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t-girl - issue 276


I thank God & Hugh Hefner -

While working as an instructor at York University, I started having plastic surgery during holiday breaks and reading weeks to make myself look like a woman. I’d return to class refreshed and with new body parts. Staff and students were dazzled by my transformation, but when I sashayed into a staff Christmas party with four-inch stilettos and pouty lips, newly pumped full of silicone, one grad student saw just what type of woman I was becoming and gasped. She cursed the patriarchy and said something like: “Aren’t you victimizing yourself by constructing your new identity out of the oppressive misogynistic values that you were socialized with as a male?” Maybe, but I still looked hot.

I grew up, a little girl inside a little boy’s body, in the Golden Horseshoe Trailer Park in Beamsville, Ontario. At the age of five, I worshipped the prepubescent hellraisers of my little town – foul-mouthed boys who already smoked and who probably ended up doing time for petty crimes. One summer afternoon, they allowed me a peek at the sacred images they had heisted from their fathers’ hidden caches of Playboy magazines. I was awestruck by the portraits of an elusive, fully sexual femaleness that must exist far beyond the borders of my humble home. Little did I know that, at that moment, the other girls in the community were being scolded for taking Barbie’s clothes off in front of Ken. “Not until they’re married and Ken buys her a trailer!”

As I got older, the countless images of sexualized females that permeate our culture filtered into my tiny trailer park. I discovered that X-Men’s Storm fought the powers of evil in a sexy disco-inspired super-bikini with a killer bod to boot. Titillated, I watched a cleavage-bearing Princess Leia escape enslavement by a maniacal space alien with wandering hands. And by the time I hit my teens, models like Cindy Crawford were posing doggie-style in the surf for “sports” calendars and Madonna was slinking across the floor on all fours, telling me to express myself. I listened to M, wanted to emulate her, longed to be her. Then I got moist when she was chained to a bed, licked milk out of a saucer and got roughed up by some greasy brute she’d just met.

Other moms and dads might worry that all this scandalous female behaviour would turn their daughter into a loose woman. But my parents thought I was developing normally into a red-blooded Canadian male.

Not so, but in time I started to look like one. When I was 18, people said I resembled character actor Crispin Glover (Michael J. Fox’s dad in Back to the Future, and the Thin Man in the Charlie’s Angels movies). In other words, I looked like a dude…and not even a hot one.

So when I started having plastic surgery, I super-feminized some features to compensate for other manly traits that were outside the power of the doctor’s scalpel – my broad shoulders, and the fact that I was nearly six feet tall. I told my doctor to make my lips as big as he could. Then go a little bit further. Then go a lot further. Once I had received the blessing of the surgeon’s blade, I realized just how tantalizingly easy it was to enhance my appearance. And I kept going, and going, and going back to the doctor for more. I’m still going.

Now, when I look in the mirror, after applying MAC lip gloss and #7 false lashes, I see an extremeness that reminds me of my childhood idols, the cartoon superheroines and the glossy airbrushed goddesses who were first shown to me by the bad boys of my trailer court. Interestingly, I now date the grown-up, tattooed versions of these young bruisers, and I love to carry on like their personal Playboy playmate.

So maybe that York grad student was right, and maybe the woman I’ve turned myself into is a victim of my male upbringing. But when biological women approach me and say things like “I wish I could be more like you, but I was raised to be such a good girl,” I am quietly thankful for my childhood. I thank God, my parents, everyone in my trailer park, and Hugh Hefner.

nina arsenault

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