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