Out with a whimper: the demise of Gender Mosaic

[The Ottawa Trans Library will be holding a reunion and celebration of Gender Mosaic on April 15, 2023.]

July 2021

And so this is how it ends.

A few weeks ago I was checking the links on this website to see if they still worked. When I clicked on Gender Mosaic (GM), it sent me to a page telling me the GM URL was available. I can’t say I was surprised. Before the pandemic, I’d heard that no one was responding to messages sent through their website. It had been a moribund organization for some time, but who was I to put a stake through it and declare it dead?

Since I removed the link, I’ve heard from several former members all asking the same question, “What’s happening with Gender Mosaic?” I don’t have an answer. GM has served the trans community for 30 odd years. No one wants to be the person to say it’s done, but this slow death has been painful. It’s time to call a spade a spade: it’s over.

I was a founding member of Gender Mosaic, one of the six souls who showed up in May 1988 to Judy’s townhouse in what to me seemed like another futile attempt to start a trans group. I’d been to so many of these things before. I’d get my hopes up, show up for the big launch and find three people there. On one occasion I arrived and found that even the person organizing it hadn’t bothered to show up! How many times can a person do that before she gets cynical?

Gender Mosaic did not exactly get off to a rousing start either. Had I not brought along two friends, there would have been only four of us, not much different from the failures I’d been to before. There was one difference, however, that became clear in the following months when we struggled to get people to attend. There was a committed core that was going to see this thing through. I knew I could count on these people and it gave me hope that this time it might work. It wasn’t easy finding trans folks pre-Internet, and when you did there was a lot of fear that kept them from coming out. Our patience paid off, however. That fall the membership grew with every meeting. It was exciting to meet new, diverse, and interesting trans people. They, along with that committed core who stuck it out, eventually made GM the dynamic organization it was for many years.

1998 GM Membership card

Everything changes, however, and all good things come to an end. Whatever services GM was providing pre-Covid – and I admit I have no idea what they were – can surely be found elsewhere, and if they can’t be found, then perhaps it’s better to start afresh than to watch a once great trans group wither away.

Before the pandemic, I asked a friend if Gender Mosaic even existed anymore. She laughed and said it will always go on. In a sense, she was right. So many people were involved in its over 30 year existence that they inevitably changed the city for the better. It was not just through their activism. Simply being who they were sent ripples across our community. Some did the heavy lifting, others provided the vital support, and for many others GM was the avenue that finally enabled them to come out. Gender Mosaic saved lives. But we also had fun, and met many people who would become life-long friends. It’s a great legacy to leave behind, and everyone involved should be proud of the part they played in it.

July 2021