The First 20 Years of Gender Mosaic
Hi Im Judy Kearns. I’ll be your guide for this trip through GM’s history.
In order for this to be meaningful, I’ll need to set the scene…
Place: Ottawa , Ontario , Canada
Issue: No Cross-dressing support group in Ottawa
In 1988, there was no Internet and only a few BBSs scattered around the world that would even deal with the issue of cross dressers.
In desperation, I joined a group from the U.S. called Tri-Ess and, for a short time, GM was a chapter of Tri-Ess.
With the Tri-Ess documentation, I received a directory of members with a picture and a short blurb on each. There was one member who appeared to be nothing more than an attractive, nicely-dressed woman. I sent her/him a letter and, a week later, I received a reply and a phone number in Florida.
When I called it, I met two of the nicest people in the world, Jenny/John and his wife Yvonne. We chatted almost nightly for about a month. My, that hurt my phone bill! They invited be to come down for a meeting any time I wanted. That night, I sat thinking of the offer and the chance to make my life better. I took the plunge and booked a flight for the following Saturday.
Shortly after that, the realization of what I was about to do hit me.
I called and told then I was coming down but I had no idea how to get my ‘things’ down there, through customs and so on. I was told not give it a second thought, as Jenny and I where the same size, she would lend me anything I needed.
Scared to death, I made the trip. I met an absolutely wonderful group of folks! They treated me as the guest of honor. I toured Kennedy Space Center and went shopping, all as Judy…
Well, it had to end sometime and I came home to Canada. I had been back home about three days when I realized the Florida people had a group *and* Disney, at the same time. Not fair!
A short time later, I called the Ottawa Distress Line and offered my services for CDs who called in just a friendly voice to talk to and a shoulder to cry on. They rejected me. I couldn’t blame them. I was someone they did not know with no formal training in social work or degrees to back up my claims.
Next, I contacted Pink Triangle Services. This time, I simply asked, �Where would you refer a heterosexual male cross dresser? They where stunned for a bit. Then, I said, “You can refer them to me.”
I met with a number of people from Pink Triangle Services a few days later, armed with pictures of the Florida group and me at the space centre, and was accepted as a contact point.
And, with that, the Ottawa group was off and running.
Now, we’ll move on to a look at GM’s Presidents and what they have done to build Gender Mosaic.
1988 – 1990
Well! After offering the Introduction, there doesn’t seem to be much left for me to say.
Staring the group would seem to be the biggie. But, for me, it was just something that had to be done.
I left the group for some time. This I will always regret, but I’m back and will never make that error again.
If I had to go out and find another group full of kind-hearted, wonderful people like us, right now, I would be very hard pressed to do so.
I have seen newbies come and go mostly come and stay and I have asked my self why we are so special as a group…
I believe that the earnest efforts and good hearts of the Presidents who came after me paved the way and all played a part in building this wonderful organization.
Now, allow me to introduce Teddy/Alison, a really good friend and the second President of GM.
I ascended to the presidency of GM in September 1990, there being no elections in the olden times. However, since I was editor of the newsletter, had been Judys right hand woman and had an available home in which to hold events, the line of succession seemed clear.
There was a growing activism in the group at the time, the product of a dynamic membership that was coming into its own and eager to address the world. This activism was the impetus behind the groups name change to Gender Mosaic. We also published pamphlets and a survival guide, installed a phone line in my house, and advertised for new members.
Our social events kicked into high gear with Joanne Laws Cantley barbecues, outings to Montreal, boat trips from Kingston, joint meetings with the old Monarch Social Club, our first pub fundraiser, and of course my legendary Golden Damsel shuffleboard tournaments.
We held two monthly events, one a business meeting the other a social, which often turned into a big house party. We had fun and I remember being very busy.
Joanne, who had always been a great help to me, was ready to take over by the spring of 1992.
Now, like the unsinkable Molly Brown, I pass the torch to Joanne Law, the third and fifth President of GM.
It all started a long time ago. I was looking for a resource which dealt with my cross dressing. This was the late 1980s, before Gender Mosaic. I called the Pink Triangle Services Hot line and asked for a name or contact point in their card file as computers were expensive and very rare. After several tries phoning the hot line, I got a person who gave me Judys name. I made contact with Judy and that was the start of something wonderful.
My first meeting was interesting as I met, for the first time, people like me. Our meeting was at Judys place (the address was 38B), where we drank beer and watched the original Star Trek. She had a big satellite dish in her back yard. This was the first time I was not alone in my life. Yes, I was married and had children but this was different.
I got involved with Gender Mosaic at the very second meeting in 1988, becoming President in 1993 for three-year terms three times and one term where I stepped down. To put it another way, I was president for 13 of the first 20 years.
