For the first time in a decade, Ottawa’s Pride festival will have a march specifically celebrating transgender and gender non-conforming people. The last reported Trans March in Ottawa took place in November 2006.
“There have been efforts in the last couple of years to get it going again, though I would only be speculating as to why those efforts hadn’t materialized,” says Cayce Ainsworth (who uses the pronoun they), one of the march’s organizers.
“I decided to get the ball rolling because I didn’t see anyone else doing it,” they say. Ainsworth and other organizers began planning in May.
Marchers will rally at McNabb Park on the evening of Friday, Aug 19, 2016. The march will head east on Gladstone Avenue, north on Bank, and east on Somerset. It will wind up at the site of Colour the Streets, the Ottawa Black Diaspora-Coalition’s celebration of racialized, black and indigenous people.
The start point for the march was chosen because of the proximity to McNabb Community Centre, which is home to the mural honouring trans women of colour that was created by Kalkidan Assefa. The end point is significant as well.
“Given the intersections in our communities, with the most marginalized of trans folks being people of colour, it felt only right to lead the march to Colour the Streets,” Ainsworth says. “Besides, we see too much of the Human Rights Monument. What better place to end the march than in the middle of what will be official Pride grounds?”
While some of the organizers have connections with local community organizations (Ainsworth is a board member at Kind Space), the march is intended to have no sponsorship or affiliation with any corporation, group or organization (including the official Capital Pride organization) in order to keep it “by the trans community, for the trans community.”
They have also decided not to include or notify the police. “[This is] due to concerns by those made to feel unsafe by the police, or those who may be re-traumatized as a result of violent police interactions,” Ainsworth says. “As a result, this isn’t an officially sanctioned city of Ottawa event.”
According to the march’s Facebook event page, if police do arrive the march’s organizers will endeavour to be the ones to speak with them, “minimizing their contact with marchers as much as possible.”
Response online has been positive, but Ainsworth says it will be an important celebration no matter the turnout. “When you’re trans and politically active, you see a lot of vigils and memorials,” they say. “We need more than collective mourning as a reason to get together. Trans marches the world over seek to activate the political base, and unite their voices for change.”