Friday, November 30, 2007

The Dating Game

According to Perez Hilton, Calpernia Addams is going to be the star of her own new reality show, where she gets to choose from among eight bachelors.

MTV’s GLBT channel, Logo, will be airing a reality dating show starring a transgender woman as the lead!

Transamerican Love Story is centered on transgender activist and actress Calpernia Addams.

The show follows Calpernia as she whittles down a group of eight bachelors, living together in a Los Angeles-area home, with the help of her best friend and fellow transgender activist Andrea James.

So what do we think of that? Really, I'm not sure what I think, though I do wish Calpernia well in the endeavor, & that she picks a guy who doesn't suck.


Callie said...

Hi Helen! I haven't been commenting on most of the blogs covering the show, but you are such a community leader and so many people listen to you. I thought I'd drop a little note here, to let people know a bit more about things than the Perez post tells.

While I honestly think this show will be lots of fun and a little educational for most people, not everyone will like it, for several possible reasons. Some don't like reality shows. Some don't like me personally. Some will think that everything I do must be a Joan of Arc self-sacrifice on the altar of transsexual politics.

Some people think "The Bachelorette" and "The Bachelor" make both the lead and the contestants look pathetic. I think that onus lies at the feet of the contestants themselves. Some, including me, do think that they trivialize marriage by making it a prize in a game show rather than a promise between two adults who know each other very well.

I've tried to do my best with this light-hearted, purely-for-fun concept. The show will be funny, self-effacing, "in on the joke" and a way to give people a look at a real trans woman navigating the process of dating. There's always room for missteps in the editing room... I can't know what graphics, songs, subtitles, etc they might apply or how they might edit scenes together. But World of Wonder did a great job with "Transgenerations", and Logo is the Cadillac of GLBT networks right now. I trust them.

The show never says that I need it to find a mate, any more than someone needs Top Model to have a modeling career. My trans-ness is upfront, integrated into the concept of the show, but it's not the focus and it's not a joke.

Everyone will just have to see it to make final decisions on how they feel about it. And they're entitled to those personal decisions. But I do hope everyone keeps in mind that they're not talking about some megacelebrity in a castle on top of a mountain somewhere. It's little old vulnerable, human, girl-next-door me. So I hope everyone will take that into consideration as they share any zingers, slams and jabs. The commenters at Perez Hilton's blog post will be covering my initiation into mass public praise/excoriation quite nicely, in any case.

Of course, compliments can flow freely without any self-editing, ha ha. ;\)

I will say this: I dearly love the trans community, as I hope my record shows. But I am beyond ready to lay down the cross and have a little fun for myself, so everyone should get ready to see me getting out there and doing just that.

helen_boyd said...

good luck, beautiful! & thanks for being willing to let us know how you feel about it. i hope - and ask - that people within the trans community will not be too hard on you, whether or not they agree or don't with the idea of the show.

personally i hope you have fun, & if you find the great guy into the bargain.. well all the better!

Jenny Boylan said...

When I first heard about Calpernia, through the cover story on the Sunday NYT magazine, I was taken aback a little. First, I thought, whoa, how cool that a transwoman's story has emerged in this most respected of journalistic venues. Second, I heaved a sad sigh because of course Callie's story was so hard, and so sad, and I thought (as I know all of us do, sometimes,) Why do our stories always have to be about the horrors of our lives? Why can't the public image of trans people be that of how well adjusted and normal we are? Why can't the point be all of the things we have in common with the nontrans world, rather than that which makes us different?

In time I came to feel a little different. In part this is because of the way Callie has comported herself publicly-- she has been a figure of dignity and grace, and has shone a light for Folks Like Us that has done well by us. And if the initial story was one of sadness and loss and injustice, well, that is a part of our reality of course as well, so why not be glad such a story is told by someone with Callie's chops?

I was surprised to see that she'd cottoned on to this TV show, but I'm moved by the idea that she too deserves to have a little fun. Again, if there's going to be a show such as this, how cool that Calpernia is at the center, rather than just about anybody else I could think of.

And finally, I really get what she says here about having to be Joan of Arc all the bloody time. Man oh man I get that. When you are a public poster child for trans issues, sometimes you do feel like you have to be Jackie Robinson-- perfect and measured at every moment. Which would drive anyone crazy.

I love Jackie Robinson, but I also think that it's hard when we demand that everyone who becomes a public figure for a non-normative group in this country has to live up to some impossible standard. Surely, Callie had done her time.

And so. She wants to have fun, I say let's have a little fun. And maybe the idea that a transwoman of dignity and grace can have a sense of humor is a good thing too. Surely if our message is that we are human too, there is value in showing us rejoicing in our own blarney.

I say you go girl. All my favorite heroes are humans.

-julia said...

Hi everyone,

First, Calpernia, I wish you all the best with the show! While I am not a big fan of reality shows in general, the fact that you’re in it and it’s on Logo (which tends to have some of the most respectful representations of trans folks on TV) makes me feel pretty optimistic about it. And I know that these things can be done well – I thought Transgenerations was overall both enjoyable to watch and gave a human face to the trans experience. Granted, there were some aspects of the show that annoyed me or I felt were stereotypical (e.g., it’s focus on physical transitioning and how the trans women were depicted as super-insecure in comparison to the trans guys), but I felt these parts were mostly outweighed by the good parts.

Also, I very much appreciate what both Callie and Jenny had to say regarding how hard our community often is on those members who do get the chance to be in the public spotlight - that there are all of these expectations that they have to behave perfectly because they supposedly represent all of us. This obviously comes from the fact that trans people don’t feel like we have much of a voice, so when one of us appears on TV, we feel like it’s this rare opportunity that needs to be executed perfectly in order to dispel all the stereotypes that audiences have about us. The problem is, different trans people have different ideas of what the “perfect depiction” would be, so many of us are inevitably disappointed no matter what happens.

I know that since my book has come out, I have received letters from people who were very upset about some point or another I made in it. The funny thing is that different people are often upset about very different (sometimes even opposite) things. I know where this comes from: Since so few books are published by trans authors, they necessarily fail to capture the entire diversity of perspectives and experiences that exist within the community. It’s a frustration born out of our community's lack of voice. Every book or TV show or movie that addresses trans issues and which does not get across the points we’d like to make feels like a missed opportunity to us.

There are lots of straight, white, able-bodied women and men on reality shows every day, and they have the luxury of engaging in that experience without having to represent all straight, white, able-bodied people. It’s unfair that Calpernia feels like she is not in the same position because she is trans, but I understand where that frustration comes from. Anyway, I wish you all the best with it and that it turns out to be everything you hoped for!

PS. speaking of trans depictions, has anyone else seen anything about this upcoming documentary called Being T? There is a post about the marketing of it here:

helen_boyd said...

& here are calpernia addams & andrea james doing a proper theatrical reading of some of the comments they got on the site: