Transamerican Love Story
|Transamerican Love Story|
|Directed by||Julio Kollerbohm|
|Presented by||Alec Mapa|
|Theme music composer||Kevin Haskins|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||8 (list of episodes)|
World of Wonder
Oh Really! Productions
|Producer(s)||Sara Jandrain (senior producer)|
|Original network||Logo TV|
|Picture format||ATSC (480i)|
|Original release||February 11– March 31, 2008|
Transamerican Love Story is an American reality dating show in which suitors woo transgender woman Calpernia Addams. Addams chooses a suitor by process of elimination. When the show first aired, viewers could vote their preferences online, but it was Addams who chose whom to eliminate. Calpernia is accompanied by her friend Andrea James; each episode is hosted by comedian Alec Mapa.
Transamerican Love Story is the first reality dating show in the United States in which contestants compete for the attention and approval of a transgender woman. Logo TV, a digital cable channel with LGBT content, announced the series in November 2007, and premiered the first episode the following February. The series finale aired on March 31, 2008.
Zack Rosen of the Washington Blade praised the series, describing it as "refreshing for its lack of sensationalism". Heather Havrilesky of Salon agreed, and admired Calpernia's composure. In 2009, the show won a GLAAD Media Award in the "Outstanding Reality Program" category, tying with I Want to Work for Diddy.
Transamerican Love Story was one of three new reality television shows that Logo premiered in 2008, accompanied by Gimme Sugar and Shirts & Skins. It was produced by World of Wonder Productions with the assistance of Oh Really! Productions, a company that had recently begun producing The Big Gay Sketch Show for Logo.
Transamerican Love Story was not World of Wonder's first transgender program. Their documentary series TransGeneration (2005) won a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Documentary in 2006, and Sex Change Hospital (2007) was a nominee for the same award in 2009. Transamerican Love Story contestant Jim Howley, who is himself transgender, appeared in the premiere episode of Sex Change Hospital.
After World of Wonder developed the concept for Transamerican Love Story, Logo called Calpernia Addams in the summer of 2007 to offer her the starring role, which she accepted. Addams is an actress, musician, writer, and activist from Nashville, Tennessee. She was 36 years old when the show was filmed.
Her friend, transgender activist Andrea James, co-stars in the series, and was a consulting producer. In a 2013 interview, James explains that she saw an opportunity for social progress in a program that accurately represented men who are attracted to trans women. Typically, she says, in US media trans-attracted men are stigmatized and shamed, and that can make them hate themselves—and "lead to unhealthy and even dangerous situations for trans women." "No one knows how hard it is for us to date!" Addams adds. Both Addams and James hoped the show would also undermine the media stereotype of trans women as "tragic and serious".
The show employs the competition-dating format established by The Bachelor (2002), a long-running series with numerous spin-offs and imitators. The bachelors in Transamerican Love Story are men who are "open to dating a trans woman". They lodge together in a mansion while Calpernia stays in a separate cottage on the estate. The contestants compete in group challenges, and the winners are granted time with Calpernia.
Before deciding which contestant to eliminate in the evening's ceremony, Calpernia confers with her friends Andrea James and (show host) Alec Mapa. James and Mapa have occasion to chat with the bachelors, and they share some of their insights with Calpernia. Viewers also vote their preferences online, but it is Addams who chooses whom to eliminate. In the elimination ceremony, Calpernia feeds a chocolate to those suitors whom she invites to stay. In the final episode, when only three suitors remain, they are given makeovers before Calpernia meets with them individually to tell each man whether it is him she has chosen.
Most of Transamerican Love Story was filmed in the Greater Los Angeles Area of Los Angeles County, California. Portions of episode six were filmed in the Western US cities of Ventura, California and Las Vegas, Nevada.
Eight men compete in the show. They range in age from 24 to 47.
|Shawn||33||Ventura, California||Concert promoter||Winner|
|Mike||24||Chicago, Illinois||Personal trainer||Episode 8|
|Jim||32||Hilliard, Ohio||Writer||Episode 8|
|Mark||34||New York, New York||Professional wrestler||Episode 5|
|Peter||25||Encino, California||Media consultant||Episode 4|
|Rich||37||New York, New York||Yoga instructor||Episode 3|
|Barry||45||Glade Hill, Virginia||Actor||Episode 2|
|Blaine||47||Reseda, California||Car salesman||Episode 1|
Contestants are arranged in the order in which Calpernia calls their names during the elimination ceremony. In episode five, no competition winner is declared. In episode six, each of the three remaining men gets a date with Calpernia. Episode seven is a clip show, and has no elimination ceremony. In episode eight, Calpernia turns down two of the three remaining suitors before declaring the remaining man the winner.
