“a triumph” , from Press+1 Stage Reviews
“Nina Arsenault is a genius… The Silicone Diaries is a masterpiece” from homorazzi.com (where homos judge everything), Feb 2012
“inspiring and downright mesmerizing… a living work of art”, from Fun! Fun! Vancouver!, Feb 2012
“Arsenault moves fluidly between the realms of the real and the hyperreal, gliding from spiritual depth into naive innocence, and the impression given is that life, everyone’s life, is important and complicated, and more specifically, each life lived is a barometer of the society that surrounds it.”, from POSTpacificPOST.com
(this review originally published on March 1st, 2012 on the website for the Greater Vancouver Professional Theatre Alliance www.gvpta.ca)
I have never, ever, had an emotional reaction to a theater (or any art piece, or any movie, or book for that matter) as strong as the one I had to The Silicone Diaries. After the standing ovation finally died down (and it took awhile) I walked slowly out of the theater, afraid to speak because if I did the lump in my throat would dissolve and I’d lose it. It wasn’t until we were in the car that I let my guard down and began to cry, not even sure what I was crying for.
Nina Arsenault is a 30-something-year-old woman whose battle with her mind, her critics, and especially her body are laid bare in her one-woman show The Silicone Diaries. Written like a diary would read and performed as a diary would sound if read aloud by it’s author, The Silicone Diaries is an open book if ever I’ve witnessed one. Jason said he felt like he had watched a documentary, I felt like I had lived inside Nina’s heart, mind, blood, and silicone for an hour and 45 minutes.
While sometimes Nina’s delivery wasn’t as tight as her latex dress, her straight up emotion and personality was thoroughly engaging. I was on her side, fascinated by the content and was intrigued from start to finish.
The Silicone Diaries tells the story of a little girl who entered the world trapped inside the body of a boy. This little girl gazed upon the world of feminine beauty through a shroud of confusion and fear, with no outlet to functionally grow into the woman she was destined to become. In order to fund over 60 procedures that would “scrape the man from her face”, give her the fishy(sp?) figure of her dreams, and later the visage of a beauty icon, Nina worked as a web cam “girl” for the online porn industry. Once she had enough money, and enough connections through the men she met online, she began the long and painful process of changing…everything. Her hips (illegal silicone injections), her fundamental figure (rib reshaping), her face (jaw, nose, cheekbones, eyes, forehead – several times), and her hair (extensions sewn into a weave sewn into her own hair). She didn’t stop at looking like a “passable” woman, and she documented all of it.
Through photography and video (which was extremely captivating, well edited, and timed) played behind Nina between scenes, she showed us bits of who she was and what she looked like along the way. A little boy, a college kid, a man in a wig, a beautiful young woman, and finally a striking image of “the perfect woman” we met onstage. Big hair, small nose, big tits, small waist, big hips, phenomenal shoes.
I’ve said before that I picked my shows for the season as a blogger for the GVPTA based on dates, and because of this tactic I’ve seen some wonderful shows that I normally would not have attended. This piece however, I’m sure I would have seen in a heartbeat. 1) I LOVE The Cultch, especially the Historic Theatre. Just sitting in the seats before a show starts, I always feel like I’m in for something special. 2) I am a Fringe fanatic and so one-person shows are right up my alley 3) I am intrigued by stories of female sexuality and beauty ideals. I had no idea however, just how much I would be struck by this show.
At first, I said to Jason that I didn’t know why I was so emotional. I was moved by the intimacy and intensity of what Nina shared, but I’m a woman who was born into the right gender, as a white woman, in Canada. I was raised by feminist parents who did everything they could to make me feel safe and loved and special and beautiful. Why was this show and this woman and her story striking such a powerful chord? The more I thought about it and as we discussed the show and the topics it raised I realized I could relate, any woman could. Even though I had all the advantages as a girl, my body image is still fucked up. I still managed to have a mild and ridiculous case of bulimia in high school and as a 31 year old woman I still get uncomfortable when my boyfriend sees models on TV when I’m sitting on the couch beside him. As Nina said “What woman looks in the mirror and sees what’s really there?”
