BY Advocate.com Editors
August 01 2009 12:00 AM ET
Transamerican Love Story follows the competitive dating show conventions, with a firm wink and nod toward the genre. The men engage in amusing contests to win a private date with me before a nightly elimination ceremony. The obvious differences being that I am an out transsexual woman, and the inclusion of Jim Howley, a transsexual man, among the contestants. We also took breaks from harem dancing and Speedo-clad workouts to sit down and talk about what it was like for transsexual women dating in the hetero world, and what it was like for the men who date us. And we really wanted to stand out from most other reality shows by simply respecting everyone's humanity. I'm proud that even without the standard drunken slap fights or gratuitous hot-tub three way make out sessions, we managed to capture a big audience and walk away with our dignity intact.
One of the things I love the most about acting is the freedom it gives me to step outside of my shy and awkward self, and release the inner aggression and confidence that I usually keep in check. In real life, I can be a bit nervous in social situations. On stage, I can play a confident femme fatale who seduces the hero and puts her enemies in their place with a sharp and stinging quip. And when it's all over, no matter how reckless the choices my character has made, I will not be judged personally for her actions. With a reality show, that cushioning layer of character is gone and I am left standing alone in the public eye to account directly for whatever I have done on screen. It was a new challenge, to “perform” as myself and not as some other person who would take the all the flack while I took the praise. In Transamerican Love Story I spent some time finding my way with this, and typically I was a bit more cautious than some would be. I really had to learn to trust myself before I could have a bit more fun with the situation. Since my first big scene involved me shouting orders at the guys, reclining in a golden Cleopatra two-piece while being fanned by an enormous muscle-man, it may be hard to believe that I was holding back in those early episodes. But people who really know me see more of the person the recognize in later episodes, when I meet the parents of the three finalists and go on some incredible dates in Vegas and along the California coastline. Now that I've done a show like this once, I'll be able to walk into another one with much more freedom, if such an opportunity were to come along.