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Chaz’s changes

Bono on media blitz, plans, activism and more

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Chaz (raised as Chastity) with mom Cher in the early '70s. (Photo courtesy of Penguin)

Forget about gender identity, how he felt looking in the mirror all those years, navigating the thorny overlap of sexual orientation, the surgery and all that for a minute — for Chaz Bono, the sheer physiological aspects of being a woman wreaked decades of pain on him.

In the new memoir “Transition: The Story of How I Became a Man” (see review on page 48), Bono writes of “periods that were painful to the point of being debilitating” and regularly not being able to get out of bed. Menstrual pain, of course, is no picnic for anyone, but for Bono, there was precancerous cell growth on the cervix, endometrial cysts on the ovaries and, in his late 20s, a cyst in the uterus.

Upon having it removed when he was 36, a further issue — he can’t recall the medical term for it offhand — was discovered that doctors hadn’t been aware of before involving cell lining growing into muscle.

And though the hormone therapy Bono started taking in March 2009 at age 40 brought with it some adverse side effects (acne, for one), Bono writes of soon feeling “really good” physically with “more energy, more focus … as if I had been depressed and suddenly an antidepressant kicked in — everything in my life seemed easier … like my body had finally gotten something that it really needed to function.”

Bono, during a 45-minute phone chat this week, says he doesn’t think this is a coincidence.

“I’ve talked to lots of trans guys who have these kind of issues like with me, there was just issue after issue after issue with my female organs,” he says. “So it’s not just emotionally troubling, but physically painful my whole life … it was cyst after growth after this after that. I can’t help but think a little bit of that was my body trying to tell me something.”

Everybody, by now, knows the basics of Bono’s story, but even the searingly candid “Transition” leaves a few topics unexplored. Bono is up for any question and answers all in a low key non-melodramatic manner.

The media blitz, which has included appearances on Oprah and Letterman, has been “really good.”

“Oprah’s so weird, because it’s Oprah,” he says. “There’s this huge lead up to it and then before you know it, it’s over. Letterman, too, was really great. I felt he really represented a lot of the lack of knowledge about trans issues so it was a good opportunity to break it down in the most basic ways.”

Some gay groups criticized Letterman’s squeamish expressions as Bono explained “bottom surgery.” He says it didn’t faze him.

“I think seeing David Letterman for so many years, you realize he can always be kind of snarky with his guests. I didn’t feel he was being disrespectful to me.”

Bono’s friend Diego Sanchez, who’s also FTM transgender and a senior legislative adviser to gay U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, says Bono’s visibility and irrefutable pop culture cred, put him in a unique position to speak out.

“(He’s) been in America’s and the world’s eyes since he was 2, so the value and courage this open disclosure adds is immense,” Sanchez wrote in an e-mail.

Bono says his father’s side of the family easier time with the transition is likely due to a generation gap, though now his mom (Cher) and grandmother (85-year-old Georgia Holt) have, in many ways, come around.

“Transition” relays Cher’s initial nonchalance followed by months of withdrawal and inaccessibility.

“I think fear set in,” Bono says. “It was a sense of loss for her. There was a part of me that was gone forever.”

Though Holt was “cool from the get go,” Bono admits “I don’t think she still completely understands it. But she’s always been 100 percent supportive and said if this is what makes you happy. That never wavered. We’ve been close my whole life and that hasn’t changed an iota.”

Bono agrees it seems more butch lesbians seem to transition than gay men. Though he says his lesbian-identified years were never an accurate identification, he’s personally known way more FTMs in lesbian circles whereas many MTFs often have been married to women and not part of the gay community at all.

“For me, it was very much, ‘Oh, I’m attracted to women, I must be a lesbian.’ I don’t personally know any (trans men) who didn’t go through the lesbian community … I think maybe with (trans women) they tried to be extremely macho as guys and really tried to be guys, so they overcompensated and got married and had kids and all that. That may be part of it. I think the stigma for transwomen is a lot harder because we’re a very patriarchal society and masculinity is the most coveted thing, so I think they get a lot more flak. I don’t really know why, but it may have been important for them to fit into proper, and I put that in quotes, male behavior before they finally allowed themselves to be themselves.”

