October 2, 2012

Chaz Bono: Q&A with Martin Weinberg and Jennifer Bass

Professor Martin Weinberg of the Department of Sociology and Jennifer Bass, the Communications Director for the Kinsey Institute, worked to bring Chaz Bono to campus. Bono will speak at IU Auditorium on Wednesday, October 4 at 8:00 pm. Here they discuss the relevance of the lecture and what it should teach its audience members.

1. How does Chaz Bono's talk relate to good and bad behavior?

WEINBERG: We see hateful folk who BEHAVE BADLY—who seek to humiliate sexual and gender minorities, physically harm them—even kill them. (And this is the tragic story portrayed in the film, “Boys Don’t Cry,” to be shown at the IU Cinema on Oct. 15.) We also see the GOOD BEHAVIOR of those who support these minorities in their quest for acceptance. As to the “in general” part of your question, the same is true regardless of what minority is being considered—not just sex and gender minorities. When people are just being the people they are and not victimizing others, why should they be victimized?

BASS: This is not just about the behavior of one person who transitions from female to male, but about how society reacts to this personal decision. People who are transgendered suffer from discrimination, physical and sexual abuse; in this case, we are interested in the behavior of those who are not transgendered, and why trans individuals are targets of these negative behaviors.

2. Why was Chaz Bono chosen to address this subject matter? Was anyone else considered?

WEINBERG: Chaz was my first and only thought as a person to bring to IU. When it was announced that he would appear on Dancing with the Stars, all kinds of threats were being directed toward him (including death threats) as well as the TV network! I thought: wow, this is a natural for Themester!

BASS: As a public person, and a celebrity, Chaz can attract an audience who otherwise might shy away from discussions on gender identity and transgender issues. Though he is just one person, we hope that Chaz’s story will interest a wide range of students, who otherwise would not be tempted to come out for a lecture by an LGBT activist. Chaz Bono has become a very prominent spokesperson for transgender rights.

3. What do you hope audience members will learn from the discussion with Chaz Bono?

WEINBERG: I hope they will feel enriched by his story. I hope it resonates with them. I hope it gets them to understand that people who are different from those in modal groups can still be good people. And, finally, I hope it motivates them to support the cause of groups who are so “counted out.”

BASS: We hope that Chaz’s lecture will spark discussion on issues of gender identity, and understanding and compassion for those who struggle with feelings of being disconnected from their biological bodies.

Amber Hendricks
Themester 2012 intern

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