Love Transamerican Style
By Clint Catalyst
Known by many for the cataclysmic romance that Showtime adapted into the movie Soldier�s Girl, Calpernia Addams was thrust into the jagged-edged terrain of media scrutiny in 1999 when her army boyfriend, Barry Winchell, who was sleeping on base, was murdered by another soldier. A musician and burlesque performer at the time, Addams abandoned her artistic endeavors while mending her heartbreak and tending to the trial of Winchell�s killer. Almost a decade later Addams is looking for love again, this time on TV in Transamerican Love Story, a competitive-dating reality show.
But first, her name. �I worshipped Carolyn Jones as a child,� she says of the actress who played Morticia on the �60s TV series The Addams Family. She adopted Calpernia Addams as her stage (and legal) name. �Calpernia was Morticia�s aunt. She enslaved a minister and danced naked in the town square before being burned as a witch in 1706. So we have parallel career tracks.�
Unlike the U.K.-produced reality skein There�s Something About Miriam -- which featured six contestants wooing a 21-year-old model named Miriam without revealing her identity as a trans woman until the finale -- the Logo show Transamerican Love Story is groundbreaking because each of the eight potential suitors was aware of Calpernia�s gender status before filming began. There are no �tucked beneath the skirt� punch lines or last-minute surprises.
�TV shows or movies about transgender people have skewed toward stories about their transition and adversities,� says Brian Graden, president of Logo and of MTV Networks Music Group Entertainment. �So, ironically, telling a traditional romantic story may be the most groundbreaking aspect of this show.�
Though the show is a milestone in the treatment of its star, the show promises to be noteworthy for refusing to take itself too seriously.
�It�s been tricky for me,� says Addams, �because not only am I a trans woman, but I also have the heavy history of Soldier�s Girl. After [the movie�s release] I felt like I needed to be the absolute classiest, most intelligent figure I could be, to respect Barry�s memory. But now, finally, years later? I�m ready to bust out. I�m ready to be sexy and funny. I�m ready to say things that I want to say that not everybody is going to agree with.
�The cool thing about Transamerican Love Story is that it�s meta -- it�s postmodern. So in the series [host Alec Mapa and I] kind of laugh at the genre and its conventions. We�re all in on the joke.