During my ‘reign’, I became the walking, talking TG action figure. I opened several closets in the greater communities, including national unions, local unions, womens shelters, lecturing to universities and colleges and becoming a community volunteer. Gender Mosaic marched in the Pride parade in 1994 and has been there since. I represented Gender Mosaic and helped the cross-dressing community become visible to the police via the Hate Crime Unit of the Ottawa Police Service. I was one of those who sat at the news conference, along with representatives of the GLB communities, at the historic launch of the Liaison Committee and I have been sitting at that table since then, representing Gender Mosaic.
Gender Mosaic was becoming visible and people started to know who we were and what we did. People started to ask questions and invited us to their events, where we answered them. I led Gender Mosaic into the greater unknown, becoming the voice and the face of the transgender community. For five years, I hosted a weekly radio program, Joannes Closet , and I wrote a monthly magazine column, ‘Skirting Around With Joanne’. I also sat in many board rooms, making changes.
I have mentored many of you into this new world of wonder.
On another point, I was fired from my job, during my last year as president. I lost everything and lived on welfare and soup kitchens for the next ten years. My story is on my website: The Life and Times of Joanne P. Law.
Gender Mosaic has given me life and, at the same time, gave me energy to deal with my gender identity.
(NO PHOTO AVAILABLE)
Margo Ross secured Two Prestige’s Awards for the group during her time in office.
The International Transgender Online Magazine has bestowed on Gender Mosaic the following
Two Consecutive Awards:
Voted the Favorite TG Group Organization for 1999.
Voted the Best TG Organization for 2000.
Jan was the first genetic-female President of Gender Mosaic.
A highlight of her first term was her successful effort to get then-Ottawa City Councillor Alex Munter out to a potluck social in September of 2002. That connection resulted in the City of Ottawa’s Equity and Diversity Policy being updated to include gender identity.
GM celebrated its 15th Anniversary during Jan’s second term, with a gala at the Arts Centre on Daly Avenue.
Jan stepped down in September, 2003, to be more politically active and become involved with political lobbying activities that fell outside the mandate of a President of Gender Mosaic.
Jan’s partner, Zelda Marshall, completed Jan’s second term (September 2003 – February 2004), during which time she reinstated the GM Discussion Groups. The topic of the first one, on Tuesday, 30 September, 2003, was ‘Are We Having Fun Yet?’. The goal was to brainstorm with those present on how to make GM more fun.
I hosted these Discussion Groups in my home because I thought the added intimacy of having them in a home would offer more security to those who wanted to contribute. We also provided some light refreshments (coffee, tea and at least one kind of snack) and relied on donations to keep that up. I never asked for contributions from participants because I wanted to keep these monthly Discussion Group a completely FREE event for everyone, knowing that some of our members were more financially challenged, even sometimes not being able to afford the monthly potluck socials. I wanted to make sure that every member had access to at least one GM activity per month.
Also, part of my personal mandate was to make face-to-face connections with the general business community. So, after our 2003 Christmas Party, at which we raffled off two beautiful X-rated gift baskets, I hand-delivered every thank you letters to the businesses who contributed goodies for the baskets. I made sure to tell the representative of each business how much we appreciated their donations and this usually resulted in offers to contribute again the next year.
Notable among the political achievements of my brief term was a meeting between a group of GM members and then-MP Svend Robinson on Tuesday, 4 November, 2003, at the West Block on Parliament Hill. Bill C-250 had passed shortly before, recognizing crimes based on sexual orientation of the victim to be hate crimes. The original bill had asked for hate crime recognition based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, however the ‘gender identity/expression’ component was dropped in debate in order to make the bill ‘more passable’. So, Bill C-250 passed, and trans people got left behind, again. This meeting was the start of the process to get ‘tranny bashing’ elevated to the status of a hate crime, just as Bill C-250 did for ‘fag bashing’ and ‘dyke bashing’. The meeting was organized and spearheaded by Jan Hobbs and another former GM President, Margo Ross.
Also noteworthy — though it was not a GM initiative — the Northwest Territories passed Bill 1, which protected freedom of Gender Identity, during this period (October, 2003).
Lauren became President of Gender Mosaic when no-one else would take the position. She remembered how much the group had done for her and wanted to give something back to it and its members. She began a resurgence of the group that is now seeing record attendance. Lauren was at every information fair (Pride, university, Take Back the Night, etc.) or event that was going on during and after her Presidency. She would be the one to set up the table and attend it for the entire event. Only her health prevented her from marching.
