Dina Nina Martinez owns the stage

In the basement of The Brink Lounge, in a space distinguished from the large club-like room where noticeably mature guests drank and danced to a live band, Dina Nina Martinez gave a striking performance to an intimate crowd. After a brief introduction to the stage, Martinez, with a humorously loose voice and leaning shoulders, opened her show explaining that she may be a bit hungover and said that “the hardest part about being a heterosexual woman is having a dick.” The audience was immediately shocked into laughter, and I imagine some reacted like me with an upright back and tilted head wondering if I heard her correctly. I did, of course, and by the end of the show came to understand that no other opening statement would be appropriate for “Confessions of A Wannabe Soccer Mom.” Martinez spoke that phrase with beautiful pride as an unapologetically transgender woman. 

From beginning to end, the audience learned more about who she is, and the trials she’s gone through to get to her proud place of womanhood now. Martinez very explicitly used her identity from her young days growing up in the small, everybody-knows-everybody town of Celina, Texas, to her current life in Los Angeles as material for her comic performance. We learned of Martinez’s many secret boy crushes through all levels of school. We learned of her sprouting childhood friendships that were denied the chance to bloom. We learned of the bullying in her town that made a devastating appearance in her home. We learned of the struggling relationship with her parents. And we learned of the battle between Christianity and gender identity that constantly raged in Martinez’s spirit. 

While describing a time of her life when Martinez attempted what she calls “degayification,” she said, “The thing about being Christian and gay is that they just cannot be together,” which caused the audience to hum in unison. Martinez curated her life with vivid illustrations, compelling us to mirror every moment of panic for her mother’s shock, anxiety for her security and sadness for her father’s shame. But the tone was not always heavy. We smiled when she described wearing towels on her torso and head as a dress and long hair while in her room as a child. We felt her confidence when she partied, teaching lesbians how to runway walk. We felt her stability when she worked jobs from waiter to flight attendant. We felt her joy at her father’s first subtle sign of approval, and we felt her freedom when she could simply be who she is among genuine friends.

Martinez, without a doubt, owned that stage Friday night. “Confessions of A Wannabe Soccer Mom” is raw humor and storytelling. It’s a show for anyone searching for a truth in themselves they don’t have to turn on and off to protect themselves or those around them. Martinez’s energy is not exclusive, but rather inviting for any adult audience. Before the story’s momentous breakthrough, when Martinez made the life-transforming change regarding her gender, she developed a theme of transformation, praying for God to change her. The plea began in an innocent desire—to grow like the bosom-blooming classmates of elementary school and junior high. And through the years, the plea only grew heavier and heavier. 

It’s not easy to feel something in yourself, and have everyone around you chastise that sense of self or make you stand out. But Martinez represents someone who has learned to love herself, to be healed from the scars of her past and to welcome newness while holding on to faith. Dina has reached a comfortable place in her womanhood, apparent in her attire of ripped blue jeans, grey Ugg boots and a striped blouse under a simple grey cardigan. When describing her pivotal signs of assured womanhood, she said, “It didn’t feel like a responsibility. It didn’t feel heavy. It felt like an honor.” But the true honor was the opportunity to witness Martinez’s magnificent story; I encourage everyone to see it. 

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