Mix & Mingle at the Ottawa Art Gallery
Join GenNext on Wednesday, Aug. 17 from 5:30-9:00 PM for a Mix & Mingle event at the Ottawa Art Gallery’s rooftop terrace!
Mix & Mingles are a great way to connect with friends and meet new ones. There will be a short Q&A panel with Capital Pride, light snacks and drinks, plus a live performance from singer-songwriter Amanda Lowe.
We are celebrating community coming together and supporting causes like mental health, youth homelessness, and diversity and inclusion.
For complete info visit the GenNext East Ontario website.
Ottawa Trans Library resumes regular hours
We are resuming regular hours this week: Wednesday and Friday 3 to 7 PM and Sunday 12 to 5 PM. We are in discussion to possibly add Monday to our hours. Let us know if this might be a good day for you. We’re wary of stretching ourselves too thin. Despite our limited opening times, there is a lot to do behind the scenes and only a few people doing it.
I want to reiterate my thanks to the many people who have supported us since we opened, from the fabulous folks at the Ottawa Public Library to the warm welcome from the Wellington West BIA to the open-minded interest from various media outlets. I’ve met so many wonderful people. Special thanks to our fellow Hintonburgians who have often just popped in to congratulate us and welcome us to the neighbourhood. It warms the heart of an old misanthrope like myself to know that there are far more kind and generous people out there than there are transphobes. Thank you!
Survey from the University of Alberta on Chest Binding Symptoms and Management Strategies
A Patient-Oriented, Harm Reduction Approach
Do you have experience binding your chest for personal reasons?
Have you lived in Canada for most of the time you were binding?
Are you 14 years or older?
If you answered yes to these three questions, we would love for you to participate in our research study by completing the anonymous and confidential online survey at https://redcap.link/chestbindingsurvey. The survey closes at the end of August.
We will ask you about your binding habits, any symptoms you experienced, how you managed those symptoms, and basic demographic information. Your responses will help us provide people like you with evidence-based recommendations on how to bind more comfortably and with fewer negative effects.
We in no way want to suggest that binding is a bad thing. Binding can be very important or even necessary for a variety of reasons. We want people to be able to bind as much as they feel is necessary for their wellbeing and safety. In order to provide appropriate, actionable recommendations for how to manage binding related symptoms, we need to know more about people’s experiences of trying to manage binding related symptoms on their own, in the context of having limited access to safe and knowledgeable health care providers.
This ground-breaking survey was developed based on previous research with the help of people with a variety of chest binding experience and experts in trans studies. The plan for this study has been reviewed by a Research Ethics Board at the University of Alberta (Pro00120596).
Canadian Trans Activists
Here are two more worthy individuals who, it shames me to say, should have been included in the Directory of Canadian Trans Activists long ago.
Ivan E. Coyote
Born August 11, 1969, Whitehorse, Yukon
Writer, performer, filmmaker, and educator.
Coyote has published 11 books, 10 with Arsenal Pulp Press. Columnist and regular contributor to Xtra! and Xtra! West, Georgia Straight and CBC Radio. Writer-in-residence for various institutions over the years: Carleton University (2007), Vancouver Public Library (2009), The University of Winnipeg (2011), and University of Western Ontario (2012).
Coyote often combines their story telling with performance. Co- founded Taste This, a queer performance troupe that incorporated live music, poetry and story-telling into their shows. Some of the musicians they’ve worked with include Veda Hille, Dan Mangan and Rae Spoon.
In 2010 Coyote joined with two of their compatriots from Taste This, Anna Camilleri and Lyndell Montgomery, to create Swell, which premiered at the 2010 Vancouver Pride in Art Festival.
In 2012, collaborated with Rae Spoon on a touring multimedia show called Gender Failure. A book based on the show was published in 2014.
Delivered a TED talk in Vancouver in November 2015. Entitled “We all need a safe place to pee”, it advocated for the need to have gender neutral bathrooms in all public places.
In 2020, Coyote performed as part of CBC Gem’s Queer Pride Inside special.
Throughout their work, Coyote has consistently interrogated the gender binary through storytelling and performance, and has made a significant contribution to Canadian literature through their representation of queer lives.
