Transformations

By Addams, Calpernia; James, Andrea | The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), July 22, 2003 | Go to article overview

Transformations


Addams, Calpernia, James, Andrea, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)


We two have come together to create change from very different backgrounds. Many people became aware of Calpernia's story when her boyfriend, Barry Winchell, was murdered by fellow soldiers in Kentucky in 1999, following months of harassment about his sexuality. In the face of this devastating loss, the media made things worse for Calpernia with insensitive coverage, reducing her relationship with Barry to "friend" status and completely discounting her identity as a woman.

The Showtime film Soldier's Girl helped correct that. Most trans women in film and on television are portrayed as prostitutes, punch lines, or psychos. But in the hands of writer Ron Nyswaner (Philadelphia) and director Frank Pierson (a Star Is Born), Calpernia's story became one of filmmaking's most realistic and positive portrayals of a transgendered woman's romantic relationship.

While Calpernia worked to side-step show-business pitfalls as a Nashville entertainer, Andrea made her transition under different circumstances. With family support and an established corporate career, she was able to make the change on the job in a progressive workplace. She also had the income needed to pay all the costs that make transition so challenging-and so rife with consumer fraud. Andrea's job in advertising had taught her how to fight such fraud, so she decided to share her knowledge through her Web site, with hundreds of pages of free information on setting realistic goals and making informed purchasing decisions. (She spun off the section on hair removal into one of the Web's most popular free consumer sites on the subject.)

The two of us met shortly after Barry's death, and we saw an opportunity to work together to make transitioning easier for others and to get the trans perspective heard in the media. Between us, we have experience in print, theater, film, and TV. This year we moved to Los Angeles to start Deep Stealth Productions-the name is a wink to a slang term used by some in our community to mean "living without question or discovery in one's chosen gender identity."

We have been anything but deep stealth: The enormous response to Soldier's Girl has allowed us to share with people what an incredible man Barry was and to have people see Calpernia as a regular woman with her own business, goals, and aspirations.

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