While I can empathize, I cannot begin to imagine how someone becomes a woman with not only no guidance, but an overwhelming sense of shame following her every move and experience. Shame at living a lie, and then shame at trying to live in the right kind of body, but never being “real” enough. It breaks my heart. And it broke my heart to watch a woman who has been through such physical and emotional pain bare it all, let us in, so far in I was astonished in the last scene at how far Nina took it, and us.
I am so, so, so glad that Nina is doing this show, and this work. Theater is sometimes meant to be a fun and funny romp, an outlet from the everyday. And sometimes it’s meant to shed light on topics foreign to the audience and to empower writers and performers to get their message to the masses. This show was full of messages I hope as many people as possible see and think about and talk about.
I wonder now if Nina the performer would give up everything she’s been through to just have been born a girl. As painful as her life has been it has developed her into so much more than a 36D-26-40 sized bombshell. She is a caring, smart, and funny woman. She is an artist.
This ‘fishy’ diva is the Queen, the Venus De Milo and Aphrodite of the stage.
A storyteller of epic proportions that delivers a performance that sincerely makes you forget you are watching a play.
The Silicone Diaries does not just tell the tale of an awkward man’s transformation into a 36D-26-40 bombshell, as press releases would have you believe. It is much more than that. Nina Arsenault scrapes at philosophical notions of personal identity while giving audiences insight into a world filled with silicone oozing ‘manholes’ that can only be sealed by superglue – a universe where reality is truly what you make of it and even where rock stars like Tommy Lee can be taken in by the surgically altered allure of a transsexual’s voluptuous body.
As the performance steams ahead past her early childhood and into her first few years in the porn world, Arsenault relives the clickety clacks of her online escapades and virtual relationships – carefully weaving through anecdotes of online mystery men, trips to Vegas and San Francisco and finally to her first silicone injections. She shares with us the inside scoop on who the alphas of the Transsexual pack are and what it means to be accepted into that world.
According to Arsenault, “Beauty is something some women are lucky to be born with. Beauty is supposed to be natural, but if you weren’t lucky enough to be born with it then you’re called superficial for pursuing it.”
Arsenault frames this question of what beauty really is quite provocatively by establishing the idea that society today does not see beauty as natural but as a combination of the real and the fake. This premise shakes the very foundations of tradition and begins to pave a new path for what technology and innovation have begun to carve out as beautiful in a hyper globalized and quickly changing world.
Arsenault grasps at the concerns, which innately grow in her as she begins to wonder what will happen as time undoes her physical transformation. She must come to terms with not only her outer self but also her inner self as well. Arsenault must at some point be able to look in the mirror without the colours, glitter and stylistic modifications which take her over two hours each morning to create.
What is intoxicating about The Silicone Diaries is that it is not merely about the flat story of Arsenault’s physical journey but that it also sheds light on the very human concerns and mysteries of what is to come for the aging beauty of the plastic and silicone transformation.
The Silicone Diaries is an exceptional work that gives an interesting perspective not only into Nina Arsenault’s tremendous life but also into what it means to be human.
* * * * * (out of five)
One-woman show more than skin deep
By Cheryl Rossi, Vancouver Courier
Nina Arsenault isn’t your average woman.
She flaunts a 36-26-40inch figure and underwent 60 cosmetic surgeries and procedures to transform her appearance from that of a man.
But Arsenault’s Vancouver premiere of her one-woman show, The Silicone Diaries, Feb. 14 to 25 at The Cultch, promises to be much more than a freak show.
With seven personal monologues, Arsenault aims to take audiences on an intimate journey that includes spiritual moments, a tale of a plastic surgery specialist in Mexico who focuses on transsexuals and being picked up by rocker Tommy Lee.
