No-nonsense comedian Dina Nina Martines navigates life through laughs
This wannabe soccer mom is more than what the naked eye can see. Dina Martinez talks about moving from LA to the Midwest as a transgender woman with a Latino last name.
As women, we all have different journeys into our womanhood. But how do we find those moments or places that help us come into our own person?
For me, it is through comedy. There are so many interesting things happening in humanity, but sometimes we get so caught up. Humor and love can help us find the way.
I am a standup comedian, founder of Lady Laughs Comedy, actress and a million other things, who left Los Angeles and moved to the Midwest.
Have you ever felt a big urge to get away for a while? Well, that happened to me. I was done with the la-la-land - at least for the moment, so I did a full 180.
As soon as my friend said, “I'm going to grad school in Arkansas. Do you want to come?” I was sure of it.
It was a no brainer, I thought. But when I stopped in Wisconsin for a summer job, it hit me.
‘‘I am not going to Little Rock, they kill people like me.’’ Fair!
Wisconsin has been a nice break and I love that it is so Midwest. When you think about the Midwest, the things that happen here are actually real, no fake pretend.
During the fall, people go and actually pick up pumpkins. From a pumpkin patch! Not a parking lot.
As you can see, I definitely infuse humor in everything I do, even when I am super serious.
Talking about no-nonsense, my name is Dina Nina Martinez, but I don't want to lead people into thinking I am Latina when am not.
I am a white woman born in Texas and socialized in California, where the Latinx community is strongly represented. And so I grew up surrounded by a very strong Latino influence.
When I first started performing as a Drag Queen - back in the Lone Star State - my drag mother‘s last name was Martinez. And so I took her name and I love it!
But I am always sure to keep my privilege in check, because even though I am transgender, I still have privilege in a lot of ways.
People rarely question my ethnicity when they look at me. Before seeing my last name, and unless I speak in public, people don't automatically assume that I am trans.
They might think I am a 12-pack-a-day smoker, but for the most part I don't face the same adversities.
And that is the thing, it can be easy when you are white and/or cisgender to not realize your privilege.
But the last 12 years have taught me a lot about facing things that were not part of my life experience before.
As somebody with the last name Martinez, I get racial comments in the weirdest places. Even my employment recruiter told me to put down in my resumé that I am a citizen.
Apparently, if your last name is Martinez and you have lived in several different states, people may wonder if you are in the country “legally.”
If my last name would have been Smith, they would have never asked me that.
Add that to the list of things some people think are okay to ask when they perceive you as different than them.
Like the time I was waiting tables here in Wisconsin, and a group of people thought it was fine to ask me a really inappropriate question.
Why would you ask me about my junk when all I am trying to do is serve you a meal?
We focus too much on our differences and too little on the human experience. When we are fighting, we are not communicating, therefore we are not connecting.
And it comes all the way up from the government sometimes. Like when President Trump gave that speech where he called Mexican people horrible things or the many policies his administration has been trying to roll back or implement that are affecting transgender people’s lives.
Yes, I am also a politics junkie liberal from a really conservative right wing family.
That is why it is really important to always keep your privilege in check, in every single aspect. Even though I am trans, I still have privilege in a lot of ways, I have it a lot easier than a lot of people. It's harder in other ways, but, you know, it is my responsibility to keep my privilege in check and use it to help people.
Being transgender and having a Latino last name has definitely impacted me, and my comedy.
In my actual stand up, I feel a responsibility to be respectful of all identities as much as possible, while telling my perspective. There are definitely things that I won't joke about because even though I hear people all the time say “comedy is offensive,” it doesn't have to be.
It can also be empowering, bridge-building and functional in a way that makes people think and grow. So whether I'm telling a lot of dirty jokes—usually aren't really that important or deep—I definitely make a conscious effort not to pick on people and to be responsible with my humor.
I tend to be the butt of my own jokes, because I know that I can handle it. If that makes sense.
I feel like all humans can relate to adult self-deprecation. We all have things about our bodies that we don't like or character traits or whatever.
Then people are always like, “It breaks my heart that you talked about yourself like that.” But the thing is that talking about my fat, stretchmarks, double chin, and so on, help me become comfortable and find acceptance with what I don’t like, because of talking about them constantly.
Humor can help you heal. It helped me when my dad died. You have to learn how to laugh with and at yourself.
That’s the kind of humor I like, along with jokes about dating, sex and gender stereotypes.
There is this fake expectation of trans people to be a high version of sexual objectiveness of who women are or who men are. And it's not acceptable, it's not who we are as humans.
I didn’t know that before. I thought I was going to be a *boom* big boobs, *boom* small waist, *boom* big butt sexy show girl.
But what I really wanted to be was a soccer mom. I did not want to keep wearing that duct tape that keeps your boobs up, putting makeup on every day and wearing heels anymore. I just wanted to be like if I had a kid and a minivan. So satisfying
Now I am not saying that wanting those things is bad, or that there are no mothers who are like that. I am just saying I am a wannabe soccer mom, because as women we all have different journeys into our womanhood.
It's not like I don’t want to be seen as a transgender woman, but I want to first and foremost be respected for the woman that I am. My identity is firmly female. My sexual orientation is firmly heterosexual.
I just want to be a woman in a bar living in my life. I don’t want to be anyone’s Tinderella, always wondering if there is a single man out there who would want to be with me. Not trans Dina, not plus size Dina, not just-a-hook-up Dina, but me. Just me. Dina Martinez.
That was one of the reasons I moved from Los Angeles, sometimes it is like a bubble. Never did I think that the place where I was going to be able to just be a woman in a bar was going to be in the Midwest.
That is not everyone's experience. That's not everyone's desire. I found it so interesting that I've found a space of comfort in a place that didn't expect it.
In the end, I am just like everyone else. I struggle with my bills, my weight, I have relationship problems, I have relationships, joys, you know, I have happy times, good times, and low times.
I believe I exist, just like everyone else. So I feel like just being me, openly and authentically, helps bridge those misunderstandings.
That can change perspectives, because there are a lot of amazing people, [and] there are a lot of people that just don't understand because they've never had those experiences.
But if we are fighting and yelling at each other, all heated, we will not be able to connect. That is exhausting and being always at war is not something I want to do.
I just want to love and hopefully help people realize that we are all flesh, blood, and bones. We need to find a way to love each other and exist on this planet.