calpernia transamerican love story finale
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Probably the best I’ve ever looked in my life. Thank you, television!

Nowadays, one of the most frequent questions I’m asked by fans of the show is, “Are you and Shawn still together?” I’ve been incredibly busy recently, traveling and working on several new projects (which is one factor that informs the answer to their question), so I haven’t written anything about this yet, but I think it’s finally time.

The short answer is “No, Shawn and I are friends but we are not dating.” He is a great guy. We are both just very busy, and we live a long distance away from each other. Finding someone with whom you can share that rarest of sparks is like winning the lottery, and sometimes it only happens once in a lifetime… or even never. I’m kind of a handful anyway, so Shawn is probably counting his blessings at this point, ha ha.

I wrote a little article for The Advocate back in April called “The Reality of Love“, in which I had this to say about the show:

I went into Transamerican Love Story with an open heart and an open mind, but I never felt I should be obligated to fake “love” with anyone if it didn’t happen naturally because, of course, actual emotions can’t be awarded as “prizes” on a show, no matter what the setup. A reality dating show is actually a very difficult circumstance in which to get to know someone because any time spent together is very brief, very managed, and under the probing eye of the camera. I decided that the best thing I could do was to look at it as exactly what it was: a fun romp with a bunch of interesting guys (like playing spin the bottle at summer camp) rather than a deadly serious path to matrimony. Fortunately, I met some really cool men, and I’m looking forward to seeing what might develop in “real life” with Shawn, the last man standing on the show.

I’ve said in a few interviews since the show “You can award your attention, but you can’t award your affection. It will either spark or it won’t.” In the case of Shawn and me, there was definitely some chemistry, attraction and interest, but I think we both recognized that life may still have a soulmate in store for us elsewhere. We’ve had some dinners and get togethers, but Shawn and I have not continued to date after the show. We remain good friends who will always share a unique experience.

It’s important for me to note that I did not go into the show with a jaded, heartless attitude and the expectation that I would discard the boys immediately upon the end of the series. I went in with an open heart and an open mind, fully ready to experience romance and love if it should happen, but fully aware that love is ever so much more rare than “I Love New York” and “Tila Tequila” would have you believe.

I think that with love, you can only be open to it. You can’t force it, or expect it, or demand it. At the risk of using a gaggingly cloying metaphor, it’s like planting flowers in the hopes of attracting butterflies. You can prepare the garden, bury the seeds and nurture the plants… after that, you just have to hope that the butterflies come. If they don’t, at least you still have some nice flowers.

Adding this to the long list of things for which I blame the terrible cult I grew up in, I must admit that I am terrible at dating. I was already predisposed toward being an introvert, and we were so isolated from normal society. Relations between the sexes were only ever mentioned in the context of what not to do. And since I was still living in the role of a boy (who had absolutely zero interest in girls), I never struggled very hard against those restrictions to seek out dating experience. In the military, I was the young adult product of this environment, paralyzed by an intense internal battle to figure out who and what I was. There was no time for dating, and again I only would have wanted to date men anyway, who were forbidden to me. By the time I began transition, I was free from the military but no longer even possibly attractive to gay men (who wanted male partners, rather than a transsexual) and I was not yet blending into society as female well enough to attract heterosexual men. 

In the last few years, I have been able to finally go out with regular guys and experience a little bit of what it’s like to date in the regular world. It has been a relief to finally align my body with my soul so that I could leave behind the awkward sterility of my “why aren’t you dating girls?” youth, the frustration of my “why can’t you just be gay and date gay guys?” young adulthood and the disappointment of my “here come the pre-op t-gurl chasers!” adulthood. There are new problems to face, such as the difficulty that most men have with my history, but now the problems of dealing with my past are finally more in their heads than in mine.

All the same, though I am a little bit older and a little bit wiser, I still find it a struggle at times to understand the basic rituals of dating. So I am grateful for the experience that Transamerican Love Story gave me, and for Shawn’s willingness to go along with me on the journey. I personally had a lot of fun, and I hope the guys did, too. 

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