“In a certain way it’s about plastic surgery, and then on a totally other level it’s not about plastic surgery at all,” Arsenault said. “It’s about love and inner beauty and harmony and intimacy, but in the most unusual and unexpected places-places like at an Internet porn site.”
Arsenault, who spent her first six years in teensy Beamsville, Ont., was obsessed from a young age with being beautiful at any cost. She stripped, performed oral sex and worked on reality TV to earn the $200,000 needed to pay for her procedures.
She knows her appreciation of “fake” beauty and her drive to achieve it isn’t something others easily understand, but Arsenault believes women appreciate that The Silicone Diaries doesn’t feed them pat answers to complicated questions, and she notes that many, including elderly people, can relate to the feeling of being trapped inside a body that doesn’t match their spirit.
The Silicone Diaries includes photos of Arsenault when she was Rodney and graphic images of her cosmetic procedures, edited poetically, she says, by R. Kelly Clipperton, the front man of Toronto band Kelly and the Kellygirls.
Arsenault, who’d studied theatre and acting, first gained attention when she wrote about transitioning in a column for Toronto’s Fab Magazine. So turning the column into a play wasn’t a stretch.
But still, she says, audience members seem surprised that she’s smart, self-aware and not totally superficial and messed up.
“Even if you are a f***ed up woman, it’s OK to be a f***ed up woman for a while,” Arsenault said. “Being a f***ed up woman is an absolutely healthy response to living in this culture.”
The performer behind a solo piece called I was Barbie, has always admired the brand of beauty exhibited by Lonni Anderson, Dolly Parton, geishas, Jessica Rabbit and Marilyn Monroe. She doesn’t think that “plastic beauty” is pushed on women. Instead, she says, women face the tyranny of “natural beauty.”
“It’s like you’re supposed to be that but if you do anything to get there, you’re called superficial,” Arsenault said. “What I’m saying is can we open up some other options because the system that’s going now actually doesn’t let you win unless you’re blond, perfect and you’re very young.”
Arsenault had her first cosmetic procedure at age 25 in 1998, her last in 2006. She’s not sure what she’s going to do as she ages. “Once you’re in the game you can’t age naturally,” she said.
But she feels “pretty good” about the way she looks now, noting she dons two different wigs every day, false eyelashes and piles of makeup.
“Underneath the wigs I have scars from the surgical procedures so my beauty is absolutely an illusion,” Arsenault said. “But, at the same time, I’m so grateful that I’ve got to experience a life where I get to be glamorous, where I get to, in a certain way, live the life of a beautiful woman, but it all comes off, it’s all fake- It’s afforded me so many wonderful, wonderful experiences- It’s complicated.”
The Silicone Diaries includes post-show talkbacks Feb. 15, 16, 21 and 22. For more information, see thecultch.com.
The Silicone Diaries reveals Nina Arsenault’s quest for plastic beauty
In The Silicone Diaries, Nina Arsenault reveals her sex work, her endless surgeries, and her redefinition of what a woman can be
By Colin Thomas, February 9, 2012
Nina Arsenault knows that she contains multitudes. She’s convinced that you do too.
In her solo show, The Silicone Diaries, the transsexual Arsenault shares the story of her epic, often dangerous pursuit of beauty. She talks about how, when she was a five-year-old boy named Rodney, growing up in a trailer park in Beamsville, Ontario, she went to Zellers with her mom and encountered the most beautiful woman she had ever seen: a mannequin. As an adult, Arsenault transformed herself into a woman whose appearance is every bit as stylized as a mannequin’s—although, unlike a mannequin, Arsenault is voluptuous, a 36D-26-40 bombshell. In The Silicone Diaries, Arsenault’s goal is not to pass as a cisgender—female-born—woman, but to sculpt herself, with her Mexican surgeon’s help, into a state of idealized femininity, to carve her will into her flesh.