Bono, who got fired from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) in the ‘90s, says that’s all ancient history now and they’ve been supportive this time out. The staff has changed since he worked there and he says most of his problems stemmed from one person who’s no longer in the picture.

He imagines staying active in LGBT activism but has no concrete plans. He’d like to see trans and bi issues more prominent in LGBT activism.

“I feel like the T and the B, which is my household, don’t get nearly as much focus as the L and the G and I hope that starts to change. I certainly think we need the support of gays and lesbians, even though they’re somewhat different issues, but we’re generally discriminated against for the same reasons, for not being perceived as fitting into gender roles.”

For Bono, sexual orientation and gender identity are apples and oranges, though he imagines less rigidity in understanding in coming years.

“Since transgender encompasses any sort of non-typical gender expression, there are a lot of different people who could loosely or strongly fit under that umbrella … I think, especially with the younger generation, we’re gonna see more pan-sexuality, more pan-gender identity and less rigid labels.”

A conversation with RuPaul, Bono says, was helpful.

“I was like, ‘Dude, what’s up with the drag thing?,’ because I had kind of the same question. He said for him it was an act or rebellion initially. It was his way of being a rebel, of giving the finger to the establishment.”

He says he and his girlfriend of nearly six years, Jennifer Elia, may eventually tie the knot now that they legally could, but he says they’d “feel a little guilty since so many of our friends can’t.”

Bono, who’s grand marshalling San Francisco Pride this year, says he’s fully supportive of a trans-inclusive ENDA but suspects it’s on the back burner since “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and marriage rights for same-sex couples seem to stuff activism coffers more readily than trans-connected issues.

Though Bono balks, in his book, at undue interest in his parents, he indulges a few questions about his parents’ relationship with each other. From their awkward Letterman reunion to the palpable grief Cher exhibited at Sonny’s funeral, it’s obvious they had a complicated relationship.

Bono remembers clearly the phone call in which he told his mom that Sonny was dead.

“She was OK at first, but then she very quickly started to unravel,” he says. “Like I’d never heard her. I was like, ‘OK, I’m gonna go and get (Aunt) Gee to call you now.’ I don’t have any memory of them together but I think (when he died) I started to realize the depth of love that was there.”

Growing up, Bono says they were mostly amicable with each other.

“There were many times when they were friendly, for sure. After the divorce there were times where it felt a little prickly. Well, not prickly, but something. But until my dad passed away, anytime I went to see one of them, they always asked about the other.”

He says it wasn’t especially hard to be so open in the new book and the documentary “Becoming Chaz” which found the crew behind “Eyes of Tammy Faye” following him during the process. The book, he says, was much harder to do.

“The documentary was kind of fun but the book, yeah, you’re sitting there at the computer wanting to pull your hair out. The book was really hard, especially writing about the years when I was in denial. I always knew it had been hard but looking back for the book, I don’t think I realized at the time, how hard it really was. The first part was a real grind to write and it took a really long time to get through.”

Even though life is obviously extremely different now, Bono is proud of his earlier work, the book “Family Outing” (“it did what I wanted it to do”) and even the 1993 flop album he did with his band Ceremony (“in a sense I’m glad it didn’t take off, but I still think it’s pretty good music — it’s not anything that I’m ashamed of”).

Bono closes the book by acknowledging “a loving God, a higher power who delights in diversity and has only our best interests at heart.”

In his estimation, then, why does God put people in the wrong bodies?

“Transgender people have lived both ways and there are so few on the earth who’ve experienced socializing in both bodies and feeling two different hormonal endocrine systems. I think we have a lot to share, so to me it kind of makes sense. In certain cultures, transgender people have been highly revered.”