- The contestant won the competition.
- The contestant won a date with Calpernia.
- The contestant won a date with Calpernia, but was eliminated.
- The contestant was eliminated.
- The contestant was to be eliminated, but Calpernia let him stay.
|Episode number||Title||Air date|
|1||"Getting to Know You"||February 11, 2008|
|Calpernia arrives in a horse-drawn carriage and meets the eight bachelors. Each man spends a few minutes talking with her while the rest talk with her friend Andrea. Later that night, the men are invited to a "sleepover" with a Middle Eastern theme: the men dress in thongs and loincloths, and must cater to Calpernia by fanning her, feeding her tidbits, rubbing her feet, and dancing. Calpernia decides to eliminate Blaine, who previously revealed that he had owned a transsexual porn business.|
|2||"Something's Cookin'"||February 18, 2008|
|Since Calpernia is from the Southern United States, her friends are invited to a Southern dinner—which the bachelors must prepare. The men shop at a nearby kosher market, and make kosher substitutions for the non-kosher ingredients that the recipes call. At first the men get along while preparing the meal but things become more strained as the cooking progresses. Barry, having taken control of the cooking and organizing the men, earns a wine-and-cheese date with Calpernia that afternoon. The dinner guests arrive and find that some of the dishes are not well-prepared. The dinner party ends with a singalong led by Shawn. Shawn wins a few moments with Calpernia based on her friends' recommendations. Jim reveals to Mark that he is transgender, and is pleasantly surprised by Mark's encouraging response. At the elimination, Calpernia sends Barry home.|
|3||"Love's a Beach"||February 25, 2008|
|The six remaining suitors arrive at a beach where they must strip to their underpants and exercise under the orders of a former drill sergeant (who is also a trans man). Calpernia and Andrea watch through binoculars from a nearby yacht. The drill sergeant pairs them into teams, and explains that each team is to paddle a rubber raft to the yacht. The men who win the race earn time alone with Calpernia. Shawn and Rich win the race, and take the opportunity to get to know Calpernia better. Back on shore, Mark clashes with the other men, particularly Mike. The next day, Calpernia visits to spend some alone time with Mark. Peter (who's worried about having had no alone time with her) and Mike crash the end of their date. Jim tells all of the remaining suitors that he is transgender, and they are all supportive. At the elimination ceremony, Calpernia eliminates Rich, saying they would make better friends.|
|4||"I Love the Nightlife"||March 3, 2008|
|Mark continues to come into conflict with the other suitors. Calpernia brings the men to a nightclub where several of her friends (including original club kid James St. James) evaluate them. Calpernia performs her song "Stunning", and the men learn they will perform on stage and in costume for her and a panel of judges. Mark refuses, but eventually agrees to perform in his street clothes. Mike wins the performance competition, and earns a limo ride with Calpernia. The next day Calpernia finally spends some time alone with Peter, but she's concerned that he's more interested in the mint juleps she's serving than in her. Calpernia eliminates Peter at that night's ceremony.|
|5||"I Like the Way You Move"||March 10, 2008|
|The episode begins with group interactions between the remaining four suitors. Everyone goes to Oil Can Harry's to learn to dance the country-western two-step. Afterward, they return to the mansion for a barbecue dinner. The dinner becomes a shouting match between Mark and Jim, and Calpernia breaks down in tears. Calpernia eliminates Mark at that evening's ceremony, and Shawn leaves the mansion to attend a funeral.|
|6||"Meet the Folks"||March 17, 2008|
|This episode stresses the importance of family. With Shawn absent for a funeral, only Jim and Mike are left to meet Calpernia's "adopted mother", Chyna. Calpernia and Mike go to the Las Vegas Strip, where Mike's mother and father are on holiday at the Sahara Hotel and Casino. Shawn returns, and Calpernia accompanies him to his hometown, Ventura, California. Jim's parents visit the mansion to meet Calpernia, as do his former roommates, a gay couple. At the elimination ceremony, Jim and Shawn are invited to stay, but Calpernia decides not to eliminate Mike, either. Calpernia announces that all four of them are returning to the mansion for the final portion of the competition.|
|7||"Season Recap"||March 24, 2008|
|In this clip show, host Alec Mapa recaps the series so far, and interviews Calpernia and the remaining suitors.|
|8||"Season Finale"||March 31, 2008|
|Calpernia and the three remaining suitors move to Le Parc Suite Hotel in West Hollywood, and the suitors get makeovers at Fusion Hair. Calpernia calls Jim to the hotel's rooftop patio and tells him that they should not be "romantic partners". Mike and Shawn each make their final pitch for Calpernia's heart, and in the end she selects Shawn.|
Response and epilogue
Zack Rosen of the Washington Blade called the show "refreshing for its lack of sensationalism". Heather Havrilesky, in her review for Salon, observed: "The show’s producers (thankfully) resist the urge to throw in big, manipulative Fox-style surprises. While some of the men get freaked out by each other, Calpernia is likable and accepting and takes the whole crazy assortment of characters in stride."