Speaking on the phone from the Toronto office space of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, the company that’s producing her show, Arsenault says that she felt it was important to avoid the traditional strategy of trans material, which is to concentrate on the trans person’s tortured, pre-operative existence. “So many people have told that story already,” she says. “Seriously, I remember being a kid in the ’80s and seeing a transsexual tell that story on Donahue, in between Oprah and All My fuckin’ Children. For years now, I’ve been hungry for a trans woman to talk about something else.
“I’ve made big choices,” she goes on. “I’ve done things that other people would consider unreasonable, and for me, that is more interesting than some teary-eyed story about how you got bullied in high school. I think it’s important that those stories get told, but that’s not what my play is about.”
Choices that other people might consider unreasonable include doing sex work to pay for almost $200,000 worth of surgeries and other procedures, many of which—including black-market silicone injections to shape female buttocks and hips—are extremely dangerous.
In facing that danger, she drew upon her parents’ support. “They loved me no matter what,” Arsenault says simply. “They accepted my overt sexuality. They accepted my being a whore. They accept that I have taken risks. And they accept that I like to live life with the volume turned way up.”
And, she adds, determination might just be part of who she is. “I tell ya, I’m a hungry person,” she explains. “I want more. I want more life. I want more sex. I want more success. I want more opportunities to make art. You know how they say that a shark always has to keep moving? I think that would be a very appropriate animal totem for me.”
Arsenault sees her ravenous exploration of beauty as a kind of spiritual path. According to her, beauty, Eros, and spirituality are all closely linked, if not identical. “I have an erotic response to painting,” she explains. “I have an erotic response to conceptual art. And I have a very erotic relationship to my own art.”
And make no mistake: Arsenault’s reshaping of herself has been a deliberate artistic process. In The Silicone Diaries, she tells her surgeon’s assistant that, when she comes out of the anesthetic, she doesn’t want to find that she has a nose like an average woman’s; she wants a nose like Barbie’s. At another point in the script she says: “If you cannot look like a normal woman, sacrifice being normal. I will be plastic. I will think of geisha.”
But why can’t she look like a “normal” woman? “I’d done as much with the surgical procedures as I possibly could, but I still wasn’t passing,” she explains. “I had the choice to eradicate the masculinity more from my body and my face but, in doing that, I would make myself look plastic. You can’t build a natural beauty. You can do that a little bit, but once you start pushing things further and further, you’re going to be plastic.”
She says that she understands that, for some people, plastic beauty isn’t beauty at all, but she adds: “I just decided to take that prejudice out of my mind completely. As a kid, I used to look at statues of ancient goddesses and stuff. And they were always slightly abstracted. More like a geisha girl, a kind of a symbol of a woman. I’ve always seen beauty in that. So I was like, ‘You know what? Go there. There’s blood there, vitality. There’s a chance to be sexually everything you want to be. There’s the chance for pleasure.’ And I risked my life for that.”
Considering her dedication to the feminine, Arsenault’s choice to keep her penis, although she has had her testicles removed, might seem striking to some—but not to her. “I certainly never walk around thinking, ‘I’ve got a dick,’ like that means anything,” she says. Pressed, she responds: “Listen, when I first started to transition, I thought, ‘I want to be a woman. I’m going to have a sex-change operation. I’m going to have a vagina.’ And then, as I did the surgical procedures, I began to reevaluate what a woman can be. I have trans women girlfriends who’ve never had surgery in their lives and who are completely gorgeous, and some who have never had surgery and who are still quite masculine-looking and who are totally happy like that. I see all of them as women. Once you start loosening those rules, you start reevaluating everything.”
When that reevaluation involves reshaping your body, the road can get challenging. Near the end of The Silicone Diaries, Arsenault says: “I don’t think my body knew I wanted to have all of these procedures. I think my body thought I was getting into car accidents over and over.”
