As Ottawa’s trans support group Gender Mosaic (GM) prepares to
celebrate its 25th anniversary this month, president Sophia Cassivi
says the group now truly lives up to its name. From transgender people
to drag queens, GM is open to everybody, she says, although for a long
stretch of time, GM members were primarily white, mature,
These days, 30 percent of GM’s members are under 30 years old, and 20
percent are transitioning from female to male, something Cassivi says
is unprecedented. She credits, in part, GM’s social media sister
website which, in recent years, has attracted a more diverse
Cassivi first discovered GM just over a decade ago. At first, the
information she acquired regarding the trans community was
“overwhelming” and she was fearful of being outed.
Rather than dive right into the group, Cassivi attended social
gatherings held by Gender Metaphor, an offshoot of GM created by a
rift between members. Then, thanks to the welcoming attitude of Amanda
Ryan and Samantha Perrin, she joined GM.
But although Cassivi revelled in the newfound support from GM, she was
still outed by a jaded employee.
“Although I’m a very outgoing person, my personal life was very
closeted. My wife and I and my kids were the only people who knew,”
[Photo: Gender Mosaic president Sophia Cassivi says the group’s 25th
anniversary is a celebration of all those who support the trans
community, not just trans Canadians. (Bradley Turcotte) ]
When Cassivi’s employee quit to create her own rival venture, the
employee decided the best way to ensure her own success was to call
all of Cassivi’s clients and inform them of Sophia’s existence.
“She was not very complimentary about it. I phoned every one of my
customers and told them it was true that I was transgender,” Cassivi
recalls. “I told them that if they were not comfortable with that, I
would understand. All my customers said they respected my courage to
make the call. I kept all my customers and she lost her business.”
Since becoming president of GM in February 2011, Cassivi has helped
revise the group’s bylaws, applied to become an incorporated entity
and has reached out to other trans groups in Canada and the US.
Cassivi says once GM becomes incorporated, the group will begin
applying for grants and look into the possibility of sponsorship.
GM is also now officially bilingual and working with Gatineau police
to create a liaison committee to educate Quebec cops on the realities
of being a trans Canadian.
“We did all the things other executives couldn’t do. We did sometimes
have unpopular opinions but we had a dirty job to do and we did it.
I’m very proud. The group is healthier and more solid than ever,” she
But Cassivi is quick to remind that GM is not exclusively a vehicle
for the agenda of the executive committee.
“The group is not all about the executive,” Cassivi says. “The
executive is like a steering wheel and . . . the membership is the gas
pedal feeding you. It should never be about one person. It should be
about unity. It’s a collective effort.”
Although the group’s original goal was to offer social support, GM has
recently begun lobbying politically as well; something Cassivi says is
a conscious decision.
Members of GM attended nearly every meeting or event regarding NDP MP
Randall Garrison’s federal trans rights bill C-279
<http://www.xtra. ca/public/ National/ Federal_trans_ bill_passes_ third_reading- 13324.aspx>
and pushed hard to get Toby’s Act, Ontario’s trans rights bill,
Garrison, Senator Grant Mitchell
<http://www.xtra. ca/public/ National/ Liberal_senator_ delivers_ comprehensive_ speech_in_ favour_of_ trans_bill- 13448.aspx>
and Ottawa Police chief Charles Bordeleau
<http://www.xtra. ca/public/ Ottawa/Police_ and_queers_ dissect_hate_ crimes-13511. aspx>
are all scheduled to attend GM’s May 29 anniversary reception. Cassivi
credits GM secretary Rachelle Gauvin with organizing the anniversary
and says the event is not just for GM members, but all friends and
supporters of trans Canadians.
“The anniversary is not only an anniversary,” Cassivi says. “We want
to show that society is a blend of people, it’s not a celebration
that’s only about transgender people. It’s about all the people
showing support and love for us.”
Gender Mosaic 25th anniversary
Wednesday, May 29, 6-9pm
Travel Lodge Hotel and Conference centre, 1376 Carling Ave
To purchase tickets, visit GM’s official site
<http://www.gendermo saic.com/ 2013/04/14/ gm-25th-annivers ary/>
©2013 Pink Triangle Press