But what about all the years of agony? Is there a payoff on the back end?

“Yes, definitely,” Bono says. “It’s horrible and very rough going through it, but you definitely gain a depth and an insight that people who sail through life probably don’t have. I have all that now. I really appreciate things. Life wasn’t so easy for so many years, so I try to always be grateful for the things I have and always have a positive attitude. It’s easier after years of feeling just the opposite.”

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Miscellaneous

The evolution of the open house

The more sophisticated the advertising, the more the events flourished

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From car giveaways in the 1950s to today’s QR codes and virtual events, agents have used diverse strategies to draw buyers to open houses.

In the early 20th century, there were no exclusive agreements between a seller and a real estate agent. Any broker who knew of someone wanting to sell could participate in an “open listing” by planting his sign in the yard of that person and competing with agents from other brokerages who did the same. To the victor who obtained a buyer went the spoils of commission.

The rules began to change in 1919, when being a real estate broker now required a license. An agent might handle only one property at a time exclusively, but an “open for inspection” period could be used to introduce a model home or new community to the buying population. 

According to the National Association of Realtors, Dallas homebuilder, Howdy Howard, hosted one of the most successful open houses of all time in the 1950s. During the first 12 days of the event, an estimated 100,000 people attended, drawn by free sodas and the ultimate prize for the buyer – a new Cadillac.

Soon, brokers began hiring additional agents who could handle multiple properties. Unlike Howard’s marathon open house, agents would now host them for a few hours at a time, usually on a Sunday, to whet the appetite of the buyer pool. 

Classified advertisements with a description of a property would be placed in a local newspaper and potential buyers would review them with their morning coffee to decide which houses to visit later in the day. 

Marketing in newspapers went from a few lines of black and white text to a photo of a home’s exterior, to a multi-page spread that included both photos of houses and the agents who represented them.

The more sophisticated the advertising became, the more the open house flourished as a marketing tool, not only for the home itself, but also for the agent and the brokerage. It allowed agents to prospect for buyers for that home and others, and converse with neighbors who might want to sell their homes as well. 

Soon, the sign-in sheet was born, used by the agent to capture the contact information of a potential client or customer and to let the seller know who had visited his home. While sign-in sheets or cards are still used, some agents have gravitated to electronic applications, using a tablet computer instead of paper for the same purpose.

Fast forward to the early 2000s in D.C., when open houses became the primary source of showing property. An agent would enter a property into the multiple listing service (MLS) on a Thursday, entertain no showings until Saturday, host an open house on Sunday afternoon, and call for offers either Sunday night or Monday. The open house allowed agents to send their buyers rather than accompany them and serve multiple clients at once.  

The delayed showing day strategy referenced above has since been supplanted by the MLS’s Coming Soon status. Agents can now email or text links to upcoming properties to their clients in advance of showing availability and the clients can view photos, read property descriptions and disclosures, and schedule future visits accordingly.

Enter COVID-19. Due to the proliferation of the virus and the subsequent lockdown, the real estate world had to accommodate new public health requirements. 

One of the first things to go was the open house. Even agent showings were constrained, with visitors limited to an agent plus two people and additional requirements for wearing masks and disposable shoe covers and gloves. 

Overlapping appointments were not allowed, showings were limited to 15 to 30 minutes, and bottles of hand sanitizer sprung up on kitchen counters everywhere.

Ultimately, technology and ingenuity provided new marketing avenues for agents that included 3-D virtual open houses, Facetime and Duo viewings, videos, property websites and QR codes. Many of these marketing techniques remain, even though traditional open houses are coming back post-lockdown.

But are they really necessary? Certainly not for all types of properties. 

I believe the days of using a public open house to procure a buyer are limited. Agent security has become a concern and the desire for in-person viewings during a specific day or time has waned. 

On the other hand, Internet marketing and social media have a much wider reach, so much so that some people now feel comfortable buying a home – probably the most expensive item they will ever purchase – without even stepping into it until after closing.

