Monday, February 11, 2008

Trans Union

"TransAmerican Love Story," Logo's new eight-episode reality series that chronicles actress and transgender activist Calpernia Addams' quest for love, premieres tonight at 10 p.m. ET/PT. The show's worth a look, although I was surprised to find that the same thing that's good about it is is many ways its downfall. The show proves that gay ("Boy Meets Boy"), straight ("The Bachelor"), bi ("A Shot at Love With Tila Tequila") or trans, the reality "dating" format is an exhausted genre and even adding this "twist" doesn't stop the show from blending in with all of the others. This may be encouraging news to the transcommunity ("Trannies, We're Just Like Boring, Horny Straight People!"), but not necessarily the making of riveting television. But unlike the tacky U.K. transgender dating show from a few years ago, "There's Something About Miriam," where the suitors weren't aware of their dream woman's transsexualism, all the guys on "TransAmerican Love Story" know about Calpernia's history. Without this salacious (albeit commendable) omission of information (Will the guys beat the crap out of her with a tire iron when they find out she has a shenis or not? Let's watch!!!), this show ends up being just a low-budget version of "The Bachelorette" and another embarrassing demonstration in men with no game and the things they'll do for "love." (It's enough to make you long for "I Love New York" reruns.)

America's Gaysian Sweetheart, Alec Mapa, tries to spice things up a bit, but it's Calpernia's BFF and fellow transgender activist Andrea James who steals all the scenes. While Calpernia is trying to be diplomatic about the oddballs vying for her affections, Andrea minces no words in telling it like it is. (The press materials say the show will feature online voting at, allowing viewers to express who they think Calpernia should eliminate, with live voting results will air during the show. But the selections are ultimately decided by Calpernia alone.)

Here's my two-second evaluation of the bachelors:

  • Peter, a media consultant, is semicute but makes me think he's gay when he plays the "you fall in love with the person, not the gender" card.

  • Blaine, a (used?) car salesmen, is a creepy G. Gordon Liddy lookalike who dates transwomen "exclusively." ("I'm trisexual -- I'll try anything." Um, no thanks.)

  • Sean, a concert promoter, says he's straight and likes transwomen because he's really attracted to "womanly features," something he feels they tend to "overexaggerate" to his liking. (Um, OK. They certainly overexaggerate their names with a litany of unncessary accents and apostrophes, so maybe he's right about this.)

  • Jim, a writer, has a "secret" that is so obvious that Michael and I about died when he "revealed" it. By the time he says that he's "tired of hiding, tired of feeling like I'm not worthy of love" you quickly realize this guy doesn't belong on a reality dating show, he belongs back on his therapist's sofa.

  • Mark, a personal trainer, is probably the best-looking of the guys, but he mumbles and lives with his parents and doesn't seem to have much experience in the romance department, transgender or otherwise.

  • Rich, a yoga instructor, is handsome enough but way too short for Calpernia. He says he's straight and seems fairly normal. But when he announces that his favorite part of the house they're staying in is the backyard -- "it's private, it's covered; I like that" -- something tells me he's no as OK with this situation as he lets on.

  • Barry, an actor, is a chubby older guy who makes me cringe every time he says something. It's like your middle-age dad showed up to score a tranny.

  • Mark, a professional wrestler, is by far the worst of the guys. He's a bald midget who says he goes by the stage name "Razor Rizzati El Italiano Stalliano." But he should just go by Dork.

    I'd give the premiere about a C+, although I will say that the previews from upcoming episodes looked pretty good. Let's hope those teasers aren't better than the real thing as teasers tend to be.


    C List said...

    I love Calpernia. I met her in Nashville when she was performing drag. She has a kind heart. LOVE HER!

    Callie said...

    Hi, I wanted to write and say thanks for taking the time to analyze things on a deeper level than the average "rave" or "blowoff" that lazy bloggers do sometimes, me included.

    There are a million ways for any media endeavor to play out differently from what a particular viewer might like, but what I hope people come away with from Transamerican Love Story is a few laughs and a few more conversations about things involving the word "trans" than they would have otherwise. Reality television is about fun and fantasy, the possibility that even the viewer could participate in the magical world of television. "I would never do that!" or "That could be me!" a viewer can think, and this show is one more step to bringing trans people into that fantasy. Unlike New York and Tila and others, I am consistently as empathetic as possible with my men, and outside of a few zany costumes and passionate kisses I kept it classy. Some people are going to wish I was more cruel, and some will wish I was more conservative. You can please some of the people some of the time, but never all of the people all of the time, isn't that how the old saying goes? Ha ha.

    I was put in a position in 1999 where I felt that I could serve the community and honor my boyfriend's memory by being the best image of a transwoman that imperfect little "me" could be. But Barry met and fell in love with a sparkling, funny girl who loved exploring boundaries on stage. That's the real me, and that's someone I need to be again, because I can't play Susan B. TrAnthony for much longer. Sometimes I feel like Frodo at Journey's End, worn down from carrying the Ring and ready to pass it off to someone else before riding the white ship to the Grey Havens. My Grey Havens is the freedom to finally have fun.

    So in the coming year, you will see me acting like a nervous, laughing fool at the center of eight guys' attention. You'll see me playing a crackhead in a GLBT written-and-acted parody of the exploitation genre, alongside other actors playing the cliché stereotype of their particular community (Black pimp, Asian "Dragon Lady", etc.) I don't know what all I'll be doing, but it will be unfurling my wings again and letting my freak flag fly a little more. I know that no one will ever agree with every little thing I do, but I hope y'all know that I still care and will always try to put a smile or a tear in your eyes in some kinda way.

    I just wrote all this out a moment ago, but it explains some things so well that I think I'll blog it as well, I hope you don't mind.

    Thank you,


    Anonymous said...

    that dude mark is no wrestler, he a corny cat from connecticut.

    Anonymous said...

    Dear Calipernia,

    You are about the sweetest, smartest, funniest person that I have ever observed and without a trace of self involvement.

    I really enjoyed Transamerica Love but it did make me sad that you were presented with such a rag-tag bunch to choose from (except for Sean). You deserved better than that, and you extended yourself beyond the call of duty patiently exploring their make up to find the goodness in them.

    My partner summarized your appeal when she said, "I'd like to know Calpernia". I realized that I, too, felt the same exact way.

    I just finished reading an article explaining Barry's murder and your comportment after his death. You are truly a sensitive soul who never tries to make things about

    A devoted fan,

    Callie said...

    Thank you again! It was a fun but emotional experience, and I'm glad we were able to make it. As the first show of its kind in the US, it was a little more difficult to cast than it will be if they do it again. Someone always has to make that difficult first step!

    I'm already working on new projects with Andrea, so I hope you'll stay tuned and check my blog ( for updates. Take care!


    Anonymous said...

    Dear Calpernia,
    I'm starting to get Calpernia withdrawal symptoms since I haven't seen you on TV since the end of Trans America Love. Anything planned in the future?

    Also, I hate to be so flat-footedly nosey, but are you still seeing Sean? Or maybe I'm being presumptious. Did you ever date Sean after the end of the show?