For more on Ivan Coyote see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivan_Coyote
Michael A. Miqqi Alicia Gilbert
Born Brooklyn, NY. Emigrated to Canada in 1968.
Ph.D., University of Waterloo (1974); BA, City University of New York
Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at York University, Toronto, Canada. Research interests are Philosophy, Critical Reasoning, Argumentation Theory, Informal Logic, and Transgender and Gender Theory.
Book review editor and regular columnist for Transgender Tapestry, the magazine of the International Foundation for Gender Education.
Director of Fantasia Fair for 8 years. (Fantasia Fair started in 1975 in Provincetown, Massachusetts, to provide cross-dressers and transsexuals an opportunity to mix in a tolerant environment. It evolved from a holiday experience to an event that combined practical, social, and educational opportunities for personal growth.)
Founding member of the Toronto trans group Xpressions; editor Monarch: Canada’s Transgender Reader.
Recipient in 2007 of an IFGE Trinity Award.
S/he has presented workshops at numerous trans events including Fantasia Fair, Southern Comfort, and Trans/Equity: Past, Present and Possibilities.
Besides her research writing and two novels, Gilbert has published works on gender theory, including “The Feminist Crossdresser,” in Trans/Forming Feminisms (K. Scott-Dixon, ed., 2006); “Defeating Bigenderism: Changing Gender Assumptions in the Twenty-First Century.” Hypatia (2009) and a chapter in the recent book Rethinking Transgender Identities (2022) titled Defining a Crossdresser.
Gilbert is a cross dresser and an activist in the international transgender community. “I’m thinking of doing a workshop called Not Trans Enough. So many trans people look upon me as a dilettante. Worse yet, cross-dressers are considered annoying little sisters: ‘They wear too much makeup, they don’t know how to dress properly, they get in the way.’ In being out, I see myself as an educator in the trans world. People can point to the cross-dressing professor and say, ‘Being a cross-dresser doesn’t make you weird.’”
York University profile: https://profiles.laps.yorku.ca/profiles/gilbert/
New website for Ottawa Trans Library
I thought it best the library had a website separate from Trans Ottawa. I’ll maintain an information page on this site, but for up to date stuff and events planned for the library, visit https://ottawatranslibrary.ca.
The first event planned is Board Game Night, Thursday June 23rd at 7 pm, followed by a meeting of the Trans Friendly Book Club on Saturday, July 9th from 11 am to 1 pm. The book is Michael Crichton’s The Great Train Robbery. If you hadn’t yet heard of the book club, the meetup page is at https://www.meetup.com/lit-club-trans-friendly/. Don’t worry if you haven’t read the book. Our book discussions often veer off into interesting digressions, and we have a good time anyway!
Questions and answers on the sex life and sexual problems of trans-sexuals
This booklet, published in 1950, provides an interesting snapshot of trans life two years before the great shift brought on by news of Christine Jorgensen’s sex affirmation surgery. It consists of letters written by diverse trans people to D. O. Cauldwell, a medical doctor who had acquired a reputation as being an expert on matters gender. Some write in desperation, some to reassure themselves that they’re “normal”; most are baffled by themselves and accept Cauldwell’s medical authority.
On this, Cauldwell is not as transphobic as one might assume, given the era. His position generally is that the differences between the two acknowledged sexes is not as great as it seems, and is largely a social construct. This view enables Cauldwell to have compassion for his letter writers, but it also oversimplifies the complexity of gender and how individuals identify with it. The range of trans identities represented here is far more varied than the dichotomy of transsexual-transvestite that became the template in the medical community in later years.
Consequently, the title is deceiving for modern readers, as the term “trans-sexual” serves here as an umbrella term for what we’d call “transgender”. There are indeed transsexual people writing for help, but also people whom we’d recognize as non-binary.
Regarding transsexual people, Cauldwell has no understanding. “There is no necessity for an individual who is a member of one sex to cultivate a persistent attitude that he or she is sexologically (or biologically) of the wrong sex.” He declares that “being metamorphosed into an individual of the opposite sex” cannot be done by medical or surgical means. At the time, this was probably true, although all that would change in two years. He also asserts that taking hormones would not result in breast development, which is demonstrably not true. He regards changing the shape of your sex organs as “mutilation”.