After all, if we can work in sweatpants or pajamas while Zooming corporate meetings, how can naked virtual reality house hunting be far behind?

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.

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Miscellaneous

D.C. homebuyers face hyper competitive market

Sellers in driver’s seat as region faces record low inventory

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housing market, gay news, Washington Blade

With job growth rising during a period of aggressive government spending and historically low mortgage rates, the spring 2021 market sits at the lowest level of inventory since 1983.

Homebuyers in the D.C. area continue to face an incredibly competitive market. This is truly a seller’s market.

Lack of Inventory: Washington, D.C. has been in a gradually worsening housing shortage since the Great Recession. The area hasn’t had a six-month supply of homes for sale for almost 12 years. Now, we add a global pandemic that seriously altered what homeowners want out of their home, Wall Street on fire, and insanely low interest rates and we get a surge in motivated homebuyers.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the number of homes nationwide reached a record low in December 2020, with just 1.07 million properties on the market. The DC metro area is even worse off than the national average with only one month’s supply of homes. That means if new listings were completely dried up, there would be no homes available in four weeks. On average, D.C. homes have been selling within 11 days, which is 15 days faster than this time in 2020.

Seller’s Market: The time is now for Washington, D.C. homeowners to seriously consider selling their homes if they have played with the idea. Experts predict 2021 will be another strong housing market with an increase in demand from existing homebuyers in search of larger homes and buyers who delayed purchasing a home due to the uncertainty of the pandemic.

Zillow forecasts a nearly 30 percent annual growth in homes for sale in 2021. This would be the largest home sales growth since 1983. Zillow’s annual report stated, “Home price appreciation will reach its fastest pace since the Great Recession, as the inventory crunch continues to pit buyers against each other, competing for a scarce number of homes for sale.”

D.C.’s Current Market: According to the NAR, in March of 2021, D.C. home prices had increased 4.1% compared to March 2020, for a median price of $635,000. There were 1,004 homes sold in March 2021, an increase from 842 at this time last year.

We are seeing many homes receive multiple offers within just a few days in the D.C. area. The average home is selling a little above 1% of the listing price and many hot homes are seeing large bidding wars and selling for 3% or more above the listing price; 42.7% of D.C. homes sold above list price in March of 2021. That is a 13.4% increase from last year at this time. Active inventory for March of 2021 was 1,457 homes, down 9% from March 2020. March 2021 also saw 991 homes sell in the D.C. area, an increase of 31% from February of 2021. March 2021’s total homes sold had a 19% increase from March 2020.

Buying a Home: In the current seller’s market, buying a home can be like playing a chess match. You need to know the rules and be strategic. It can seem more like winning than purchasing a home right now. If you find a home you want to buy, chances are you won’t be the only one making an offer. It is a seller’s market everywhere in the country right now and D.C. is no different. Be sure you know what you qualify for and what you can afford.

Conclusion: The NAR and the Mortgage Bankers Association both project prices of existing homes to increase 5.9% in 2021. This may mean buyers will have to be more flexible than in the past. For example, making an offer contingent upon the sale of a current home may be harder than before. It’s also possible you will pay more than the list price. The D.C. real estate market is on fire and many homes are off the market within 24 hours of listing. For sellers, if you have been thinking of selling your home there is no better time than the present.

 

Khalil El-Ghoul is Principal Broker for Glass House Real Estate. Reach him at [email protected] or 571-235-4821. Glass House Real Estate is a modern, more affordable way to buy and sell a home in the D.C. Metro area. Learn more about what makes us different at glassshousere.com.

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Miscellaneous

Kick-ass crossovers

Still the hottest vehicles in dealer showrooms

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crossovers, gay news, Washington Blade

Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat

Crossovers keep wending their way into our driveways—and our hearts. After overtaking sedans, station wagons and minivans as the hottest vehicles in dealer showrooms, crossovers are now taking aim at the most quintessential of American rides: the muscle car. With naughty looks and hepped-up engines, the two dynamite crossovers below are sure to blow your mind—and just maybe your budget.

