Transgender Lifestyles and Parenting
Chaz Bono on ABC's Dancing with the Stars sparks controversy and discussion among many American families.
Article courtesy of FamilySignal.com
As fans of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” may already know, the show’s 13th season has been the subject of controversy since the announcement that Chaz Bono, child of Sony and Cher, would be joining the cast. Chaz, who was born Chastity, underwent gender reassignment surgery in 2010 and legally changed his gender from female to male. Bono will be the first transgendered individual to appear on DWTS, and his presence has sparked a slew of comments on ABC’s message boards and elsewhere, including several that urge viewers to boycott the show. While many of the comments regarding Bono offered support or debated his dancing ability and celebrity status, there were a number of hateful, mean-spirited remarks aimed at Bono’s gender, sexuality, and physical appearance.
The harsh, ugly nature of these responses brings up an important issue in today’s hyper-connected digital world: cyberbullying. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 93% of teens aged 12-17 are online, and 63% are online every day. The same study found that 32% of these teens have experienced some form of harassment while online. When the focus turns to LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender] teens, the numbers are even higher. As a 2010 study by the Cyberbullying Research Center showed, LGBT teens reported significantly higher rates of victimization, especially in the form of cyberbullying. When asked whether they had experienced cyberbullying within the last 30 days, 17.6% of LGBT teens reported being victimized, compared to only 6.8% of heterosexual students. Another study by the national anti-bullying campaign, Stomp Out Bullying, says that 9 out of 10 LGBT students have experiences harassment at school or online.
Regardless of your opinions on LBGT issues, as parents this is one point on which we should all agree: no person should be subjected to the hostility and hate that many LGBT teens are forced to endure. As parents, we should all agree that our children deserve our unconditional love, and as parents, we must endeavor to teach our children to treat everyone with kindness. There is no excuse for bullying, and as parents, we must guard against it in all its forms.
Maybe you will watch this week’s Dancing with the Stars premiere and maybe you won’t; but no matter how you feel about Chaz Bono or DWTS, we hope that you will take this opportunity to talk with your children about bullying, and especially about cyberbullying. Cyberbullying comes with it’s own set of precautions, and as more and more teens join social networks and communicate via cell phone, it is imperative that you and your family understand the rules of the game when it comes to digital communication.