March 31 is the International Transgender Day of Visibility, which is dedicated to celebrating trans people and their contributions to society and raising awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people.
To mark the occasion, Borderland Pride is proud to unveil BeholdDianna, a podcast miniseries dedicated to the story of the late Dianna Boileau (she/her/hers), one of the first Canadians to undergo gender-confirming surgery, back in the 1970s.
Dianna spent some of her formative years in Rainy River and Fort Frances – where she gained the support of Dr. Harold Challis, a local physician who was ahead of his time and supported her transition.
As an adult, Dianna went public with her pioneering transition. She made headlines across North America at various points in her life. With the assistance of author Felicity Cochrane, Dianna eventually published an autobiography, entitled “Behold, I Am a Woman”.
Dianna's groundbreaking novel has long been out of print. However, with the assistance of voice actors from Fort Frances Little Theatre, Borderland Pride has given new life to Dianna’s story through a podcast performance of her own, original words. The 12-episode series also includes commentary and reflections from present-day members of the Rainy River District LGBTQ2 community and audio of an interview given by Dianna herself.
BeholdDianna is produced by Borderland Pride with the support of LGBTQ2 and ally talent from our community. Credits for technical and artistic contributions are provided in each episode, and content warnings are set out in the episode descriptions.
The podcast is available for streaming through Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and Buzzsprout. For those without access to a streaming service, digital copies of the podcast and re-printed copies of our source material, “Behold, I Am a Woman”, have been donated by Borderland Pride to the public libraries in Fort Frances, Alberton, Emo, and Rainy River, and to the high school libraries in Fort Frances and Rainy River. Further digital media about Dianna Boileau, including historic newspaper and magazine clippings, have been made available at www.borderlandpride.org/dianna.
Borderland Pride wishes to extend special thanks to MJ Interactive, which provided our complimentary sound mixing for this project; to our cast – Faye Flatt, Christine Denby, Johnathan Price, Caitlin Hartlen, Cathy Richards, Marc Motiejunas, Ken Kellar, and Danielle Gray; to Caitlin Hartlen, for her sound editing, recording, and technical assistance; and to the various LGBTQ2 community members who provided input and guidance.
“As an LGBTQ2 person in a small community like Fort Frances, it is easy to feel isolated. By visibly celebrating and educating others about queer history that touches our community, it helps to normalize and strengthen those who struggle with that isolation today.”
- Curran Strachan (he/him/his), LGBTQ2 Community Member
"When we think of the obstacles that trans people still face to equality, safety, and full participation in society, it's incredible to read that someone like Dianna was able to survive and thrive - right from her beginnings in Fort Frances. That's inspiring, but also reminds us that our progress to recognize trans people has been far too slow and there's more work to do."
- Samson Busch (he/him/his), Panelist, Episode 12
“Theatre has always been about building community. Fort Frances Little Theatre was proud to be part of this project to commemorate a story with local roots about someone who was challenging norms and boundaries of their time.”
- Christine Denby (she/her/hers), Fort Frances Little Theatre
“In 2020, Pride groups across our region celebrated ‘Pride Lives Here’ – a call for inclusion and a campaign to demonstrate that LGBTQ2 people are a vibrant presence here today. However, stories like Dianna’s remind us that LGBTQ2 people have always been here, and that our legal and social recognition today must be credited to those who came before us.”
- Caitlin Hartlen (she/her/hers), Cast Member and Podcast Sound Recording and Editing
“As queer people reading Diana’s words, we catch a glimpse of our community in a different period. At the same time, her story is not so unfamiliar. What we read resembles the struggles of ourselves, and perhaps those we know who have faced their own battles of acceptance, inclusion, and identity arising from their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. There is something bittersweet and powerful in that connection.”
- Douglas W. Judson (he/him/his), Co-Chair, Borderland Pride
Full Links to Podcast Locations on Streaming Sites:
Audio sample of BeholdDianna (shareable video link)
Digital copy of “Behold, I Am a Woman” (link)
2016 Toronto Star profile of Dianna Boileau by Katie Daubs (link)
Borderland Pride’s webpage, with more digital content about Dianna’s story (link)
Douglas W. Judson (he/him/his)
Co-Chair, Borderland Pride