However, regarding non-binary people he is more sympathetic, and has no “rational objection to the term mental or psychic hermaphroditism”.
This booklet is interesting both in understanding historical attitudes to trans people, and in reading the stories of our trans ancestors. And for those still flogging the tired theory that being trans is a trend, Cauldwell’s conclusion from 1950 that being trans “is far more prevalent than it is suspected of being” is a fitting rebuke.
“Questions and answers on the sex life and sexual problems of trans-sexuals” is available for viewing at the Ottawa Trans Library.
Ottawa Trans Library opening celebrated
Thank you to all who showed up for our grand opening Sunday, May 29th and especially those who had to endure the detours as a result of Ottawa race weekend routing the marathon past our front door! A good time was had by all, and the library even received a welcome donation of books. We also had several visitors who made me think that Hintonburg is indeed the right place for our library. On day one, we were already a useful resource.
All did not go smoothly, however. Besides the detours, I waited the day before for the internet to be installed only to discover when the technician arrived that our location was not in fact wired up to accept service from our provider. We are connected now, however, and fully operational! Browse our catalogue to see what we have. (See link below). If you’re curious or in the area, drop by to see us. We are at 1104 Somerset St. West. Coffee and tea are available if you’d like to hang out.
Once again, our hours to start are:
Sunday 12 pm to 5 pm
Wednesday 3 pm to 7 pm
Friday 3 pm to 7 pm
Here is the link to the catalogue: https://otranslib.librarika.com/ To scroll through all the titles in the library, click on Catalog in the upper left corner. (I need to enter you as a member before you can login.)
Hope to see you soon!
Trans, non-binary people and the 2021 Census
The 2021 Census data is in, and it was no surprise that transgender and non-binary people attracted much of the media’s attention. True, most of the headlines were about an aging workforce and population, but once they got that out of the way, it was mostly about us. (By contrast, you had to look around the more sedate Statistics Canada site to find our numbers.)
If you missed it, these are the main stats: 0.33 % of the nearly 30.5 million Canadians aged 15 and older and living in a private household identified as trans or non-binary. That broke down to 59,460 transgender folks and 41,355 non-binary, or 100,815 in total.
It’s hard to call us a trend with those kinds of numbers, but there was one statistic – reported without comment – that could perhaps be used to suggest that. The proportion of trans and non-binary people among generation Z and millennials was three to seven times higher than for generation X, baby boomers and those older. There could be several reasons for that, the most obvious being that society is more accepting of gender non-conformity than it ever was and people are freer to self-define. Transphobic people think that greater freedom is the problem, of course, but it is in fact social evolution.
Speaking as a baby boomer who lived through transphobic times, my perception of many people my age is that if they didn’t transition, they eventually learned to accommodate themselves to the gender binary. People become more conservative as they get older. I may be wrong, but there are many trans folks I knew who disappeared into the ether. It’s probably no longer important for them to let Statistics Canada know who they are. They survived, and they’re all right, and that’s enough for them.
Here’s a fun table posted on the CBC site that lists many Canadian cities and the percentage of their population that is trans and non-binary. Scroll down the page and find your city. (Swipe sideways to access all 8 pages.) Not sure why Ottawa-Gatineau is listed twice. One is clearly for the entire Ottawa-Gatineau area, but if the other is for Ottawa only, why identify it as Ottawa-Gatineau?
Here’s my blog post on Census Day 2021.
Strands for Trans
I was leaving my friend’s hair salon recently when she showed me the sticker she’d applied to her front door. It was the iconic barber pole image with the usual blue, red and white stripes replaced with pink, blue and white. It’s part of a campaign by Strands for Trans to signify hair salons and barbershops that are trans friendly.
One would think hair salons would be the businesses most accepting of trans people, but I know how long I searched before I found one that made me feel comfortable. As the Strands for Trans website says, “Haircuts are historically gendered: Salons for women. Barbershops for men. This leaves the trans community feeling uncomfortable, unwelcome and unsure.” What a great initiative! Tell your salon or barbershop to join up at Strands for Trans.
