be quoted pretty out of context, without qualifying statements that add nuance, Wilson certainly could have pushed for this sort of quote, and in a short profile it’s all on her that this is what gets attention. Bono deserves a lot of credit for speaking so bravely and publicly about his experience. Having said all that, this is just sexist:

“I never really understood women before, to be honest, but I had a tolerance for women that I don’t have now.”

I laughed. Chaz blushed.

“No, really. There is something in testosterone that makes talking and gossiping really grating. I’ve stopped talking as much. I’ve noticed that Jen can talk endlessly.” He shrugged. “I just kind of zone out.”

“You just don’t care!”

“I just don’t care!” He laughed. “I’ve learned that the differences between men and women are so biological. I think if people realized that, it would be easier. I would be a great relationship counselor. I know the difference that hormones really make.”


I don’t care how new testosterone is to your body, it’s no excuse to talk about women in such a condescending way.

Sadly, this sort of narrative of the trans man who becomes sexist has happened in the media before, including a lousy episode of This American Life about testosterone. And it’s a shame. I’ve watched plenty of my trans guy friends go through transition super conscious about the shifts happening in their bodies, knowing they’d have to be even more deliberate about their feminism as men in the world who also might be experiencing changes like increased sexual desire, which the article goes on to talk about. I want that to be the gender role model. Not this crap of using trans guys to reify gender essentialism and sexism.

I don’t care how much of your brain is in your crotch. It’s no excuse to be a dick.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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  • Amanda

    This is really disappointing, since his appearance on Oprah is going to make Chaz the best candidate for bringing more acceptance in society of trans men and women. You can’t increase tolerance of one group of people by alienating another, which is what he’s doing with his comments about women here! And poor Jennifer- not only does she get dragged into the spotlight for her relationship with Chaz, he makes it worse by saying shitty things about her to a reporter. Nice.

  • nazza

    I’ve been on testosterone for the past nine months to treat hypogonadism. Somehow, I find myself just as chatty as I always was. And though I’m taking testosterone to treat a biological condition, I find certain biological differences between men and women, but way more instances where basic socialization is clearly an issue.

    Testosterone is powerful stuff, but I’ll be honest here. I see a blend between biological differences and socialization, so much so that I can’t often separate the two.

  • Mike

    Thank you for this post. That really bugged me when I read it for the reason stated; it seemed like a way to explain away behavior that could have other factors that aren’t biological or hormone-based.

    I’m not a trans man, but did require testosterone treatments several years ago. Obviously it makes a difference in a lot of ways, but I was actually afraid how it would change my behavior and my identity as a man. Eventually I figured out it doesn’t have to change any of that.

  • Marisa

    Thanks, Jos. I too, have trans guys in my life (including my partner) who are the raddest feminist, binary-breaking, gender role models. What makes me afraid–and this is not to take away from Chaz’s courage in coming out so publicly–is the seemingly unending push to use trans guys in the mainstream media to reinforce the gender binary, sexism, and gender essentialism…and have that be “average America’s” only exposure to trans identity and issues. For instance, I feel empathy for transitioning people’s mothers, and would hope not to invalidate the emotions of another woman, but I’m more worried about the incredible violence and poverty that strikes the trans community than Cher’s personal shock. I don’t want trans books with subtitles like “The Story of How I Became a Man” to be read instead of “Gender Outlaw.” Like you wrote, what I want is for great gender role models to be heard.

  • Alexander

    As a trans man, these quotes greatly disturb me. When I talk to people about my experience, I openly acknowledge the effects hormones have had on me. And, yes, they have influenced how I process information and feelings. But to say “the differences between men and women are so biological” is dismissing socialization, free will, and the responsibilities of being a decent human being. The increase of sexual desire is real, but it’s not an excuse to start behaving like a chimpanzee. Yes, it’s difficult dealing with new emotions or thought processes. But that’s your signal to analyze what’s going on and to adjust your reaction to those feelings as appropriate. Unless, of course, you’re happy coming across as an insensitive jerk.

  • LP

    Give him some time. He’s new at being a boy. Hopefully he’ll grow up into a decent man once he’s done with his middle-school-stupid period.

  • athenia

    Thank you for pointing this out Jos! I had the same reaction when I read that.

  • L

    Sorry to say but I don’t completely agree. While the remark in question is certainly in poor taste, that does not make Chaz’s whole story or position bad. I’m astounded that the critique is so short-sighted that it loses the pro-feminist & gay forrest for the poor remark trees. I also find the writer’s lack of due diligence a sign of low journalistic integrity. By not seeing the documentary, and not reporting on the whole story (the book and the appearances, not just one remark), this perspective is overly simplistic, unprofessional and biased in this situation. I hope that both she and the Times writer learn from their mistakes so they can offer the grounded critiques we need from our press.

  • Jill Gaulding

    I mean no disrespect to Chaz when I say he might want to read up before he blames testosterone for his new-found dislike for all that girly chatting. Studies do not support the stereotype that women talk more than menmen may even talk more, depending on the circumstances. But, you know, it is so much more fun (and news-worthy) to talk up the gender stereotype…


  • emmie

    Wow, just wow. You know, before I really admired Chaz for having the courage to come out and talk about his experiences as a trans man. But now with this whole thing, if the article and his quotes are actually true, then I just lost a LOT of respect for him. I mean, even though he always felt like a man, you would think that for spending the first almost forty years of his life as a “woman” that he would have MUCH more respect for them, and what we go through. Because he technically went through the same thing as well! It’s just ridiculous! And you know, this article is probably going to upset a lot of trans gendered people, especially trans gendered men. Because the majority of trans men are actually very lovely and kind and would never talk or even think this way. And what an asshat for talking so much crap about his own girlfriend like that! I’d be very surprised if she actually stays with him. And that whole “biological” thing about women talking more is just complete BS, men do the same thing too! It seems clear that he really doesn’t care all that much about his girlfriend, (or any woman for that matter). He said it himself, for years he only “tolerated” women, and now he pretty much said that he just can’t stand them. Then why does he bother staying with Jennifer? If she is a “waste of his time” and just “zones” her out when she “talks too much”, then why bother wanting to be with her? He doesn’t like her, and doesn’t respect her enough to hear what she has to say, then why not just give up on relationships? God he disgusts me.

  • Julianabritto

    Ah, it scares me to hear people talk like this. Are we still naturalizing gender as biological? Really? Chaz of all people should know sooooo much better.