Opinion Brief

Chaz Bono: Is DWTS ready for a transgender contestant?

Angry commenters flood ABC's message boards to declare their outrage over Bono's inclusion on the celebrity dancing show

Just as the dust began to settle from the tornado of commentary accompanying Monday's Dancing With the Stars casting announcement (Nancy Grace? Really?), a new storm started brewing. The pairings of stars and professional dancers were released Wednesday, and contestant Chaz Bono, arguably the most well-known transgender person in the country, will partner with female dancer Lacey Schwimmer. Angry commenters took over ABC's message boards to protest over Bono — who was born a woman and had gender reassignment surgery in 2010. The show has featured gay cast members in the past. But are Dancing With the Stars fans still not ready to welcome a transgender contestant?

This bigoted criticism betrays fans' intolerance: "Dancing With the Stars fans, your politics are showing," says Zara Golden at Mediaite. "And they're ruining everyone's fun." Underneath the show's "be-sequined gleam," it seems, there's a "much darker fabric, woven with not just dance and smiles, but also intolerance." LGBT adovocates may hope that Bono's casting reflects "the growing acceptance" of their community, but this criticism proves America still has a long way to go.
"ABC's Dancing With the Stars website flooded with angry comments for casting Chaz Bono"

But the casting violates family values: "This is part of Hollywood's insistence on tearing down traditional families," says Dan Gainor of the Media Research Center, as quoted by Radar. Using DWTS as a platform to shine such a bright spotlight on transgender issues is irresponsible. Considering that DWTS is advertised as a family show, it's now more dangerous than ever to allow children to watch TV without permission. Thanks, ABC, for "advocating lifestyles that most families would not approve of."
"Chaz Bono's casting on DWTS causing controversy — accused of 'tearing down traditional families"

Sadly, this isn't exactly a new debate: In many ways, this is merely the latest instance of a presumably lighthearted reality show becoming "the impetus for deeper discussions about values, tolerance, bigotry, and politics," says Tim Molloy at The Wrap. Many gay American Idol contestants, for instance, have controversially hidden their sexuality while on the show, perhaps to avoid alienating potential voters. How far Bono goes in the competition will "reveal plenty about attitudes towards transgendered people."
"ABC receives complaints about Chaz Bono's addition to DWTS"

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