Some notes regarding trans people
A few items in the news recently that may be of interest
Torrey Peters was awarded the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel for Detransition Baby. The judges’ citation read in part: “Torrey Peters’s Detransition, Baby, with its sharp wit, devastating clarity, and keenly observed characters, is exceptional not only for its fluid, intelligent prose, but also for the way the novel challenges dominant narratives of time and of gender that flatten and erase the rich complexity of the lives of both cis and trans people. There’s an elation, an honesty, and a verve to Peters’s voice that sounds unlike any prose in recent memory, a unique energy which keeps the narrative moving as she threads in and out of the consciousness of her unforgettable characters.” Um, that’s sort of what I said in my review too.
Cheers to Canadian commercial TV networks for hiring trans women to play parts in major shows. I’ve already noted the CBC series Sort Of, and Bobbi Charlton’s recurring role in Family Law, but was unaware until recently that Kiley May, an Indigenous two spirit trans woman, plays assistant pathologist River Baitz on the CBC series Coroner. Kiley May is Hotinonhshón:ni, Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) and Turtle Clan from Six Nations of the Grand River territory. Besides being an actor, she is a multidisciplinary artist and storyteller, writer, activist, and emerging filmmaker.
Elliot Page revealed that a trans character will be appearing in season three of the Netflix series Umbrella Academy due to begin in June. Page has been part of the cast since the beginning of the series. The Movie database describes Umbrella Academy as a “dysfunctional family of superheroes [that] comes together to solve the mystery of their father’s death, the threat of the apocalypse and more.”
The BBC recently reported on the ground breaking Serbian film Marble Ass. Released in 1995 and made during the height of the war in the former Yugoslavia, the film celebrated the lives of members of the LGBT community in the conservative country, and made a star of the trans actor Merlinka (Vjeran Miladinovic). Written and directed by Zelimir Zilnik and inspired by the director’s accidental encounter with Merlinka as she worked the street, the film occasioned an emotional and intense coming out moment during the premiere screening in Belgrade. A video of Zilnik’s description of that event and the difficulties he had in making the film are on the BBC site. As a friend to the community, Zilnik’s bumbling of trans terminology can be forgiven, but it was distressing to learn that Merlinka was assaulted and murdered in 2003. No one has ever been charged with her killing. The Merlinka International Queer Film Festival held in various Balkan nations that were once part of Yugoslavia is named in her honour.
Gender neutral passports are coming to the USA! Beginning April 11th, American citizens can now choose X as their gender designation. It is impossible to imagine something like that happening during the Trump presidency, and I’m sure it won’t go over well in the halls of government in rabid anti-trans states like Florida and Texas. Tough! The USA joins Canada, Australia, Germany, India, Nepal and New Zealand as nations that allow citizens to designate a gender other than male or female on their passports. Cheers to the Biden administration.
Meanwhile, the UK continues on its well-trodden path of transphobia. After declaring conversion practices “coercive and abhorrent” in May 2021, a briefing paper leaked this past week indicated the Boris Johnson Conservatives wouldn’t proceed with a ban. The paper suggested the government blame “pressures on the cost of living and the crisis in Ukraine.” Needless to say, the backlash was swift and furious, and so Johnson made a reversal. Now his government would introduce legislation in May, but it would only cover sexual orientation and not trans people.
The same dishonest arguments we heard in Canada prior to the ban here were trotted out in the UK: if we ban conversion practices then it will scare therapists away from talking to young people about complex identity issues. That kind of bullshit is only believable in a transphobic society. Conversion is coercion, not therapy.
The Peter Tatchell Foundation, which promotes and protects the human rights of individuals and communities, accused Johnson of “throwing trans people under the bus”. It said: “We feel conned and tricked. The prime minister has taken a decision to appease transphobes who oppose protection for trans people and who support attempts to turn them cisgender … It looks like a bid to stoke trans culture wars for political gain in the run-up to the next election.”
A journey through time with Go Info
Ottawa’s first publication for gay, lesbian and bisexual people reported on the ups, downs, and internal and external battles of an evolving queer community
I recently spent over four hours in the Main branch of the Ottawa Public Library (OPL) sifting through issues of Go Info. Go Info was first published by Gays of Ottawa and continued under the organization’s later names, Association of Lesbians and Gays of Ottawa (ALGO) and finally the Association of Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Ottawa (ALGBO). The name changes reflect the gradual involvement of lesbians and bisexuals after the various groups acknowledged they were oppressed in the same ways and had the same political goals. The T was added much later, but by then Go Info had ceased publishing. The OPL’s run starts with volume 2 number 4, 1975 and ends with volume 24 number 8, 1995.
