Adam Taylor/ABC
Lynette Rice
October 25, 2011 AT 12:00 PM EDT

For many celebrities who participate on Dancing with the Stars, making it beyond the halfway point is an accomplishment in itself. But when an exit is predicated by some particularly harsh words from the judges, leaving the ABC show can feel pretty bittersweet.

Fortunately for Chaz Bono – who was told by Judge Bruno Tonioli that he looked like a “cute little penguin” on Monday — the author and activist harbors no ill-will toward the show that ricocheted him back into the spotlight this fall. “I was quite angry last night,” Bono told reporters on Tuesday. His tango, which he performed with partner Lacey Schwimmer in coat and tails, earned 19 out of 30 possible points on Monday and generated the cutting comments from Tonioli, who had previously compared Bono to an “Ewok.” “But I feel really good. I’m just grateful to have had the experience. I’m not leaving this show bitter or angry or anything. I’m grateful for Lacey and for everybody that I worked with on Dancing with the Stars. It was a wonderful, life changing experience. I’m so glad I did it.”

Serving as an inspiration for transgendered people was “the main reason I did the show,” Bono told reporters — though he was always conscious about not serving as a role model for his community. (The only child of Sonny and Cher told EW last month that “I don’t want to say I’m representing anybody other than myself.”)  Though he was initially a target of condemnation, Bono’s participation in one of TV’s most popular shows was a source of pride for organizations like the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

“Unlike many of his competitors, Chaz Bono didn’t come into Dancing With the Stars with a lifetime of training in performance or athletics behind him, but nevertheless he showed how far someone can go and improve through hard work and perseverance,” GLAAD Associate Director of Media Matt Kane posted online Tuesday.  “What’s more, Chaz allowed millions upon millions of viewers to learn a little more about him with each passing week and quickly became the world’s most well-known transgender person.”

Cher, meanwhile, posted this reaction via Twitter: “I Have Got 2Hold my TEMPER ! MY Tears R OK ! Congratulations  Chaz I’m SO PROUD OF U ! This was YOUR Quest…& u Followed your Star.”

As for what’s next, Bono isn’t so sure — though he would like to encourage his fans to vote for soap star J.R. Martinez. (He and Schwimmer are huge fans). Meanwhile, Bono is digging how he’s lost a few inches while gaining some much-needed perspective from the show. “I got to dig deeper into myself probably more than I ever have and overcome a lot of fear, pain, anxiety and stress,” he told reporters. “It’s made me a better person.”

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