Guy Turned Girl Seeks Love on Reality TV

"Transamerican Love Story" stars a transgender woman picking from many men.

February 19, 2009, 7:52 AM

Nov. 30, 2007 — -- In the hormone-loaded, rejection-ridden world of reality dating shows, there are many variations on the old boy-meets-girl/girl-meets-boy scenario:

Dashing boy meets lots of girls -- "The Bachelor." Scorned girl meets lots of boys -- "I Love New York." Bisexual girl meets 10 boys and 10 girls -- "A Shot at Love With Tila Tequila."

And now, transgender girl meets eight boys who know, from the get-go, that their would-be lover was not always a lady -- "Transamerican Love Story."

The show stars Calpernia Addams, a 36-year-old transgender woman who was born male but transitioned to female -- surgery, hormone treatments and all -- in her early 20s. The Tennessee native served in the Navy during the first Gulf war, where her relationship with an Army private led to a brutal gay bashing that killed him, drove her to become a transgender activist and inspired the 2003 film "Soldier Girl."

After moving to Los Angeles to pursue acting, Addams quickly soured on the singles scene. So when Logo, MTV's cable network targeted at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender viewers, came to her with the idea for "Transamerican Love Story," she jumped.

"I get attention from men but a lot of times I won't let a relationship start because I know how complicated it's going to be," Addams said. "Usually on a third date or so, if it seems like it's going to be serious, I tell him about my history. Unfortunately, they usually leave."

Addams gets to decide who leaves in "Transamerican Love Story." The show's format doesn't stray far from the reality dating series norm: Eight bachelors in their 20s and 30s attempt to coexist under the same roof as Addams whittles them down through a series of challenges -- in one, the California boys compete to see who can best cater to her Southern tastes. (None of the bachelors were available for comment because the show is still in production).

What is different is that Addams is honest. While the lotharios and ladies who star in other dating shows may hide everything from their income (remember "Joe Millionaire?") to their sexual preference (the contestants of Tila Tequila's show didn't know they'd be competing with the opposite sex when they signed on), Addams is upfront about her transgender status from the beginning.

"One of the most important things to me about this project was that the guys knew everything upfront," she said. "I never want to feel like I'm deceiving someone about my past. My history does carry a lot of weight for a lot of people."

That honesty is part of the reason Logo pegged Addams to star in her own series.

"Calpernia Addams proves that steely optimism and a genuine spirit are the universal keys to finding love," Brian Graden, the network's president, said in a statement.

Of course, a house full of doting bachelors can speed up that search. The hour-long show premieres in February 2008. Addams expects it to be more fun and free-wheeling than the typical reality dating show, and hopes it will help people see that the transgender dating scene isn't all that out there.

"People come to the idea of transsexual person with a lot of preconceptions. They're going to be carrying a lot of baggage from shows like Jerry Springer," she said. "When they actually see the show, they're going to be surprised. They're going to see a girl next door from the south living in L.A. and trying to date."

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