My interest in Go Info was to see if I could find any item that might be pertinent to Ottawa’s trans history. Trans people did not appear in its pages often, and when they did, they weren’t regarded during this period as colleagues in a shared fight. The articles were more of an informational nature, not unlike what you’d find in a mainstream publication, but for the acknowledgement that trans folks were present on the fringes of the gay community.
This isn’t surprising, as it took years for lesbians and gay men to work together, and as late as the December/January 1991/92 issue an article appeared protesting that bisexual people were still not taken seriously.
Overall, it was a fascinating four hours of reading. While my primary interest in Go Info was trans, reading through it revealed the similarities in our history, although gays, lesbians and bisexuals went through it all decades earlier. In the end, I found only four articles on trans people, and only one of historical interest.
When I first asked about Go Info at the OPL, it had been so long since someone requested it that they couldn’t find it. Cheers to the staff at the OPL, however, for staying with the search. When they located it, they seemed as excited as I was. Anyone interested in the slow progress of queer rights will find Go Info to be a valuable historical resource.
Incidentally, while I use “queer” as shorthand for all that Go Info covers over the course of the 20 years I scanned, there was a debate in its pages during this time whether it was appropriate to adopt a word that had for so long been a homophobic expression of hate. It’s gratifying that “queer” no longer has such an association.
Winning design for LGBTQ2+ national monument revealed
The Department of Canadian Heritage and the LGBT Purge Fund have revealed the winning design for the LGBTQ2+ monument to be built in Ottawa. The winning concept is Thunderhead from Public City Inc., a team of Winnipeg-based architects and landscape architects. According to the news release from Canadian Heritage, “This design draws on the symbolism of a thunderhead cloud, which embodies the strength, activism and hope of LGBTQ2+ communities. It will be a lasting testimony to the courage and humanity of those who were harmed by the LGBT Purge, homophobic and transphobic laws and norms, and Canada’s colonial history.”
The LGBT Purge Fund is providing at least $8 million towards the monument.
There are many hate-filled people living in Canada, but – so far – we still have more people here trying to do the right thing, and this monument is undoubtedly the right thing. Despite Thunderhead not being my first choice, I’m thrilled with the selection and am looking forward to the day we can visit and experience it.
Trans Day of Visibility March 31st
Trans folks have a lot of days in the calendar that are meaningful to us, but this one will probably serve us best in the long term. There’s a paradox to this day that I like: we’re being visible to be invisible.
The other day I went to see a space for rent that I hoped might house the Ottawa Trans Library. I like to look professional when I show up to do business and was wearing a skirt and stockings. I admit also, however, that I deliberately and gently like to provoke people. I can’t help myself. It’s a reaction to the many years I operated in the shadows, when I was visible to some people and felt I had to be invisible to others. When I meet new people now, I like to let them know exactly who I am.
The fellow I met didn’t bat an eyelid. He showed me the space like he’d dealt with a thousand trans people before. We got along fine. On the way home, I smiled thinking about the whole encounter. Although I was being mildly provocative, he didn’t take my bait, and I was glad he didn’t. My transness was invisible to him. I was just another person with whom to do business.
That’s all we want, isn’t it? For our transness to be invisible and only our humanity recognized. When seeing a trans person will induce nothing more than a “So what?” The only way we’re going to get there is for more of us to be visible.
Let’s all be safe this March 31st, but if we can, let’s be visible too. Being yourself is the ripple effect to changing the world.
Dawn, Her Dad and the Tractor
Dawn, Her Dad and the Tractor is the story of a trans woman – the Dawn of the title – who returns to her rural Nova Scotia home after the death of her mother, hoping to mend her relationship with her estranged father. It’s the first feature film from Shelley Thompson, a Nova Scotia based writer and director who’s known for her work on The Trailer Park Boys.
Thompson wrote the film based on her own experience as a mom to a trans son. In an interview with CBC Radio’s Mainstreet, she said the film was “sort of my love letter to my son’s community, and the hope that [people] understand how important it is … that families and communities support trans people.”