Asked how she’s feeling in her flesh these days, she replies: “Great. Doing this play has helped a lot. Training as an actor is all about getting back into the body and experiencing sensation, having breath move into the deepest parts of you. I think that I was performing an image of myself for a while. As a trans woman, you can think that a woman is sort of outside of you. But, strangely enough, it was the theatre and acting training that has been redemptive for me, that has put me back in my body, gotten me back in touch with the animal side of myself. That’s why I use animal totems like the shark. I’ve got a lioness in there, too. And a little child. There are lots of different kinds of bodies inside our bodies. And I think everyone has that. The animal stuff puts feelings on the inside of my body; it puts me in touch with psychological states. And, strangely enough, that is what makes me feel like a real woman.”
Arsenault is clear on what she hopes audience members will take from The Silicone Diaries: the understanding that their lives are mythic. “Yes, I am different,” she acknowledges, “but everybody’s lives are mythic, everybody’s lives are big. It’s a lie of TV, capitalism, propaganda, that our lives are casual, that if we could see inside the homes of families, their lives would be like a sitcom. It’s a lie.”
The Silicone Diaries runs at the Cultch from Tuesday (February 14) to February 25.
The Silicone Diaries offers cutting gaze
by Kristi Alexandra
this article originally published at runnermag.ca
Make a call to Toronto-based Buddies in Bad Times Theatre Productions’ offices, and a sultry, feminine voice may answer your call. You might hang up, thinking you accidentally dialed that sex-chat operator you talked to last night. You didn’t.
It’s the voice of Nina Arsenault: columnist, actress, former sex-trade worker and professor. She’s also Canada’s most famous trans woman, who happens to be the writer and star of BIBT’s most provocative play,The Silicone Diaries.
The Silicone Diaries is a true-to-life account of Arsenault’s transformation from “awkward man into a 36D-26-40 bombshell” through over 60 surgeries and a long, spiritual trajectory.
“It starts with the idea that I knew I was a woman and that I had to have surgical procedures if I wanted to look like one,” says Arsenualt over the phone from her hometown of Toronto. “When I aged, I masculinized. That doesn’t happen to all transsexuals, but that’s what happened to me. Then, [the play] becomes more about my pursuit of beauty. That’s it in a nutshell.”
Ironic, since the transformation that many trans women experience are long, complicated and diverse — anything but that which can be summed up in “a nutshell.”
And frankly, Arsenault’s personal experience can’t be paraphrased into a couple sentences. That’s where her memoir takes over.
It’s an exploration into the concepts of real and fake identity, both physically and spiritually. And, despite Arsenault’s plastic-enhanced appearance, the story is steeped in authenticity.
“There’s no such thing in this culture as being real,” Arsenault offers. “Every identity has been given to you, every identity is something that’s been bought and sold. [People’s] sense of realness has been handed down to them by their parents telling them what to do and who to be, or hip hop music, or music videos or whatever societal pressures in some way. And I am absolutely part of that. I absolutely bought an identity, I bought an image and I don’t consider myself different from anyone else so when people turn around and call me fake, I’m like ‘I’m just as fake as you!’”
And we are. Whether it’s the tonnes of make-up bought by teenage girls each year, the jock’s football uniform or the continuous upkeep of dyed hair, we are constantly struggling to artificially match our outer appearances to our inner personas.
“You know sometimes they say transsexual women are men trapped in women’s bodies? I think a lot of people are trapped in their bodies,” Arsenault says.
“My experience went like this: the interior never really matched the exterior completely. First, I had the body of a young boy and the spirit of a young girl, then I had the body of a grown man and the spirit of a grown woman, then I started to have hormones and plastic surgery and then I had the body of a transsexual woman and the spirit of a real woman. I started doing more and more surgical procedures, then I kind of had the body of a silicone porn star in a certain way. By the time I had achieved that, I had the spirit of an intellectual, so it has never totally matched up.”
