Monday, April 23, 2012

Never looking back: Gays of Ottawa revisited

Hello everyone,

You might be remember a while back that I wrote a series of blogs (1, 23, 4,) on Ottawa LGBT history, specifically the history of the community centre and activism hub, the GO Centre(s). I have a most welcome update. I received an e-mail today answering a question I had posed in the one of the blogs. Having written the gentleman back I asked if he could share some thoughts on GO or the Centre's if he had been involved with them. I was touched by the reply, not only personally but also by the reminder that history is very human. The writer gave me permission to publish the entire e-mail with his identity citing that, " is an honor to have been a part of all this and to have my story included."

It was GO's determination, and the that of all Gay Liberation groups, to be a visible and positive presence in the community that provided many closeted gay men and women, including my correspondant, the support to shape their identity in a positive and open way. GO's legacy still lives on.

Below you'll find the particular Centre mentioned in the e-mail and a contemporary picture of the building. The Centre was located upstairs and was entered by the left door in the picture.


Yes, I came across the blog posts. This past weekend, I went through boxes of old stuff. Oh, the memories. Old issues of Go Info, pamphlets, photos, Gay Pride program guides, etc. So, I went on Google and did a search for "GO centre" and found your blog.

I came out in the mid-1980's when I was 19 years old. The GO Centre had just moved to 318 Lisgar. Many a time I remember walking across the street and not having the nerve to go up those stairs. But I did go up. Its been nearly 27 years now. I have so many pleasant memories associated with the GO Centre. My first tentative steps out of the closet. My first gay friends, some of whom I am still friends with to this day. Later on, every Friday evening, they had what was then called the Coffee House. That was a lot of fun. Occasionally, they would have talent nights. I remember a group had made themselves up as The Mamas and the Papas. Mama Cass and all :) After the meetings we'd all go out for coffee. We had regular parties at each other's houses. What I remember most is the friendship. The sense of belonging, of being a part of something meaningful. Something important. A common goal. The dedication.

We didn't get a Pride Parade in Ottawa until 1989. I have been to every one. In 1993, I helped to carry the GO Centre's discussion group banner in the Parade. In 1994, I was on the Club 363 float. In 1997, I helped to carry the large Pride banner up to Capitol Hill. Every year, I see the same faces....getting older...

The GO Centre was an important part of my late teens and 20's. It morphed a lot through the decades, lots of ups and downs. But it was always there when we needed it. And I'll never forget that first time I went up those stairs. I went up and never looked back.


Philippe [Gagnon]

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