Ottawa’s first ever festival for trans, two-spirit and gender-diverse individuals took place virtually August 21 to August 28, 2020.
For more on Trans-Fest 2020, see: https://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/by-us-and-for-us-ottawas-first-ever-trans-festival-is-ready-for-launch
On March 7, 2020 I had an opportunity to test drive the early version of the Transgender Media Portal, a site which one day will be a public online database of films and other audiovisual works created solely by trans, nonbinary, gender non-conforming, intersex, and Two Spirit artists. More…
Book Signing: Love Lives Here: A Story of Thriving in a Transgender Family
August 2019 – Neither Chapters Rideau nor Amanda Jetté Knox seemed prepared for the crowd that greeted her for the August 21st Q & A and signing of her book Love Lives Here: A Story of Thriving in a Transgender Family. The 50 or so chairs were full well before the 7 o’clock start time with at least another 50 people standing by the time the event began.
Perhaps they should not have been so surprised. That week Love Lives Here was sitting in the no. 1 position on the Globe and Mail’s Canadian non-fiction best seller list. While interest in trans lives has arguably never been higher, perhaps more noteworthy was the supportive atmosphere that evening.
The MC was Jill Holroyd, who currently heads the Renfrew County Pflag. (If you’ve never been to a Pflag event, I recommend it. You won’t meet a nicer bunch of people.) Ms. Holroyd asked Ms. Jetté Knox a number of questions before turning it over to the audience. There were, of course, a fair number of trans people in attendance, but I was impressed with the questions from the cisgender folks attending. Here was a question from a teacher asking what things she could do to make trans kids lives easier; and a comment from Kim, a little girl who said she watched My Name is Jazz with her mom and was glad that people weren’t as mean to trans kids as they used to be; or the sensitive admission from a white cisgender male that he feels the sand shifting under his feet.
The evening was greatly enhanced by the presence of Ms. Jetté Knox’s entire family. They too answered some questions from the audience, but it was their warmth and evident love for one another that had the crowd clapping in appreciation. Amanda Jetté Knox also graciously acknowledged the work of the trans community in making trans lives better, that without our activism she wouldn’t have been able to write the book she had.
The book signing followed the Q & A session. Having been one of the standees, I was about ready for a drink at this point so never got my book signed. Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable evening for all present. Thanks to Amanda Jetté Knox and her family.
Odawa Two-Spirit, Trans, and Gender Diverse March
August 2019 – A drenching rain before the event and a persistent drizzle throughout could not keep about 160 people from attending the Odawa Two-Spirit, Trans, and Gender Diverse March on Saturday, August 17. Signs and buttons were available for participants and a 30 foot trans flag was rolled out. The opening speeches at Confederation Park recognized “the pride, the resilience, and the strength of the Two-Spirit, trans, and gender diverse community”.
The march then moved to the Human Rights Monument where a mourning vigil was held for North American black, indigenous and other trans women of colour who have lost their lives to transphobia. As the names of each woman was called out, a symbolic red high heel was placed at the foot of the monument. From there it was on to Parliament Hill for a call to action and afterwards an opportunity to meet and mix with the community with a pot luck at Jack Purcell Community Centre.
Congratulations to Fae Johnstone, Jade Byard Peek and other organizers and volunteers who contributed to making the march a success.
July 2019 – I was sitting at the open window of Atomic Rooster recently waiting for my friend to show up for lunch. It was a beautiful day and I was sipping my beer watching the pedestrian traffic on Bank Street when I became aware of a woman walking her bicycle along the sidewalk. As she drew near, I realized she was a trans woman! When she saw me, she smiled, and we exchanged a shy hello before she went on her way….
A few vignettes and observations about living in Ottawa as a visible trans woman.
Trans Health System Design Workshop
March 2019 – On Saturday, March 9, 2019 about 18 participants gathered at the 25One Community space , 251 Bank Street to talk about their experiences accessing transition-related health care in the Champlain region. The purpose of the workshop was to design a better system for accessing hormones and surgeries locally. It was a stimulating discussion that ran overtime and confirmed what I always knew: there’s a lot of brainpower in the trans community. We can accomplish anything if we put our minds together.
Thanks to Taryn Husband and Natalie Duchesne for organizing.
Book launch: Soar, Adam, Soar.
Feb. 2019 – The launch of Soar, Adam, Soar, Rick Prashaw’s book about his young trans man son, was held February 7, 2019 at the Canadian Museum of Nature. The mood that pervaded the room that evening was very positive. This was due both to Rick himself, a man who exudes warmth and wears his compassion on his sleeve, and his son Adam, who in his short life brought together a number of diverse communities.
The MC for the evening was Rita Celli from CBC Radio One who related how she came to know Rick through his act of generosity when they both lived in Sudbury. Besides readings from the book, there were moving speeches from Joel Frappier, Adam’s boss at Gourmet Cuisine and the caterer at the museum’s Nature Cafe, and Tina Proulx, co-chair of the Ottawa branch of the Gift of Life Network. (It was mentioned, and worth repeating, that of the 170 communities surveyed in Ontario, Ottawa ranks 118 in organ donation registration. We can do better than that! See links below.)
When Rick signed my copy of the book, he also wrote wrote, “Human rights for all”. That message also spoke to the feeling in the room that evening.
It was a wonderful event. What I know of Adam, I think he would have been pleased.
