US Actress/Music artist/Author
|Chastity is the daughter of Cher and Sonny Bono. |
Outsmart Magazine, 1996 Novemeber issue:
When did you know that the word lesbian applied to you?
I had just turned 13. I had always felt there was something completely different about me, I just didn't know what it was. Then I saw the movie 'Personal Best', and that was when all the bells and whistles went off in my head.
It's amazing that a movie can do that.
Yeah, that's really what happened. I was watching a scene that was really appealing to me, and I thought, "That's it. That's what that thing is." That's why I had wanted to be close to different women, but I hadn't been able to put my finger on it.
What a revelation. But maybe not to everyone—I mean, you were a tomboy, right?
How did your parents react to it?
My mom hated it, and my dad encouraged it.
What was your mother's reaction to the "Star" outing you like that?
Well, she was concerned. She wasn't surprised, and she had kind of warned me about it, but I didn't think it would happen. Outing wasn't such a big thing before that, and I was the one who got caught right when it really got going. She was just very concerned and thought that it would ruin my career and destroy my life. She was very much like a mother.
And your father?
Not as involved, but whenever I talked to him, I think he felt bad and sympathized.
Do you have enough distance now from being outed that you can sort of thank the "Star" for outing you?
No, I don't think I'll ever thank them for outing me. I really think I probably would've come out sooner if they hadn't outed me.
It's hard to say. It's pure speculation, and I'll never know for sure. After they outed me, there was a time period several years later when my record was coming out, and we were getting ready to do press. My mother and some people at the record company were actually encouraging me to come out, 'cause by this point both Melissa Etheridge and k.d. lang were out, and we knew that it probably wouldn't be that big a deal. But because of the "Star" and because of the reaction at that time, I think I was so fixated and almost brainwashed that I couldn't come out; I was still so scared from the experience. I think I would've probably come out sooner had that not happened. Again, I don't know. But I don't thank the "Star" for anything.
What are the differences between your first partner and your present one?
Well, Joan wasn't my first partner. Actually, my longest relationship was before that, and I was in that relationship for four years. I was with Joan for two, two-and-a-half years, but I had known her all my life. The difference between Joan and Laura is, oh, about as drastic a difference as you could possibly get between two people. Joan was an extremely feminine woman, not even feminine for a lesbian, feminine for a woman. She was one of a kind. I don't think there a lot of women out there, especially in our community, like her.
How do you think your relationship with Laura would be if you were still in the closet?
I have no idea. There are so many things I could say. I think I'm a better person out of the closet than I was in the closet.
Since you came out in "The Advocate" about a year and a half ago, how has that changed the way you live your life?
It's completely changed it. Not only did I come out, but I came out and then got politically active. Now my whole world is basically revolved around writing for "The Advocate" and doing the work I do for HRC [Human Rights Campaign]. I'm so ensconced in the gay community, it's a completely different life.
What is your opinion of gay marriage? There are a lot of people who don't care one way or the other.
I do care. I think it's important, and it's something I'd like to see happen at some point, and I think that it will. I think that it's just gonna take a while. I don't think the rest of the country is quite ready, and I don't think we've yet figured out how to present it in a nonthreatening way. I've talked to a lot of people about it, and some people think we shouldn't use the word marriage, that maybe we should call it a domestic partnership. I'm not so concerned with that—I would just like to have the legal protection and rights that heterosexuals have in their marriages. We're not there yet, and there's a lot we can do to get there, but I don't think that getting upset about it or getting upset at the politicians is gonna do anything.
I guess basically it's just education.
I think marriage is a tricky one. I hate to go back to an old cliché, but I really think the key to so many things in our movement is people coming out. I wish people could understand the tremendous impact that that has.
We've been talking about the political benefits of coming out. What about the personal freedom you feel after coming out?
The personal is probably more significant, because you do feel so much better. You no longer have to worry about people finding out about that huge secret. It's interesting, after I did "The Advocate" article, I was at West Hampton at my girlfriend's family's house, and I ran into someone I hadn't seen since high school. We were on the beach, and she asked me, "What are you doing here?" And I did a double take, because before I came out, my reaction would have been, "I'm here with a friend of mine." But now I thought, "Okay, well I've just come out on the cover of a national magazine, so I really don't have to do that anymore." So I said, "I'm here staying at my girlfriend's parents' house."
It's great to be able to do that, isn't it?
It is. It takes a while—you almost have to re-train yourself, because you're so used...
...to constantly hiding. And it's normal for you to hide.
People in the closet have this conversation with me so many times: "I'm not gonna just walk up to somebody and say, 'Hi, I'm a lesbian or gay man.' I don't want to flaunt my sexuality, and blah, blah, blah, and all that kind of crap. It's not the only thing about me." And I say, "You're right, it's not a matter of that, it's a matter of not going out of your way to hide it." I don't walk up to people and say, "Hi, I'm Chastity, I'm a lesbian." But when I'm talking to somebody, and they ask what I did over the weekend, I'm gonna say, "My girlfriend and I went to wherever."
When you're not out, you can't say something as simple as that.
Exactly. It's about not saying, "Oh, I uh, uh, went somewhere with uh, a friend of mine."