Aug Sept 2016
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PHOTOS: Your 99 Transgender History Lessons

PHOTOS: Your 99 Transgender History Lessons

Transgender history is part of the very fabric of American history — whether or not school textbooks reflect that fact.

To fill the gap, trans historians and artists have long taken the lead in archiving trans communities’ great works and legacies. The U.S.-based Museum of Transgender Hirstory — which exemplifies its mission in its name, using a coined word that combines “history” with gender-neutral pronoun “hir” — was founded in 2013 in San Francisco by trans artist Chris E. Vargas to continue the practice, developing stylish, culturally resonant exhibits that display the rich work of often lesser known trans forebears and contemporary greats for a new generation.

MOTHA’s latest groundbreaking collection, created in collaboration with Los Angeles’s ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archive is Transgender Hirstory in 99 Objects: Legends & Mythologies. Inspired by classic books like Smithsonian’s American History in 101 Objects and the BBC and British Museum’s A History of the World in 100 Objects, 99 Objects is the first entry in an “evolving multi-exhibition” project that will eventually be published in a catalogue, Vargas tells The Advocate.

Mixing pieces from the ONE archives with work from 9 contemporary trans artists — including Wu Tsang, Tuesday Smillie, and Sam Lopes — the collection aims to “giv[e] visibility to actual people and events that remain foundational for transgender history while embracing partial facts, rumors, and maybes,” notes the Archives’s host USC Libraries. Historic pieces include the original trans pride flag sewn by “trans Betsy Ross” Monica Helms; photos of trans man Reed Erickson, an eccentric early trans arts benefactor; and print ephemera from L.A. nightclub legend and civil rights activist Sir Lady Java.

Take a walk through trans history with an ecclectic sampling from 99 Objects below. The exhibit is now open at the ONE Archives on 909 W. Adams Blvd, Los Angeles.

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Craig Calderwood, This World Will Soon Be Ours,  2015. Pen on cotton paper, 18 x 24 inches. Courtesy of the artist

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Angela Dougla, Mirage, Vol. 1, No. 1 (March-April 1974).
A publication of the Transexual Action Organization (TAO). ONE Archives at the USC Libraries

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Emmett Ramstad, Pube File,  2012-2015.
Intermingled pubic hair, file drawer, plexiglass, 5.5 x 4 x 16 inches. Courtesy of the artist.
Photo by Rebecca Brett

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Nicki Green, It’s Almost as if We’ve Existed (Tres in Una),  2015.
Glazed earthenware, 15.5 x 12 x 3.5 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

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Nicki Greene, Operating in Bright Sunlight,  2015.
Glazed earthenware, 17.5 x 15 x 15 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

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Artist unknown, “Sir Lady Java”  sign carried by ACTUP/Los Angeles in Los Angeles and Orange County pride parades, part of a larger series of placard signs honoring LGBTQ pioneers in Southern California, circa 1990. ONE Archives at the USC Libraries.

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Sir Lady Java protesting the Los Angeles Police Commission’s Rule No. 9 in front of the Redd Foxx Club on La Cienega, as appears in Jet, Vol. 33 No. 6 (November 16, 1967). Photo by Howard Morehead. ONE Archives at the USC Libraries.

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Wu Tsang and RJ Messineo, Approximate Alter (Life Chances),  2011. Wood, spray paint, photos, frames, plastic flowers, rhinestone clutch, 44 x 36 x 13 3/4 inches. Courtesy of Clifton Benevento (New York), Michael Benevento (Los Angeles), lsabella Bortolozzi (Berlin)

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Reed Erickson, Eric’s Ego Trip,  c. 1967. Photoalbum with annotations. Reed L. Erickson Paper. ONE Archives at the USC Libraries.

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 Monica Helms and Chris E. Vargas,  Video stills from An Interview with Monica Helms, The Creator of the Transgender PrideFlag, 2015.
Digital video, 9 minutes. Courtesy of MOTHA.

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Tuesday Smille, You Burn Me,  2013.
Textile, hand-stitching, 43 x 100 inches. Courtesy of the artist.
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