Arsenault’s pursuit of beauty lands on a few more concepts — including society’s “cutting gaze” on what exactly beauty is and where it should come from and society’s general lack of understanding about transpeople.
“I think there’s so much work to be done in Canada to accept trans people,” she says.
“There’s this idea that people are like ‘I don’t understand trans women,’ and it’s like ‘who cares?’ I’m never really going to understand what it’s like to be black. That doesn’t mean that I say racist things.”
Arsenault alludes to her distaste of people calling trans women “hot tranny messes” when they’re having a bad hair day, saying it’s a series of misrepresentations about transsexuals that leads to these often hurtful labels.
“It’s this weird thing in culture that people think they should have the privilege to understand everything. But it’s like, ‘maybe you just don’t understand it. There’s nothing wrong with it, but maybe you just don’t get it.’ Why can’t people have that attitude?”
“There is a kind of commentary on societal standards of beauty, and certainly I critique myself. I have quite a cutting gaze to my society, but I also turn that cutting gaze onto myself — quite literally.”
The Silicone Diaries opens at The Cultch on Feb. 14 at 8 p.m.
(originally published on sexlifecanada.ca)
To describe Toronto’s Nina Arsenault as a ‘transsexual artist’ is akin to calling Chateau Lafite Rothschild a ‘Bordeaux wine’. Although both descriptions are technically accurate, they are woefully inadequate understatements.
In Nina’s case, she has taken her male-to-female transition as the starting point of an multidisciplinary artistic career that has won her iconic status. In doing so, she has transcended that transition to learn far more about herself and the world than she expected.
Sex Life Canada recently caught up with the very busy and alluring Nina Arsenault:
SLC: Please tell us briefly about yourself.
Nina: I’m a multi-disciplinary artist who does live theatre, photography, video art, performance art, writing and public speaking. That might sound like a lot of disciplines, but I am really asking an ongoing series of questions about the body, gender and sexuality. I use whichever means of expressing each exploration is most appropriate. Sometimes I use documentation, and sometimes I create more tightly crafted aesthetic works. I’m interested in the objectification of women’s bodies and what it means to embody different Femininities like the muse, the whore, the mistress, the actress and the object –without shame. The cultural battle that defines, hierarchicalizes, rarifies, and eroticizes the Feminine has been an obsession that has historically dominated painting, sculpture, film, hieroglyphs, fashion photography, pop music videos, pornography and ubiquitous celebrity culture. As a woman, as an artist and as a transsexual, I think of it as my duty to contribute, continue, deconstruct, celebrate and subvert this lineage in the most vibrant and visceral possible ways I can.
Nina: I’m a woman. I’m an artist. My life and art are very interwoven.
SLC: How central has your gender transformation been to your art?
Nina: I already see the pieces that deal with cosmetic procedures and my gender transformation in a larger body of works about many different kinds of transformations – spiritual transformations, ageing, new relationships with my cultural landscape, new mind and heart expanding ideas of what a woman can really be. Some of these pieces haven’t been shown publicly yet, but that is how I see it all fitting together from my perspective.
SLC: What metaphorical lessons have you learned on this journey?
Nina: Pursuing a quest for beauty has led to the inevitable conclusion that beauty is an illusion, albeit an extremely seductive and compelling one. Following the passion to be beautiful and the pleasures it could bring me, sometimes quite ruthlessly, accepting my great vanity, ultimately leaves me at a very unexpected spiritual place — pursuing inner harmony — through ascetic dedication to my ongoing artistic work, meditation and daily exercises. I think that is the way the Universe works. You pursue your passions and obsessions and if you walk your path with a big heart and an open mind you will eventually have experiences that enlighten you psychologically and spiritually. You will find the light inside the shadow. You face your demons and hopefully conquer them …or learn to integrate them.
SLC: Is it fair to say that you have become a tgirl icon in Toronto? After all, federal Liberal leader Bob Rae thought it wise to be photographed next to you!
