When ABC announced the new lineup for the reality TV series, Dancing with the Stars, religious conservatives clashed with queer-rights groups over the inclusion of the shows first openly transgender person, Chaz Bono.
The child of Sonny Bono and Cher, Chaz Bono has lived a life in the spotlight and his journey of transitioning from female to male was featured in a Sundance Film Festival selection and it is the topic of his book, Transitioning.
His inclusion, along with Carson Kressley, an openly gay man, was praised by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
“With both gay and transgender contestants represented on this upcoming season, ABC will send viewers a strong message about the diversity within the LGBT community,” said Herndon Graddick, senior of director of programs for GLAAD, in a statement. “At a time when transgender representation in the media is sorely lacking, Chaz Bono joining the cast is a tremendous step forward for the public to recognize that transgender people are another wonderful part of the fabric of American culture. Appearing on such a high-profile show will allow millions of Americans to get to know him in a whole new light.”
Shortly after the announcement, Fox News interviewed Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist who condemned the choice and called Chaz Bono a “very disordered person.” He urged parents to stop their children from watching the new season. However, a statement from the American Psychiatric Association president, John Oldham, disagrees with Ablow’s assertions and said there are no adverse effects of watching a transgender contestant on a reality television series.
“There is no evidence that viewing a television game show with a transgender contestant would induce Gender Identity Disorder in young people,” Oldham said.
The first episode will air on Sept. 19 on ABC. The other contestants include legal commentator Nancy Grace, talk show host Rob Kardashian, Actor David Arquette, NBA star Ron Artest, actress Kristin Cavallarir, actor J.R. Martinez, soccer star Hope Solo, actress Elisabetta Canalis, actress and singer Chynna Phillips and style expert Carson Kressley.