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Transgendered people are the forgotten members of the LGBT society

With the new season of Dancing With the Stars rapidly approaching, ABC, the network which airs the show, released a much anticipated cast line up on its website at the beginning of this month. Soon after, the internet started buzzing about one of the cast members, Chaz Bono. Bono is the only child of the famous musical duo Sonny and Cher; he also happens to be transgendered, which is apparently an issue to many who watch Dancing With the Stars.

The controversy over whether Chaz Bono should appear on the show Dancing With the Stars is flabbergasting; it should not even be an issue. Yet ABC has been viciously attacked by conservative blogs and fans protesting Bono’s participation on the show simply because he is transgendered. Many fans have made comments on the show’s site stating that they will refuse to watch the show now that it is not “family friendly.”

Even with all the increased acceptance and tolerance of the LGBT community, this level of unfiltered bigotry shows that our society still has a long way to go. It is disheartening to witness such blind prejudice against transgendered people simply because it is, to many people, an unfamiliar topic. Those boycotting the show argue that Dancing With the Stars is essentially giving transgendered people more of a platform and media attention than appropriate. The backlash experienced by Chaz Bono demonstrates that such attention is needed; in an ideal world, gender would not be a source of contention and the Chaz Bono controversy wouldn’t be a controversy at all. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and while the “LGB” part of the LGBT community has gained significant recognition and rights, the “T” part has often been forgotten. Prior to Bono, there have been very few — if any — famous transgendered people to spread knowledge and awareness on a national level. Transgender issues, in comparison to lesbian and gay issues in recent years, have gone relatively unnoticed.

Bono, as well as ABC at large, now has the opportunity to make a difference by bringing transgender education to the forefront of people’s minds. Whether viewers of the show are tolerant or not, transgender issues are now being widely discussed; Bono alone has brought up transgender issues and discussed his own experience as a transgendered person on shows like Oprah, ABC’s Nightline, and the Late Show with David Letterman.

Bono and the LGBT community have the chance to keep that discussion going, as well as lead it in the right direction — toward positive change. It takes controversy to gain attention, and only then can advocates raise knowledge and awareness.