Chaz Bono 'Not Paying That Much Attention' to 'DWTS' Controversy

Bono challenges his "DWTS" critics to watch the show, then decide

September 6, 2011, 7:32 AM

Sept. 6, 2011 -- The entertainment, political and Internet worlds are abuzz in controversy over the Season 13 cast of "Dancing With the Stars," but the man at the center of it all, transgender activist Chaz Bono, seems to be taking it all in stride.

"I really haven't been paying that much attention to it," Bono said today on "Good Morning America." "I think it's a much bigger deal to everybody else than it is to me."

Check out the full cast of the new season of "Dancing with the Stars."

"It" would be the decision by the producers of the ABC hit dancing reality competition to not only cast Bono, who underwent a gender reassignment surgery and legally changed his gender from female to male last year, as one of the show's 12 celebrity competitors, but to also partner him with a female dancer.

"I'm just a regular guy," Bono said on "GMA" of the outcry over his selection. "All these ideas that children shouldn't watch me, I'm going to be confusing, all this stuff, it's crazy."

Bono, 42, grew up as Chastity Bono, the daughter of Cher and the late Sonny Bono.

Used to living his life in the public eye, he has been just as outspoken about his transition from woman to man, appearing on talk shows, writing a book and opening the whole process to the world in the Emmy-nominated documentary "Becoming Chaz."

The outcry over his selection has been far and wide., an online activism group geared towards mothers, is calling for the boycott of the show, set to premiere Sept. 19 on ABC. On its website, the group calls Bono's casting "completely unacceptable and Christians should not watch the show, no excuses!"

Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist and member of the Fox News Medical A-Team, penned a piece, "Don't Let Your Kids Watch Chaz Bono On 'Dancing With the Stars' " which ran on

Dan Gainor of the Culture and Media Institute called Bono's casting "a ridiculous, agenda-driven move by 'Dancing With the Stars' … the latest example of the networks trying to push a sexual agenda on American families."

Bono is the first transgendered person to ever compete on the show. He joins a Season 13 cast that includes the second openly gay man, Carson Kressley, ever to compete in the show's history.

That expected lightning rod, including the possibility leaked by producers that they considered partnering Kressley with a male dancer, has been overshadowed by the casting of Bono.

"We will not be able to watch the show with Chaz on there," Monica Cole, director of told "Inside Edition" last Wednesday. "This is going to be very confusing for children, and should not be included in their cast."

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Bono, who has tweeted about the outcry but never spoken about it on live television prior to his "GMA" appearance today, gave a challenge to his critics.

"I'd tell them to watch the show and decide after that," he said. "It's a dancing show. I'm not there talking about anything other than dancing."

"People who don't have gender dysphoria aren't going to catch it by watching me dance on television," he added.

Bono Predicts 'Really Positive Impact' From 'DWTS'

If Bono claims to be more focused on his tango than controversy, the team around him is certainly paying attention.

In an interview with ABC News, Bono adviser Howard Bragman singled out as what many, he said, consider to be a "hate group," and said there was "no way" his client would back down.

"What I tell people to do, my clients, is ignore it. It's people writing on a bathroom wall," Bragman said of the online comments. "A lot of people put their hate opinions on email, and the vast majority of it is anonymous."

Bono's mother, Cher, came to her son's defense on Twitter, posting "lovelies! Chaz is Being Viciously Attacked on Blogs & Message boards about being on DWTS! This is Still America right ? It took guts 2 do it."

She urged her 340,000 followers to pledge their support for Bono on other social media sites.

"I support him no matter what he chooses 2do," Cher tweeted. "It took courage to do DWTS!"

"There's nothing to get a mom on board than talking badly about their kid," Bono said today. "I really appreciate it. She's just been amazing."

Whether Cher's support for her son will go so far as to include an appearance on the show this season remains to be seen – "We'll see" is all Bono would say when asked on "GMA" – but the woman he will dance with on the show, professional dancer Lacey Schwimmer, is standing just as firmly behind him.

"I was absolutely thrilled. I've always been a huge supporter of the LGBT community and I couldn't be more excited to have Chaz. Not only is he Sonny & Cher's child but he's also a generally cool person," Schwimmer told The Insider last week.

Bono's competitors and the show's producers are coming to his defense too.

HLN legal analyst and talk show host Nancy Grace told ABC News, "Unless Chaz commits a felony, I don't have a problem … I just don't think it's our business to be judging other people for their personal decisions."

The man responsible for including Bono in the controversial celebrity lineup, "Dancing With the Stars" executive producer Conrad Green, hopes the voting public will put their personal opinions aside and let Bono's dance moves do the talking.

"We think Chaz is a great guy with a really interesting story," Green told ABC News. "One of the great strengths of our show is your ability to have preconceived ideas about people, but when you actually see them in the show, you might well end up with a different opinion of them."

Focused on Dancing

Staying true to his word and putting controversy aside, dancing is just what Bono and Schwimmer have been focusing on around the clock to prepare for the show's two-hour season premiere, less than two weeks away on Sept. 19.

"I've been pretty good at getting the steps down so I think it's just stamina, getting that up, going into it," he said of the duo's preparations. "We're working on our first dance right now. It's very challenging, but I'm actually enjoying it."

The show's strict practice regimen is notorious for simultaneously providing a weight loss miracle for the celebs who compete – last year's finalist Kirstie Alley dropped four dress sizes - and Bono is proving no exception.

"I think I'm down like eight pounds now," he said.

Calling it "really hard" to pick a front-runner for Season 13, Bono told "GMA" he and Schwimmer have yet to determine who their biggest competitors will be.

"I'm really not going to know until that first night, just like everyone else," he said.

No matter how long he lasts on the show, Bono said he hopes his participation will be a teaching lesson, not a rallying cry or controversy, for parents and kids.

"For all the teens and kids out there with gender dysphoria, I think it's going to have a really positive impact," he said. "I know that when I was growing up if I had seen a show like this, with somebody like me, it would have made all the difference in my life."

Watch the two-hour season premiere, Monday, Sept. 19 at 8 p.m. ET and visit for more information on "Dancing With the Stars" Season 13.

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