Trans Outaouais celebrates 5 years
Trans Outaouais celebrated their fifth anniversary on September 7th with a pot luck at their usual meeting place, Cap Santé Outaouais in Gatineau. I had procured an invitation to the event through the back door, but due to hurried preparations for an impending vacation had to bow out of what promised to be an interesting occasion.
Fortunately, not all was lost as Lucie Desrochers, my trusted electrolysis lady who had extended the original invitation, connected me with Ève Jutras, the founder and one of the coordinators of the group. I met with Ève for almost three hours in my kitchen for an interesting and wide ranging discussion on the group and other issues trans.
Curiously, the formation of Trans Outaouais wasn’t Ève’s idea and not something she had been planning. It was a suggestion made by her psychologist while she was transitioning which she decided to act upon. I didn’t have to wonder why her psychologist made the suggestion, as it occurred to me during our conversation she was a natural for the job.
Trans Outaouais has a limited online presence. They have no website, their Facebook profile is semi-public, and their only other online presence is on the Cap Santé Outaouais web site, where they join the other self help groups currently using the Cap Santé Outaouais facilities. When I ask Ève how it’s possible to grow a group with such an apparently low profile, she explains how interconnected people are and illustrates it in an evocative way by splaying her fingertips on my kitchen table and then moving them together. It’s how people intersect. It’s word of mouth. It’s a recommendation from a helpful psychologist. It’s talk online. I can’t remember if she ever used the word networking, but what they do is pretty well the definition of it.
She gives me an example. She and several group members make annual presentations at the Cégep de l’Outaouais. In the four years they’ve been doing it, they’ve asked the question, “How many of you know a trans person?” The first year maybe one or two persons raised their hands. Now it’s 12 to 15. As trans people make more connections, the awareness of trans issues and people in the wider community increases.
Currently, Trans Outaouais has over 90 Facebook members and about 15 show up at any given time. Membership – although that’s a rather restrictive term given that they keep no member lists, attendance is free, and the meetings are open to anyone – is about half FTM and half MTF, with a good component of trans youth attending. They also have had multiple parents attending with their trans children. They meet monthly. Although it’s a discussion group format, no one is obliged to talk.
Interestingly, Ève told me that when she approached Cap Santé Outaouais to inquire whether they could use their space, they were pleased that she had come and told her there had been another trans group there ten years ago. She believed the organizer of that group eventually moved and no one stepped up to take her place. She promised she’d try to find out more about it for me.
For her own part, Ève insists she doesn’t want to be “number one” and that the group needs more than one voice to represent the diversity in the community. She shares the duties with one other coordinator, a FTM. When I suggest that collaboration is the way of women, she just smiles.
At times our conversation turned inevitably to our personal lives, and I was struck how interested Ève was in finding a path for what she perceived to be my talents. I wondered whether she used this gentle encouragement to guide others along the way also.
She told me that earlier in the week she had lost her tech job of 20 years and that she had spent some of the weekend updating her resumé. When she started to assemble the experience she had gained in the last number of years through Trans Outaouais, her various outreach activities, interviews with Radio Canada and collaboration with people and agencies, she was astonished to find an entirely different set of skills emerge. Perhaps it was time for a new career path? Based on my afternoon with her, I feel her skills are well suited for it. I should have taken a page from her book and gently encouraged her in that direction.
Trans Outaouais is listed in the CAP Santé Outaouais web site under groupes d’entraide (self-help groups): http://www.capsante-outaouais.org/trans
The “trusted electrolysis lady” referred to is certified professional electrologist Lucie Desrochers: www.transelectrolysis.com
October 4, 2018