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Making Moves in Hintonburg: Welcome Ottawa Trans Library

Now open at 1104 Somerset West, Hintonburg’s Ottawa Trans Library reimagines the function of libraries as community spaces

On her website Trans Ottawa, trans historian and author Tara Sypniewski writes, “It ain’t easy being trans, but give yourself a chance at the life you deserve.” Upon walking through the doors of Hintonburg’s newly-opened Ottawa Trans Library, it is clear that Sypniewski is fostering a space for our local trans and gender non-conforming community to achieve just that.

A longtime resident of Ottawa and an avid bookworm, Sypniewski is the founder of the library. She is a graduate from Carleton University, where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and then began her career as a librarian at the Museum of Nature. Around this time, Sypniewski was a founding member of Gender Mosaic (GM), Canada’s oldest and largest trans social and support network. From 1998 to 2003, she published a zine called Triple Echo and subsequently transformed the project into her ongoing website Trans Ottawa, an archive of local trans history.

As of earlier this spring, opening the library is Sypniewski’s latest radical venture. Along with her small team, the project was brought to life from both her basement and heart through establishing a collaborative space to share and expand her personal trans bibliography. Since, the Ottawa Trans Library has garnered positive attention from not only Ottawa circles, but also at the national level from the likes of the CBC, among others. The lending library houses books “by trans authors, as well as historical, important and interesting works on trans issues and people.”

Sypniewski is thrilled to return to Hintonburg after living nearby in one of her first apartments 40 years ago. She feels at home in the neighbourhood, and was pleased to see that much has remained familiar of her youthful stomping grounds. Sypniewski’s sentiment resonates within the library’s warm atmosphere; a welcoming meeting place and learning environment for LGBTQ+ individuals of all ages.

The library’s front entrance is adorned with an embellished tapestry of a dragon, whose likeness also appears on its logo. Sypniewski explains that the dragon was a gift from a late close-friend, and that it symbolizes (and challenges) the preconceptions stigmatizing trans and gender diverse people. With this, Sypniewski is hopeful that the library will not only support Ottawa’s LGBTQ+ community, but promote solidarity widely as well.

Visit the library at 1104 Somerset Street West on Fridays (3:00pm-7:00pm), Sundays (noon-5:00pm) and Wednesdays (3:00pm-7:00pm) for a page turner, tea and coffee and good conversation.

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