Cher 'Will Support' Chaz's Sex Change

06/18/2009 at 02:15 PM EDT

Cher 'Will Support' Chaz's Sex Change
Cher (left) and Chaz Bono
Katy Winn/Getty, INF
Now that Chaz Bono (formerly known as Chastity) has gone public with his sex change, his mother, Cher, is opening up about how she feels about the news.

"Chaz is embarking on a difficult journey, but one that I will support," she tells PEOPLE in an exclusive statement. "I respect the courage it takes to go through this transition in the glare of public scrutiny and although I may not understand I will strive to be understanding. The one thing that will never change is my abiding love for my child."

The singer, 63, has struggled with Chaz's choices before: In his book Family Outing, Chaz says Cher kicked him out upon learning he was gay; they quickly reconciled. Recently, the pair celebrated Chaz's 40th birthday in Vegas.

Meanwhile Chaz's stepmother (Sonny Bono's widow), congresswoman Mary Bono Mack, 47, is also supportive, telling PEOPLE, "Chaz has always been a loving and important part of our family who has supported us all through thick and thin. This is a very difficult decision that Chaz has fully vetted, and over the past decade, has discussed the matter thoroughly and consulted therapists and medical experts. As he moves forward, I will be there to support him and love him every step of the way."

For more on Chaz's transition, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on sale Friday


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