Book Review: Calpernia Addams' Mark 9:47

Copyright 2003 by Christine Beatty
Published in Diverse City magazine (Denver, CO) on May 2, 2003

Calpernia Addams sometimes describes her life as “weird.” While the other approximately 7000 other post-operative transsexual women in this country have also walked incredible paths, few can match this courageous woman’s tale. Aside from her strict Fundamentalist upbringing, she was dragged into a national spotlight after her boyfriend was murdered in a 1999 “gay” bashing on an Army base. Such is the range of experience so touchingly recounted in Calpernia’s autobiography Mark 947

Though Addams’ parents insulated her from secular society, her high school years in an advanced learning institution began to reveal many of the things she was missing out on. While her true identity was not yet clear, her dissatisfaction with boyhood was.

As with many transsexual women who came of age before the explosion of the visible TS/TG community in the mid-1990’s, Calpernia ran away to join the military. The Navy chapters rollercoaster through basic training, Desert Storm and a lonely outpost on an Aleutian island, as she becomes increasingly aware she does not fit in as a guy.

The remainder of the story details an ongoing awakening into her sexuality and gender, from her first steps in “drag” to her crowning as Tennessee’s Entertainer of the Year.

Sweetly yet tragically, these pages introduce and then all too quickly take away the love of her life, Army PFC Barry Winchell who loved her as his girlfriend. A true romantic will mist up at the beauty of that love, and only the most cynical will not weep at how it ended.

The final chapters vividly portray her anguish, the dazed nightmare of the murder trial, and her beginning steps into acceptance.

When asked what she hoped readers would take away from her story, Addams said, "The impression of a normal person who has triumphed over difficult circumstances to end up with a good life for themselves. All too often people look at transgender women as freaks of nature, and they can't imagine us having a normal daily life."

What does she hope fof from transsexual and transgendered readers? Addams expressed "hope that my story joins with all the others out there and shows girls that, yes life is hard and, yes there are some incredible obstacles, but in the end you can come out the other side and be a successful, happy person."

Addams said she found writing the book therapeutic in a way. "When it was all done I got to stand back from my life and see the big picture, so it helped me to understand myself better. It was really hard thinking back on all the love and the good times. These made me cry as much as the loss, because you don’t realize what you lost until you think about it even more."

She added, "I think people would have liked a lot more nitty-gritty details of transition, but I chose to make the book more personal by writing about the moments of life that were beautiful and special to me."

Mark 9:47 is a charming and well-written story, one that offers hope and understanding for us all.

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