Dina Nina Martinez
Dina Nina Martinez has had to come out a lot: as a gay man, a trans woman, a comedian and, finally, as a wannabe soccer mom.
After leaving her home in rural Texas, Martinez bounced around to different cities, eventually landing in Los Angeles, where she spent a decade working comedy clubs. Three years ago, she relocated to Madison, where she brings a fresh voice to the burgeoning queer comedy scene. She travels a lot, doing standup at clubs and festivals, and hosts a monthly comedy showcase at Plan B called Alphabet Soup.
Her work is receiving national attention. In 2014, AfterEllen.com named Martinez one of “40 Hot Queer Women in Comedy.”
On May 30 and 31, Martinez will perform her one-woman show, Confessions of a Wannabe Soccer Mom: An Unconventional Journey into Womanhood, at Willy Street’s iconic Broom Street Theater.
Martinez stopped into Ground Zero coffee after a day of working in the Slide food cart and before performing at Plan B. Despite a manic stage presence, in person she appears grounded, and her laugh is infectious. She talked with Isthmus about her unconventional journey, her upcoming show and crowdfunding what she called her gender “remodel.”
How welcoming is the Madison community for the kind of work you do?
My best friend was from the Madison area, so I had a built-in network. I found a group of people that I really vibed with in the community. One of the things I really wanted was connection, and I found that, and it’s been a great little ride.
What was it like growing up in Texas?
It was rural, a town of 1,700 people, and I grew up hardcore fundamentalist Christian, which was always a source of soul splitting and divisiveness. I was told everything I am was wrong. I grew and learned so much, but it was tough for a queer child in a small town in the middle of rural Texas.
How do you turn a difficult experience into comedy?
I remember at a Bible study when I was 10 or 12, doing a stupid standup routine for these kids about how the pool was the devil’s toilet. It was ridiculous, but I was always trying to find that laugh. I dealt with a lot of addiction issues and fighting the Christian me and who I am intrinsically. When I came around, I went through being a showgirl and doing sex work — and I’m not good at sex work. I got sacked from that job.
Tell me about Confessions.
It’s essentially the story of my life, through the eyes of this person who fell in love with boys that she could never be with. And how I came out to my family — and then how I had to come out again. And what I like to call my “quinceañera on a bus,” the story of the day that I knew I was a woman and the world saw me as that.
What does it mean to want to be a soccer mom?
I’ve always wanted to be a parent. I just want to get in that minivan and take the boys to football or soccer and sit in the stands and yell — just like I saw my mom do, and every other family in my small town. There’s that hoping for something kind of normal.
Have you had to deal with homophobia or trans-phobic hecklers in audiences?
I’ve had heckling. In Los Angeles, though, I did a lot of hetero-normative crowds, and I find that they are more accepting than some of the LGBT crowds. There’s this amazing place to tell people my experience, and they’re like, “Oh, I know somebody.”
Do you consider your work political?
[Writer and transgender activist] Janet Mock and Laverne Cox [from Orange Is the New Black] have both said the act of being visible as a marginalized people is activism. So, yeah, I hope in some way that some little kid in the Midwest who has homophobic or trans-phobic parents, that somehow they heard me and they were like, “Okay, I can kind of accept it.”
How did you feel when you were named one of “40 Hot Queer Women in Comedy”?
I was ecstatic — to be one of the 40 hot queer women in comedy and be in the Midwest, that was a pretty awesome thing. And I tell everybody I can about it.
You crowdfunded gender “remodeling” surgery. What was that like?
I got a lot of press for that. It was hard, and I was more comfortable talking it about it then than I am now. I have this kind of guilt about some of the things, like I feel I am too sensationalizing sometimes, but that’s my story.
What kind of projects do you have coming up?
I’m always being funny somewhere, and busy speaking on trans issues. I’m about to be in Los Angeles for LA Pride. I’m doing a show at Milwaukee Pride. I’m working on a [TV or web] series that is like Ally McBeal plus Bridget Jones — with gender dysphoria. And I would love to have a talk show on television.
Confessions of a Wannabe Soccer Mom, Broom Street Theater, Saturday, May 30, 10:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 31, 2 p.m.