Addams first drew national attention in the summer of 1999 when her boyfriend, Pfc. Barry Winchell, was murdered in a vicious homophobic attack. Pvt. Calvin Glover bashed Winchell's head with a baseball bat while he slept, crushing his skull. A second soldier, Justin Fisher, had taunted Glover into the killing and later would clean Winchell's blood off the bat. Glover was sentenced to life in prison and Fisher received 12 years. The incident occurred while Calpernia Addams celebrated her biggest pageant win, Tennessee Entertainer of the Year Contest – and America freedom – on the fourth of July at Fort Campbell Army Base near Nashville, TN.
Winchell's murder, a blatant failure of President Clinton's Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue, Don't Harass policy, made national headlines. And Addams reluctantly stepped into the national spotlight.
We're coming up on the 9th anniverary of Winchell's murder, which is still a painful topic for Tennessee's GLBT community, especially since Addams and Winchell met at Nashville's now defunct club Connection. The story of his murder and the movie Soldier's Girl as well as her recent reality series Transamerican Love Story have made Calpernia Addams one of the most well known transgender people in the United States.
Addams has decided to use her celebrity in the service of the GLBT community and highlight awareness of transgender issues.
Pro-gay group Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) is set to feature Calpernia Addams in a new national campaign titled This Is Our Love Story. The campaign will first appear during GLBT Pride season (June-July) this summer. A PFLAG website, titled Transform The Movement, will come online later this summer. The site will highlight PFLAG's work in the transgender community and showcase the stories of transgender people who have worked with the organization on equality issues.
Some people inside and outside the GLBT community are nervous about the effort to "push" gender identity issues when it looks as if the country is finally getting closer to accepting gays and lesbians. But the matter can be stated simply. If people are disproportionally discriminated against or the victims of hate crimes based on their gender identity, then they are clearly deserving of the protections that guarantee them equal opportunity and safety. Why on earth would we make people wait for equality in the workplace and protection from hate crimes?
Calpernia's work will help bring awareness to millions with her compelling story. Congratulations and thanks to her and to PFLAG for launching their new campaign!