By Julia Serano
Since the 1990s, Candis Cayne has been dazzling queer audiences with her one-woman shows -- an outrageous and entertaining mix of comedy, dancing, and improv. Now she�s finally broken into the mainstream on ABC�s Dirty Sexy Money, playing Billy Baldwin�s love interest, Carmelita, the first recurring transgender character played by a transgender actor on prime-time television. Trans writer and activist Julia Serano recently sat down with the newly minted California girl.
Out: For the uninitiated, tell us a little about your character.
Candis Cayne: I really think she is the most normal person on the show. And they�ve written her that way, which is amazing to me. She has her wits about her, she�s honorable, she�s moral. She�s a mistress, though -- you know, there always has to be something. [Laughs] She and Patrick [Baldwin] have the most honest, real relationship on the show. I think that she has been through a lot, and I think only trans people understand what that means -- there�s a sad wisdom to her.
Did you have any initial reservations about the role?
When I first read [the part], I was like, �Ooh, a mistress.� I was a little worried, but that�s the reality of how trans roles are written. There is a truth to that, though. There are a lot of trans women who are prostitutes and mistresses because of the sheer fact that they can�t go out and get a normal job in society. Or they have wanted to start relationships with men -- like every other human being wants that personal relationship with another person -- but somehow can�t because the men who are attracted to transsexuals are afraid of how their families would deal with it or how people will see them. For the most part, it�s really hard to get into a relationship with a man who is strong enough to admit that that�s what he likes.
I think that�s part of what makes the scenes between Carmelita and Patrick so groundbreaking, because it�s not a clich�d kinky-sex-on-the-side type thing. He is sincerely in love with her.
Exactly. So many times [in other shows and films] we see that [the man] doesn�t know, and he�s about to kiss this �creature� whose coming for him, this succubus. So it�s cool that [Dirty Sexy Money�s writers] are writing it like that. They don�t allow the audience to have a negative reaction.
I�ve also noticed that the media have tried to make a big thing of the fact that Billy Baldwin has been doing these love scenes with you, and he�s been really cool with it, like it�s no big deal.
He�s so open and really nice and wants to be out there. He came to my last show here in L.A. and sat by the door and greeted everybody and was like, �I�m here for Candis,� you know what I mean? It was really, really cool; he�s a great guy.
Trans characters are often portrayed as mousy and embarrassed about being trans. But your character is refreshing because she�s so unapologetic and unashamed about who she is.
That�s so important to me. And I�m getting such a good response on MySpace from this. Trans people and their families saying, �Thank you for not treating this like you�re a victim.� I always say that -- I don�t go through my life like I�m a victim, and nobody�s allowed to treat me that way. I think that�s important.