Nina: I don’t think that is for me to say or not, and it’s not good for me to sit around and wonder if I am an icon. Creating new artistic works and deepening my relationship to those that are in repertoire is where my attention needs to be.
SLC: So what drives you now?
Nina: I’m particularly interested in feminist art and queer art which has blood, guts, sex, complications, paradoxes, and unresolved pieces. It should be difficult to digest. That is how the audience is honoured. I’m not interested in work that is polite or work that is “nice.” My work deals a lot with beauty, and I don’t think it serves women to present the topic simply. In life, I believe in being civilized and not committing acts of social violence to others – including discrimination, exclusion, and even gossip. I believe in nurturing others unfolding, whatever form that might take. But, for me, good art, like good sex is not “nice.” Art and theatre should be the forum where we, as women, as queers, and as people, are revealed to be mythic. Our lives and our emotional landscapes are expansive, contradictory and sadomasochistic. If you want things to be casual and polite, you can stay at home and watch a sit com.
SLC: What is life like for you; is the male to female transition still central, or now just a part of your life?
Nina: I rarely think of myself as transsexual anymore. I think about it when I am doing my plays and telling the stories. I recognize that I still face a lot of discrimination in culture, but I never know if it is because I’m trans, plastic, because I present unconventionally, or any number of reasons. I was talking to [filmmaker and pornographer] Bruce LaBruce about this recently. I was saying I need to find a new way of articulating my identity. The word ‘transsexual’ doesn’t work for me anymore. Most transsexuals I know have very limited heteronormative ideals of what a woman should be and are trying to emulate that. Sky Gilbert has also been writing about this on his blog (www.skygilbert.blogspot.com). Despite the advances of women’s rights, culture still has a minimizing idea of what a woman can and should be – how sexual she can be, how flamboyant, how original, how intelligent and opinionated, how spiritual – and there is a increasing normatizing trend in culture that is putting women into smaller boxes as the pressure to fit in, incorporate into appropriate professional behaviour and pair with a socially acceptable partner is extreme. Women face these continuing pressures and transsexual women doubly so. So, I was using the term queer transsexual for a while. But even the politics of queerness are being renegotiated. In the early nineties, queerness was a punk movement. Queers didn’t fit in, and most of them couldn’t if they tried. Then in the late nineties, queer became “alterna-queer”; an alternative gay identity which was gay, but rejected certain aspects of gay culture like the circuit party scene. Lately, I meet totally straight-acting gay men with corporate jobs, long term monogamous relationships and Conservative politics, and they identify as queer because they have a kinky yet completely private sex life. So, for me, the idea of applying the politics of queerness to being an unconventional transsexual doesn’t make sense anymore. Bruce told me I should just start calling myself a heretic.
SLC: One last question: Did you expect to arrive at this philosophical position in your journey?
Nina: Yes and no. On one hand I have experienced everything I dreamed of. I wanted to be respected as an artist. I wanted to do theatre, video and photographic works. I wanted to be recognized as an intellectual. I dreamed of being a whore, and I loved doing that. I used to dream of being a tranny nightlife star, and thrilled in that part of my life. I was hungry for lots of glamour and got to experience that. I’ve had the chance to work with many of the artists I always dreamed of; including Fides Krucker, a phenomenal woman who does ground breaking voice/ breath/ body work to train performers of many disciplines. However, none of it unfolded the way I expected it to. It all surprised me and in some ways has felt like a dream. Not right away, but in the future I would like to spend a long period of time in a nunnery or in some kind of monastic spiritual life. I am sure it will be an unconventional arrangement.
Note: You can learn more about Nina Arsenault at ninaarsenault.com. Her hit one- woman-show, ‘The Silicone Diaries’, plays in Vancouver February 14-25, 2012 at The East Vancouver Cultural Centre (www.thecultch.com). Box Office: 604-251-1363 or firstname.lastname@example.org