Chaz Salvatore Bono (born Chastity Sun Bono; March 4, 1969) is an American LGBT rights advocate, writer, actor, and musician. Bono is the only child of American entertainers Sonny and Cher, though both have children from other marriages.
In the early 1990s, Bono was occasionally outed as lesbian by the tabloid press, then publicly self-identified as such in a 1995 cover interview in The Advocate. The process of coming out to oneself and to others was a central topic in Bono's two books: Family Outing: A Guide to the Coming Out Process for Gays, Lesbians, and Their Families (1998) tells of the author's coming out, as well as stories of other gay and lesbian people; the memoir The End of Innocence (2003) discusses the author's outing, music career, and partner Joan's death from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
In middle age, Bono underwent female-to-male gender transition. A two-part Entertainment Tonight feature in June 2009 explained that Bono's transition had started a year before. In May 2010 Bono legally changed gender and name. Bono has made a documentary about his life, which the Oprah Winfrey Network is rumored to be in negotiations to receive.
Bono is the only child of Cher and Sonny Bono of the well-known pop duo Sonny & Cher, who had a top-rated television variety show on which the young child often appeared. Bono was named Chastity Sun Bono after the film Chastity, which was produced by Sonny, and in which Cher – in her first feature film – plays a bisexual woman. The film had its première shortly before Bono's birth in 1969.
Bono came out to both parents as lesbian at age 18. In Family Outing, Bono wrote that, "as a child, I always felt there was something different about me. I'd look at other girls my age and feel perplexed by their obvious interest in the latest fashion, which boy in class was the cutest, and who looked the most like cover girl Christie Brinkley. When I was 13, I finally found a name for exactly how I was different. I realized I was gay."
Bono began a short music career with the band Ceremony, which released one album, Hang Out Your Poetry, in 1993. The band featured Bono on vocals, acoustic guitar, and percussion. Other members were Steve March Tormé (backup vocals), Heidi Shink a.k.a. Chance, Pete McRae, Steve Bauman, Louis Ruiz, and Bryn Mathieu. All but one of the band's songs were written or co-written by Bono, Shink, and Mark Hudson. They used no synthesizers or digital effects on the album; Shink noted, "We turned our back on technology. [ ... ] It's reminiscent of the 60s, but more a tip of the hat than emulating it. We took the music we love and rejuvenated it, made it 90's."
The song "Could've Been Love" was released as a single from the album. The album's other tracks are "Goodbye Sunshine", "Steal Your Heart", "Day by Day", "Ready for Love", "Ready for Love (Refrain)", "Hang Out Your Poetry", "Turn It Over", "Trust", "2 of 1", "First Day of My Life", "Breathless", "Living in a Paradise", and "Livin' It Up". Sonny and Cher recorded backing vocals (uncredited) for the last song.
In April 1995, Bono self-identified as lesbian in an interview with The Advocate, a national gay and lesbian magazine. The 1998 book Family Outing detailed how Bono's coming out "catapulted me into a political role that has transformed my life, providing me with affirmation as a lesbian, as a woman, and as an individual." In the same book, Bono reported that Cher, who was both a gay icon and ally to LGBT communities, was quite uncomfortable with the news at first, and "went ballistic" before coming to terms with it: "By August 1996, one year after I came out publicly, my mother had progressed so far that she agreed to 'come out' herself on the cover of The Advocate as the proud mother of a lesbian daughter." Cher has since become an outspoken LGBT rights activist.
Bono's paternal relationship became strained after Sonny became a Republican Congressman from California. The differences in their political views separated them, and the two had not spoken for more than a year at the time of Sonny's fatal skiing accident in January 1998.
Bono worked as a writer at large for The Advocate. As a social activist, Bono became a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, promoting National Coming Out Day, campaigning for the reelection of Bill Clinton for U.S. President, campaigning against the Defense of Marriage Act, and serving as Entertainment Media Director for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). Bono was one of the team captains for Celebrity Fit Club 3 (2006) and was supported by girlfriend Jennifer, who orchestrated exercise and training sessions.
In mid-2008, Bono began undergoing a physical and social gender transition from female to male. This was confirmed in June 2009 by her publicist, who identified Bono's preferred name as Chaz Bono and said, "It is Chaz's hope that his choice to transition will open the hearts and minds of the public regarding this issue, just as his coming out did." GLAAD and the Empowering Spirits Foundation were quick to offer praise and support for the announcement. Bono's legal transition was completed on May 7, 2010, when a California court granted her request for a gender and name change. A documentary about this sex change was made by Bono. Negotiations as to who will release the movie are still ongoing.