DODGE DURANGO SRT HELLCAT
$81,000
Mpg: 12 city/17 highway
0 to 60 mph: 3.5 seconds

For more than 20 years, the Dodge Durango has been a solid if nondescript family hauler. But this year the automaker jazzed up its midsize crossover with brawnier styling and the latest tech toys. And for the first time, Dodge is offering a limited-edition Durango SRT Hellcat—a high-test model with the same hellacious Hemi V8 engine in the Challenger super coupe and Charger sport sedan. With 710 horsepower, this blazingly fast crossover can kick some serious ass, outrunning many a Ferrari and Lamborghini.

The upgraded suspension provides more dynamic handling and cornering, as well as selectable steering for better grip. For straight-line acceleration and to prevent nasty fish-tailing, I simply flipped the “launch control” toggle switch. The massive Brembo brakes also were stellar, with stop-on-a-dime performance and flaming red calipers on each wheel. Another plus: the iconic Hellcat exhaust rumble could be heard blocks away—music to the ears of any auto aficionado. As with all Durangos, this bruiser has best-in-class towing capacity of 8,700 pounds.

Inside, there’s plenty of space, including more room than expected for third-row passengers. The steering wheel, dash, and trim accents now have trendy Euro styling, though it’s more VW than upscale Audi. And you can opt for flashy seatbelts and premium seats in a color Dodge calls Demonic Red, along with black velour floor mats and a soft-touch headliner. Other features include heated/ventilated seats, a large 10.1-inch touchscreen, wireless smartphone integration and the ability to pair two Bluetooth devices at once. Options include a 19-speaker Harman Kardon stereo and rear-seat entertainment with Blue-Ray player. Alas, this is a limited-edition model and all 2,000 of these speed demons quickly sold out months ago. But there’s still hope: Dodge allocated some of the racy Durangos to select dealerships, so you can call around to see if any are still available. And you can always try social media to find a lucky Durango Hellcat owner who just might be willing to sell this rollicking ride, if the price is right.

LAND ROVER DEFENDER X
$85,000
Mpg: 17 city/22 highway
0 to 60 mph: 5.7 seconds

For decades, both the Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover have been ubiquitous in the United States. Not so the smaller and less ostentatious Defender, often seen as a work-horse vehicle in BritBox reruns or action flicks like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. But last year the Defender returned to these shores after nearly a quarter-century hiatus.

Available in two- or four-door models, both Defenders start around $50,000. My test vehicle was the new top-of-the-line Defender X, which added—yikes!—another $35,000 to the sticker price. The look on these crossovers is boxy chic, which allows for a ginormous amount of headroom, legroom and cargo space. Land Rover also added extra stowage areas and cubby holes, as well as transom windows and a sliding panoramic sunroof to keep things airy. While the cabin may be sparse and full of solid plastics, the walnut trim on the center console and door panels is quite elegant.

Land Rovers have a somewhat infamous reputation for less-than-stellar electronics, but the 10-inch touchscreen was crystal clear and synced up seamlessly with the infotainment system. Tricked out with a jet-black roof, hood, and side cladding, the press vehicle I test drove was painted a haughty Eiger Gray Metallic. It also came with thick all-terrain tires, adding to a slightly menacing vibe. A full-size spare is conveniently mounted on the vertical tailgate, which swings completely open like a refrigerator door for easy access. The Defender X may not be as lightning quick as a Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, but it’s still plenty fast. And this brute can tackle the toughest of terrains, thanks to locking differentials, hill-descent control and a standard air suspension that can raise the chassis 11.5 inches above the ground. Overall, the Defender X can’t quite hide its refined roots as a tony Land Rover. But as with the Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, this burly crossover flexes some serious muscle.

Land Rover Defender X

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