Book launch: Gender: Your Guide
Dec. 2018 – On the evening of December 5th, with wet snow falling outside, about 25 diverse people snuggled into a room at the 25ONE Community working space on Bank Street for the book launch of Gender: Your Guide, by Dr. Lee Airton.
It was an interesting evening. Dr. Airton is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education at Queen’s University. Gender: Your Guide is a natural extension of their teaching, research and advocacy work in encouraging individuals and institutions to be open to gender and sexual diversity. In their opening remarks, Dr. Airton said this book is for now, this historical moment when there is an increased awareness that gender is everywhere. They noted that ten years ago people were asking why we have to make accommodations for gender, while now the discussion is how do we do this? Welcome progress. The book is a “primer on what to know, what to say, and what to do in the new gender culture.”
Dr. Airton read four passages that provided some insight into what the book is about. Among them was their own tale as a child needing – not wanting but needing – a pair of Doc Martin shoes. It was an interesting personal illustration of how kids navigate their experience of gender. Equally interesting was their sister’s encounter with infertility and how something like not having a baby by her late 30s set her outside a “normal” gender category.
A question and answer discussion followed, with an informal book signing afterwards. Gender: Your Guide is currently available only in hard cover, but a paperback edition is expected. The event was a collaborative presentation of Octopus Books, Simon & Schuster Canada and the Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity.
I’ll upload a full review as soon as I’ve read it.
Dr. Airton’s gender pronoun web sites are No Big Deal, a campaign fostering the use of correct pronouns (https://www.nbdcampaign.ca/) and TIMP, They Is My Pronoun: http://theyismypronoun.com/ Their personal site is at https://www.leeairton.com/
Lyra Evans elected Ottawa-Carleton School Board trustee
Oct. 2018 – Congratulations to Lyra Evans who on October 22nd was elected Ottawa-Carleton School Board trustee for Zone 9 (Rideau-Vanier/Capital). As an open trans woman who has experienced homelessness, Ms. Evans will be a powerful voice for students who for whatever reason are marginalized within the school system. Prior to winning a seat on the Board, Lyra was a community organizer, an activist for the LGBTQ community, and an NDP candidate in Ottawa-Vanier in the recent Ontario provincial election. She placed a respectable second in the heavily Liberal riding, garnering almost 30% of the vote. In her campaign for trustee, Ms. Evans opposed the Ford government reverting to the 1998 sex education curriculum and halting revisions designed to incorporate findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Oct. 2018 – Whose bench is this underneath a canopy of leaves along a short winding brick pathway in St. Luke’s Park in downtown Ottawa? The name on the small metal plate reads Adam Prashaw, and there is an invitation too: “Sit down. Relax. Enjoy”. More
Oct. 2018 – Trans Outaouais celebrated their fifth anniversary on September 7th with a pot luck at their usual meeting place, Cap Santé Outaouais in Gatineau. Recently I met founder and coordinator Ève Jutras for an interesting and wide ranging discussion on the group and other trans issues. More
Amanda Ryan and Joanne Law honoured by the Village Legacy Project
Cheers to Amanda Ryan and Joanne Law for their inclusion in the Village Legacy Project Community Heroes Portrait Gallery.
Take a tour through Ottawa’s Queer Village on Bank Street from James Street north to Nepean Street and take in the wonderful portraits by Glenn Crawford. These are colourful, hanging banners with the images of “43 icons, activists, rebels and heroes who, among many others, helped build Ottawa’s queer community from the ground up from the very beginning of the liberation movement on.”
This is a wonderful honour for Amanda and Joanne. Amanda’s portrait is on the east side of Bank at Cooper Street while Joanne is at Maclaren Street, also on the east side. Their portraits are gorgeous! Congratulations!
For more on the Village Legacy Project see http://www.villagelegacy.ca/
Oct. 2018 – This year marks the 10th anniversary that Zelda Marshall has organized dinners on behalf of Gender Mosaic. Her efforts have allowed trans people and their supporters to experience a wide range of pubs and restaurants across the city. A toast to the lady who’s delivered fine cuisine, good company, and increased trans visibility! More
No Gender Mosaic at 2018 Pride Parade
June 2018 – For the second year in a row, Gender Mosaic as an organization will not be participating in the Capital Pride Parade, although individual members are welcome to participate. In 2017, organizers of Capital Pride requested off duty police not wear their uniforms at Pride, suggesting that many in the queer community did not feel comfortable around police. In an email to Capital Pride, the executive of GM said that it opposed the “decision of the Pride Committee to ask the Ottawa Police not to put a float in the parade or to wear uniforms”. Capital Pride has reiterated its request to the Ottawa Police for 2018.
Over the years Gender Mosaic members have been involved with the Ottawa Police Service in many ways, most notably with the Ottawa Police Liaison Committee, and the executive felt Capital Pride’s decision was a backward step in the GLBT community’s relationship with the OPS. Gender Mosaic first participated in the Pride Parade in 1994.
March 2018 – While the bars on Elgin Street were filling up early in the afternoon for St. Patrick’s Day 2018, I was at the Jack Purcell Community Centre for SAEFTY’s Human Library. SAEFTY (Support and Education for Trans Youth) is Ottawa’s newest and only by youth for youth trans, Two Spirit and gender diverse youth group. In a human library, individuals volunteer as human ‘books’ and visitors to the event can have a one on one conversation with the volunteer and share in a dialogue about that individual’s experience. More