Chaz Bono (formerly known as Chastity Bono,) who physically and legally became a man, will be competing tonight on Dancing With The Stars tonight.
Rooting him on will be his long-time girlfriend and fiance, the gorgeous Jennifer Elia (known as “Jenny”), who’s been dating Chaz since 2006. She’s a private tutor who recently received her Master’s in education from UCLA, and hopes to someday publish short stories inspired by her dating history.
Jennifer’s relationship with Chaz has had it’s ups and downs since Chaz’s transition began in 2009. It’s a slow process that involved hormones, surgery, and legal hoops (Chaz underwent rounds of testosterone injections, and breast removal surgery, but has no plans to get a penis implant.) For Chaz, it also involved a lot of paparazzi attention, media curiosity, and backlash from those who don’t don’t approve of the transgender lifestyle.
Chaz recently wrote about his transition and relationship with Jenny in the book Transition: The Story of How I Became a Man. May 2011, Elia joined Chaz on a promotional tour for the book, and told Piers Morgan that she identified as bisexual, but preferred her betrothed Chaz as a male: she finds him more attractive, and thinks their sex life has improved. Chaz was actually the most masculine woman bisexual Jenny had ever dated, and though she’d dated men before, she never fully clicked with them. They struggled a great deal in the time leading up to the transition period, and during (Jenny found the mood changes from the testosterone spikes especially hard to bear, and at first was terrifying of the potential result from the breast removal surgery. She was working on her Master’s Degree during that time too, and they were filming a reality show Becoming Chaz, so stress was not an uncommon commodity for the couple.
Things seem to be going very well for the couple, who have been engaged for almost three years, but have currently put wedding plans on hold.
Jenny originally found out about Chaz’s impending change from one of Chaz’s exes. “Actually I was told through an ex of his that he was, in fact, trans and wanted to be a man, which was presented in sort of a challenging way,” she says. “So I said, ‘Well, I better ask.’ And I did. And he said to me, ‘Yes, this is true.’”
Chaz’s ex Kathy (who was living in Chaz’s guest house when Jenny moved in) tried to scare Jenny away by telling her about Chaz’s feelings that he may be transgender. Although Chaz didn’t start the reassignment process until he was 40 years old, he’d been struggling with feelings that he was transgendered for a while, and it became a source of conflict when he revealed those feelings to women he was dating. Jenny was different though, and the revelation led them to grow closer as a couple.
But she did struggle with the transgender idea when it became more of an impending reality instead of an abstract thought. At one point, she told Chaz “I don’t think I could handle it. I certainly don’t think I could do it sober,” and she started drinking again. Jenny’s currently about one-and-a-half years sober again (both she and Chaz have struggled with issues of alcohol addiction, an issue they bonded over when they first met. They were both about one year sober.)
Jenny did start drinking again, but as of now is over one year sober. Chaz and Jennifer went through couples therapy, and now their relationship is stronger than ever. Some of the things that scared Jenny about the process turned out to not be how she imagined them, and actually brought the couple closer together.
PHOTO: FayesVision/WENN.com (2011 Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards 9/10/11)