As a child growing up in a Beamsville trailer park, Rodney Arsenault was shown pictures of the beautiful, naked women in Playboy by some other kids.
There was instant attraction – of a very different sort.
There were no pre-pubescent sexual stirrings, but a desire by Rodney to become one of those "gorgeous, glamorous women" he admired, because he was "a little girl trapped in a little boy's body."
By age 24, Rodney had two master's degrees and was one of the youngest course instructors at York University, teaching acting, but was ready to jettison that promising career and his male identity for a female one.
Rodney changed his name to Nina while still at York and let nothing – not money, pain, negative social attitudes or medical concerns deter "her" from that goal, which was achieved after nine years and about 60 cosmetic surgeries and procedures costing $160,000, financed by working in the sex trade.
It's that determination that has Arsenault being cited for this year's Unstoppable! theme award at the annual Pride Gala in Toronto, one of eight persons to be honoured for their achievements in different categories.
"Knowing that Pride Toronto selects one Canadian queer who embodies the event's theme every year, I'm really honoured that it's me. I know so many unstoppable people," Arsenault says.
"I had this long-term vision in my head of the type of woman I wanted to be and that sort of woman doesn't blend in very well. I'm kind of over the top in my gender expression – with all my cosmetic surgeries, the way I wear my hair and my flashy clothes. But I walk down the street every day with dignity." . . .