She led the group in a very quiet manner. She would never lose her cool. But was always in control. She would use her smile to disarm any controversy�whether within the Executive or from a member of the public who just didn’t understand the TG Community. She was able to show a very intelligent and friendly person to anyone who met her.
Lauren cared deeply about the members of this group.
2005 – 2007
After serving on Lauren Mulvihill’s Executive as Secretary, I was asked to run for President. I didn’t think I was prepared for the task but, at the time, there were very few people interested in the Executive. This was at a time when as few as six people came to the Pot Luck Suppers.
I decided to bring a positive atmosphere to the group. I had each meeting begin with a “Feel Good Story”. These were positive stories that each member would tell about something good that happened to them in their TG world. I expected to hear stories about how a salesperson had treated them well or how they went for a walk without trouble. I did, indeed, get that kind of story. But I also got very incredible stories about significant family support, families reconciling and members transitioning successfully at their workplaces. The depth of the positive stories was amazing. And there were lots of them. It was very gratifying to hear these stories and to see the other members listen to them and realize that some of the things they were afraid to try were actually possible. Many members took courage from these stories and took those steps themselves. That had to be the most rewarding part of being President for me�seeing the new girls find their way successfully in the TG World.
Public Education has been something I have worked on in other areas of my life. Education about the TG Community is as necessary as anything else I have ever worked on. If not more. I tried to raise the profile of the TG Community in the public’s eyes. I managed to make contact with just the right people at the Ottawa Sun, who wrote some exceptional articles about us. Rogers Cable did an excellent one hour edition of “Talk Ottawa” about the TG Community, which I was privileged to be part of. Attitudes have changed. We have had easier access to the Media. Taking advantage of that has been a priority for me.
During the time I was President, the group went from financial despair to a very solid financial position. This has allowed us to sponsor events, attend Information fairs, and consider other forms of education that will show us off to the public as the people we all know we are, solid members of the Ottawa landscape. It has been amazing to see the membership grow and attendance at the Pot Lucks, Zelda’s Discussion Group and the Saturday Dinners take off in the last few years.
I think the biggest change I have seen during and around my time as President is the attitude of the public. No longer does the word “transgender” conjure up the sexual stereotypes that were common in the past. Now, when the word “transgender” comes up in conversation, we are hearing, “Oh, I have heard of that. What is it?” This is a quantum leap that this Community has taken in the past several years. It is an amazingly positive change. The public is starting to understand us and accept us as part of society. My hope is that this will continue until ‘transgender’ is no different than blond, brunette, freckled, blue eyed or any other genetic marker in humanity today.
Well… There you have it. Twenty years of history told by those who where there.
There are 2660 words on the page but they speak much more than that!
They talk of the struggle, in times when transgtenderism was considered a mental illness.
We all continue to reap the benefits of their dedicated efforts.
Gender Mosaic has de-evolved in to a commercial group, (Gender Mosiac Incorporated) the intent now is money and profit, a far cry from the original intent, if you’re looking for help, support, or just a shoulder to cry on forget it.
What the G.M group has fail to notice is that now Sophia & Amanda have incorporated the group with them in control it will be costly and all most impossible to remove them from control, no matter what the bylaws say.
And with the bylaws carfully ignored they have free rain to do what they want and the group wishes have no weight at all, I hope the G.M members know that.
The 1st 20 years are a prime example of corporation, dedication and growth.
The next 20 are un-known but the last 5 years have been one bungled effort after an other with bickering and in-fighting taking the lime light.
Starting with Kelly Ann’s Mismanagement of the group and the abuse he has placed on some of the members, to the Current Failure of the Executive to do the proper thing and correct the issues left by the old Executive.
The focus is now a very pigeon like attitude “ Me Me Me” the sprit of cooperation is gone, and has been replaced by “ It’s my ball and if you don’t’ like it too bad ” because I’m going to make money off of you.
As I approach my golden years I will watch from the side lines as this once proud and vibrant group is consumed into obscurity as a select few get rich.
They remind me of car sales men/women, Shyster/Flimflam Artist , a Pig in a Poke.
In there May 31 2012 Executive minutes they state
6. Mission Statement / Zero ToleranceGM aims to set the example, that could be adopted by other GLBT organizations, for the inclusion in our Mission Statement that GM does not tolerate judgement, division and discrimination within our own group and within the wider GLBT community.
There actions to date would demonstrate they Endorse Discrimination, Division and Judgement within there own group and should a member not snap in-to line when the Executive order it, they will have there membership remove without due process and full disregard for there own bylaws.
They disregard there own bylaws, and act so bullish that I’m so sad to have been such a great part of it’s beginnings, if I could go back and change things I would not have started it at all, and all the members should all be ashamed, so sad !