Monday, October 29, 2007
Shinan Govani, National PostPublished: Saturday, April 22, 2006
Nina Arsenault is a columnist for Fab Magazine, a freelance writer and sex-trade worker. Her television appearances include Showcase TV's Kink and Global's Train 48. Shinan Govani reported in January about her famously friendly chat with Tommy Lee at Ultra Supper Club; she has previously revealed that she has ''had sex with two professional athletes, a movie star, two TV personalities, the CEOs of two Fortune 500 companies, four guys who worked for the mob, a string of strippers, many male models, a bunch of body builders, loads of nightclubbing suburban guys ... all of them straight."
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Last December, I lay on the operating table of one of Toronto's top plastic surgeons getting my boobs re-done with state-of-the-art cohesive gel silicone implants, a.k.a. the ''gummi bear implant.'' They're nicknamed for their gelatinous consistency.
Anesthesia coursing through me, I aggrandized my upgraded $9,000 breasts. With no liquid silicone they can't rupture and leak. They've a more realistic droop and came custom made in shape and size -- differentiated by a tenth of a centimetre to my specifications.
''Can I keep my old breast implants after you take them out of me?'' I asked the doctor.
I didn't know that I'd need five more operations to fix complications from this impending boob job. I've had 50 cosmetic procedures to transform my body, some in Third World countries and hotel rooms, and the latest surgery has gone wrong.
Has it all been worth it? I'm a whole new woman.
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I grew up, a little girl inside a little boy's body, in The Golden Horseshoe Trailer Park in Beamsville. By age five, I loved Barbie dolls and X-men comics. I'd pretend I was Storm, fighting evil in a disco-inspired super-bikini, with a killer bod to boot. I also had secret crushes on the prepubescent hell raisers of my little town, foul-mouthed boys who already smoked and who'd probably end up doing time for petty crimes. One summer afternoon, they allowed me a peek at the glossy images they'd heisted from their fathers' hidden caches of Playboy magazines. I was awestruck by portraits of an elusive, fully sexual female-ness that seemed more mythical than real.
Innocently, I thought to myself, ''I want to look like that when I grow up.''
By 1997, I'd become a 22-year-old man who resembled character actor Crispin Glover (the ''Thin Man'' from the Charlie's Angels movies). I was living in South Africa when my doctor noticed a cyst growing below my left eye. Worried it would cause serious damage to my face, he sent me to a plastic surgeon. The physician injected freezing into my face. I felt no pain as he started cutting, but I heard tissue tearing. He cauterized some bleeding and my nostrils filled with the smell of my own burnt flesh. Minutes later, he was sewing me up. I paid him with money my parents had sent me; thanks to the favourable exchange rate, roughly $100 Canadian covered it.
The horrific memories faded when I saw my improved appearance and realized the potential of plastic surgery. I arrived for my post-op visit and confessed, ''I want to be a woman.'' . . .
I spoke to three transpeople, initially expecting just a simple yes-or-no-and-away-I-go. It sparked a really interesting dialogue, though, since it turns out you can have your birth records changed but, at the moment, you aren't legally obligated to. In Canada, the process of changing your sex and then your ID exists in somewhat of a neutral area -- not that the informality is a sign of our unrestrained liberalism, just oversight.
Anyone can change the name on their birth certificate (for $137), thereby making it easy to change it on all subsequent ID. Though changing your sex is cheaper ($37), it requires more effort and, certainly, some consideration.
My colleague Adrien has been living as a man for several years, and hasn't changed his records in any way. He's had no major problems at borders, but one reason he's reluctant to have his ID reflect his sex change is, on the very slim chance he's ever arrested, he'd rather be imprisoned with a bunch of biological females than a bunch of biological males. Transpeople have a lot to think about when they go through their changes, and no doubt the totally shitty fact that they're so often targeted in hate crimes informs some decisions.
Canadian celebrity transsexual Nina Arsenault never bothered to have her identification changed. Her passport reflects her female status only because, when she applied for it, officials judged by her submitted photo that she had checked the wrong box and amended it. The rest of her ID is male. "Crossing the border is terrifying for me, the States specifically," says Nina. She once went with a girlfriend who is very convincing, but whose passport says male. When they explained to the border patrol they were transsexuals, the guys got on their walkie-talkies and had all their colleagues come over to gawk at them, making remarks like, "Let me get this straight: you two have dicks?" They didn't let them cross, claiming they were a flight risk. Don't you just love those nightclubs where you're treated like shit at the door and then they won't even let you in?
Related tales of Nina's include having her breasts and ribs done in Mexico just after 9/11 and then going through the border at Houston, where they demanded she take off her surgical girdle because the gauze made it appear as though she had dynamite strapped under it. (She refused.) As well, she was turned back another time and forced onto a plane full of cranky Thunder Bay residents who had all been informed over the intercom that their flight had been held up by a transsexual -- guess who, everybody?! . . .
