For some it’s about finding friends. For others, it’s about finding information, like the contact of a trans-friendly MD or help finding a suitable wig. They arrive at the meeting hoping to find the answers.
Elizabeth Tyler is the president of the transgender support and social group, Gender Mosaic. She knows the journey well.
“The most valuable part of Gender Mosaic is being there for someone when they have no idea where they’re going. Many of us coming out of the closet for the first time have no idea why we have a need to cross-dress. You feel lost. So the friendships become really important.”
Gender Mosaic consists of active members and an extensive email newsletter list. There’s a diverse group but Tyler has found that while cross-dressing and transitioning are entirely different experiences, the choice to come out creates a common bond.
“There are those who are transsexual, pursuing transitioning and living full-time as the woman that they are. And then there are members that are cross-dressers, not interested in changing their gender. There’s a lot of shared background, like low self-esteem and this feeling of being alone, wondering if you’re the only one.”
The challenges experienced by the trans community are undeniable. But meeting others who have been through it all and come out the other end, relatively unscathed, is invaluable.
Tyler muses over the founders’ contribution, together with the many others that paved the way for the newer members of Gender Mosaic.
“Twenty years, it’s a personal milestone for the members that were around then. And now it’s an incredible milestone for the group. We’re the oldest transgender group in Canada. Its seems right to mark the occasion.”
If there’s one thing the Gender Mosaic members know how to do well, it’s getting together for a party. With the 20th anniversary in May, Gender Mosaic has organized an evening gala, inviting all past and present members and their supporters, as well as members of the community.
Many of the founding members of Gender Mosaic will be there, celebrating their own personal milestones together with the group’s accomplishments. They will also be joined by former Ottawa Deputy Police Chief, Larry Hill. He worked closely with Gender Mosaic, opening the lines of communication between the Ottawa gender community and “official” Ottawa.
Asked how members are feeling about the upcoming event, Tyler pauses. There’s no mistaking the importance the event holds for her, her voice is almost reverent as she replies.
“There’s this real sense of anticipation. It’s going to be a really special night. Twenty years is a long, long time.”