"A reality dating show is… a very difficult circumstance in which to get to know someone", wrote Calpernia Addams, a few weeks after the finale aired. "I look[ed] at it as… a fun romp… rather than a deadly serious path to matrimony." The following July, Calpernia reported that she and competition-winner Shawn "had some dinners and get-togethers, but… have not continued to date". A few days later, she told an interviewer: "The amazing thing that Logo did with this was they showed trans people dating as being so normal, like it really is. I think it’s going to open it up for trans women to feel worthy of love and for guys to not be afraid to date us."
About two months after the final episode aired, Addams, Howley, Andrea James, and Alec Mapa all appeared together in the 2008 Los Angeles Pride parade. Later that summer, Jim Howley did a photo shoot with portrait photographer Eric Schwabel for a feature in The Advocate on the human body. Schwabel also photographed Addams the following February.
On June 18, 2009, a few weeks after Transamerican Love Story won a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Reality Program, Calpernia Addams and Andrea James debuted a short comedy film at the 33rd Frameline Film Festival in San Francisco. They had begun developing the film—called Transproofed—more than a year prior. Transproofed is the story of a trans woman, Ava, who feels unready to tell the man she's been dating that she's transgender; but when Ava's friend Joyce pressures her into hiding any evidence in her apartment that she's trans (with a long career as a showgirl), Ava feels more and more uneasy. Addams and James wrote, directed, produced, and scored the film. Addams takes the role of Ava, and James plays the role of Joyce.
GLAAD Media Award
At the 20th GLAAD Media Awards in May 2009, Transamerican Love Story tied with I Want to Work for Diddy for the GLAAD Media Award in the "Outstanding Reality Program" category. Calpernia Addams and Laverne Cox were at the awards ceremony in San Francisco to accept the honors for the respective shows.
Also in attendance was Transamerican Love Story finalist Jim Howley. He reports that when Transamerican Love Story won, he impulsively ran to the stage, past security personnel. After Addams' acceptance speech, he approached the lectern, introduced himself, and said a few words about transgender progress. Howley was one of the subjects of Sex Change Hospital, which was a nominee that year in the "Outstanding Documentary" category. He attended the awards ceremony with Clair Farley, a trans woman who was the subject of the 2007 documentary Red Without Blue. The couple married in 2011.
In 2016, two transgender-related series once again tied for "Outstanding Reality Program": I Am Cait and I Am Jazz. Chris McCarthy, general manager of Logo and VH1, told Adweek in 2015 that without Transamerican Love Story and other portrayals of diverse trans issues, "there would be no I Am Cait." Said World of Wonder co-founder Randy Barbato, "We always thought our subjects were ready for prime time. Not that many people agreed with us."
MTV Networks published the complete series in a four-disc DVD set in 2008. It is distributed online through Amazon Video, and has also been distributed through Netflix, iTunes, and LOGOonline.
- The Bachelorette (2003)
- There's Something About Miriam (2004)
- A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila (2007)
- My Transsexual Summer (2011)
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