John Kelly moves audiences and the singer herself with 'Paved Paradise'
By Matthew Gilbert, Globe Staff | October 28, 2007
You won't see "Joni Mitchell" on Commercial Street in Provincetown, handing out show leaflets to tourists alongside the drag Cher, Barbra, and, yes, Susan Lucci. With her yellow hair, her tilted beret, and a billowy outfit right off the cover of "Hejira,""Ms. Mitchell" appeals to far more rarefied tastes. When she beckons, only the fanatics queue up, eager to hear sweetly edgy trills, lines of wisdom, and some homespun stage banter, eh?
And anyway, this Joni isn't strictly a drag queen, evoking one shining icon during year after year of hot Cape Cod nights. She is John Kelly, an Obie-winning New York actor, singer, and dancer whose long list of stage credits extends to "Orpheus X" at the American Repertory Theatre and "James Joyce's The Dead" on Broadway. She is a man who pays camp-free homage to the "woman of heart and mind," as Mitchell has called herself, with a performance of Mitchell songs that's as moving as it is funny, as sincere as it is droll.
Impersonation? Drag? Cabaret? Kelly no longer tries to define his show, "Paved Paradise: The Songs of Joni Mitchell," which the Theater Offensive is presenting at the Boston Center for the Arts Thursday through Nov. 4.
"Believe me, I was lip-synching Maria Callas recordings at the Anvil [gay bar in New York] in punk drag in 1979," he says recently during a visit to Harvard Square, speaking in gentle tones that barely hint at his piercing Joni-esque tenor. "That's how I started. I was hanging out with all these amazing drag performers. But I'm trained as a dancer and a visual artist and now as a singer. . . . And so still I'm always grappling with the semantics of it."
Most people are surprised to learn that the late Divine, the diva in John Waters movies such as "Hairspray," did not consider himself a drag queen so much as a character actor. Kelly, too, feels he just happens to be crossing genders as Joni: "A Barbra Streisand queen or a Cher queen, they're very defined, and when they don't do it well enough, it's not working. I really don't look like Joni. It's an acting thing. I change the way I walk, I change my face, my nose tends to feel smaller when I focus on my mouth. . . . But it's not really looking like her and not always even sounding like her. It's more about getting at the essence of something." . . .
Chanel is a transsexual sex worker and was just nineteen when she began working the streets. Unlike most young people, Chanel’s worries were not focused on fashion or what she was planning to do on the weekend. Instead, she was more concerned with where was she going to sleep that night and what her next meal would consist of, or more to the point, if she was even going to be having one.
How does someone find themselves in such a predicament? And why, ten years later, does she still choose to work in this industry?
I meet with Chanel at her place of work called Tiffany’s Palace. From the outside it’s fairly unassuming. Inside a number of paintings hang precariously from mauve coloured walls and the aroma of freshly cut flowers linger in dimly lit rooms. A sign on the counter reads, “No condom, no sex”.
I greet her, and soon after, the door bell rings.
“Ooh, that’s our shopper, got any cash on you?” she says excitedly. “She brings make up and sunnies, all sorts of things – real cheap too.”
The shopper enters, high as a kite, her baby son waiting in a pram outside. She’s selling Gucci sunglasses for a tenth of their value, $150 jewellery for $20 a pop and top quality make up at bargain bin prices. She has hats, nail art and moisturisers by the dozen.
‘Welcome to the dark side,’ I think to myself. ‘In just ten minutes of entering Chanel’s world I’ve already rubbed shoulders with sex, drugs and theft.’ Half an hour later and the shopper leaves beaming, with an empty bag and a full wallet.
Chanel is stunning to look at and as she gives me a tour of the parlour I am astonished at how beautiful everything is. It’s not at all like the image I had conjured up in my mind. It’s later that I realise that subverting these kinds of stereotypes is exactly what Chanel is all about. . . .
10/17/2007 - Rebecca Romijn - The Late Show with David Letterman - October 17, 2007 - Ed Sullivan Theatre - New York City, NY, USA © Janet Mayer / PR Photos
"Ugly Betty" star Rebecca Romijn is worried she may have to quit the show if she wants to have children.
Rebecca, who married actor Jerry O'Connell in the summer, believes the hit US TV show's bosses will struggle to create a pregnancy storyline for her character, because she plays a transsexual.
She said: "Motherhood is absolutely on the cards. I would like to have a couple of kids and I think Jerry would too. I don't know exactly when, but it will be interesting to see how the writers will figure it out if I get pregnant while we are shooting 'Ugly Betty'. My character Alexis Meade is not supposed to have a womb!"
Rebecca, who met Jerry at a Las Vegas hotel three years ago, also revealed she often used her feminine charms to get her way with men before she met Jerry.
The stunning blonde star explained: "Of course I have used my feminine wiles to get what I want. But I really don't manipulate Jerry. We focus on friendship - that comes first with us. That is how we fell in love.