Calpernia Addams and I have been playing email tag for about two weeks. So when my cell phone rings while at dinner on a recent Monday I excuse myself, grab a pad and pen, and hop over to a counter overlooking Detroit Ave. on Cleveland's west side.

On the phone, Addams is quick to apologize for any inconvenience. But there is no need to apologize, for Calpernia Addams is very busy these days.

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.

Addams told David France in a 2000 New York Times Magazine cover story that she was devastated, even blamed herself for Winchell's murder. “The reason he was killed was because he was dating me. That makes it even more devastating, to think that I had played some role in it.”

The events of how Addams and Winchell met -- at Connections, a Nashville gay bar which included drag shows where she performed -- his murder and subsequent trial were dramatized in Showtime's Soldier's Girl.

But today Addams is bright and only makes a passing aside to her past as we discuss her current projects. These include a new acting career, working as a transgender rights activist, and searching for love.

Last year, gay cable channel Logo asked Addams to play a bachelorette in their groundbreaking dating show Trans American Love Story. While she says that love can never be a prize to be won on a show, she remains proud of what the show accomplished. “[Transamerican Love Story] tackled super complicated things. We talked about the issues surrounding finding love as a transsexual woman,” she said. “We attempted to show what it was like for the men who decide to date us.”

On the show, Shawn remained the final contestant. Calpernia confesses they are still seeing each other – if only casually.

She is also currently working on a short comedy called Trans Proofed with best friend and business partner Andrea James. The film, a hopeful GLBT film festival entrant, stars Addams as actress and musical performer.

Yet, Addams is not acting when it comes to her activism. She proudly tells me about the PSA she recorded for Logo on Lawrence King, a 15-year-old boy who was shot in the head after he told another boy he liked him. And now she is preparing to become a national spokesperson for transgender rights.

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.

In an email to On Top Magazine, PFLAG Director of Communications Steve Ralls said of Addams as spokesperson, “Calpernia was the perfect choice for our campaign. In addition to her work on the stage, Calpernia has been a long-time advocate for transgender equality, and an eloquent spokesperson on transgender issues. We are enormously proud, and excited, to be partnering with her for the 'Love Story' campaign.”

Calpernia Addams' story from “devastated” girlfriend to transgender rights advocate grew from a monstrous Fourth of July homophobic killing. It was, however, her own brave love story that makes her a transgender role model.

“I hope This Is Our Love Story will help young transgender people as they come out. By seeing the happy, confident woman I've become, I hope I can act as a role model for these young people at a critical moment in their development,” she said.

Calpernia Addams can be reached via her website at PFLAG's national website is located at