Dawn is played by Maya Henry, a Toronto based actress and social media content creator. She’s also a trans woman playing the role of a trans woman. (Hurrah!) I’m thrilled that we’re finally able to tell our own stories and always look forward to seeing them on screen, but – irony of ironies – I could barely watch the trailer because certain scenes induced some triggering.
Dawn, Her Dad and the Tractor made its world premiere at Toronto’s Inside Out Film Festival in May 2021. It will be screened in several theatres in the Maritimes in March, and at the Invermere Film Festival in Invermere, BC on March 26th. Despite my reliving a bit of trauma from the trailer, I’d love to see it in Ottawa (attention Bytowne and Mayfair Theatres!) and hope it gets wider distribution soon.
No sex designation on Saskatchewan licenses
February 2022 – Saskatchewan residents can now opt not to include any sex designation on their driver’s license or Saskatchewan Government Insurance issued photo ID cards. The change came as a result of a Saskatchewan Human Rights complaint and feedback from residents that indicated the X option currently available didn’t resonate with everyone. About 300 people currently have X on their licenses, but members of the community said they preferred the no letter option.
Morgan Moats, chair of UR Pride in Regina and a non-binary person, said an empty space offers them more safety. The CBC quoted them as saying, “An ‘X’ says, ‘I’m not a man or a woman,’ whereas the blank says, ‘It’s none of your business.’
For some trans folks, a sex designation is of course an affirmation, but in the long run any step toward weakening the firm grip of the gender binary on human lives is likely a positive development. Full article and more discussion on the CBC site.
More photos of trans people
While I’m on the subject of photo exhibits and trans folks’ compulsive need to be photographed (see below), the often Covid-delayed, exhibition at the Ryerson Image Centre at Ryerson University in Toronto sounds interesting. On until August 6, 2022, it’s called Mauvais Genre/Under Cover: A Secret History of Cross-Dressers. This seems to me a somewhat misleading title since it’s comprised of over 160 amateur photographs collected from flea markets and other assorted purveyors of old photos and taken by unknown photographers of unknown trans people. Maybe they’re not cross-dressing at all. Nonetheless, it’s an intriguing collection assembled by Sébastien Lifshitz, who also serves as guest curator for the exhibit. Besides being a collector of photographs, Lifshitz is a film director. Some of his films include “Wild Side (2004), which features a trans heroine and Bambi (2013), a documentary about France’s most celebrated trans woman.”
JJ Levine photo exhibit at the McCord Museum
If you’re in Montreal February 18th and later, you may wish to visit the McCord Museum to see JJ Levine Queer Photographs. The exhibit “will present a selection from JJ Levine’s major photo projects Queer Portraits, Alone Time, and Switch. Levine’s work questions the representation of traditional binary gender roles through staged photographs of queer subjects in intimate, domestic settings.”
If you can’t make it to Montreal, a sample of Levine’s work is on their web site. Levine describes the Switch series of photos as presenting “the viewer with what initially appear to be pairs of classic studio portraits of heterosexual couples. Upon closer examination, however, each diptych is comprised of two models, not four. I dress each model as a man in one image and a woman in the adjacent one. By staging the same models twice in each pair of photographs, I don’t give any clues as to the subjects’ lived genders, therefore challenging the idea that gender is stable, consistent, or single.”
The McCord Museum is in downtown Montreal at 690 Sherbrooke Street West across from McGill University.
Digital archive of Notes from the Underground completed
These are the last issues of the Gender Mosaic newsletter, Notes from the Underground that I have that were not scanned. Unfortunately, there are missing issues from Margo’s term as editor. These are MR9, MR12, MR14, MR18, MR21 and MR22 (issue numbers are at the top left.) If any former GM member still has a few of these lying around, I’d be happy to take them off your hands.
I like that Margo always had an upbeat, rallying headline to each issue she edited. From vol. 2, 2000: “Power and Presence is Yours. However You Must Reach Out and Be Seen”. Vol. 4 2000 preached unity: “One Community – Respecting and Benefiting Through Our Individual Differences”. Or vol. 4 2001, “What If We Refuse to Apologise” (Right on! Unfortunately, this issue is short pages.)
Aside from the above mentioned missing issues, the digital archive of Notes from the Underground is now complete.