Curator, E-J Scott
The Museum of Transology is a crowd-sourced collection of objects from trans people around the UK… It started in 2014. There was a project called ‘Brighton Transformed’, which became a book published by QueenSpark. As a part of the project, there were six pop-up exhibitions around the city, and one of those was a second-hand Art Deco cabinet in the Marlborough Pub & Theatre, in which were displayed objects from people from the local trans community. Each of them wrote a little tag of explanation. It was so well received, and people were so endeared by it, that I thought ‘Oh hang on… there’s something in this’.
The objects are as diverse as the trans experience itself. Transness no longer has a single definition. It’s not before and after stories; it’s much broader - from non-binary kids right through to people who transition surgically. And so the objects reflect that. It’s interesting – we’ve got everything from a young lad’s ballet shoes that he had when he was four years old, before he transitioned, right through to objects that have formed collections. We’ve probably got over 30 objects in our hormone collection, which people have posted in individually.
Attached to every single object is a tag, like a travel tag. People have hand written their stories on them, and it’s those tags that show you how different everyone’s experience is. So even though we’ve got this collection of hormones, there’s tags that say ‘this is the best thing’, there are tags saying ‘I had a terrible time trying to access them on the NHS’, tags that say ‘this ended up not being what I needed’.
It’s the tags that make the exhibition, because it’s trans people speaking about their own stories. It’s not part of the popular media’s spectacularisation of trans lives. It absolutely confronts the idea that all trans people are trying to strive for gender normativity. You can just see that when you hear their stories. You walk into the exhibition and it’s so deeply intimate, and so incredibly moving and honest and brave and sad and joyous and ambitious.
A lot of trans people are making artwork about their lives… So awareness surrounding trans people is blowing up. People are coming out, they’re being brave, they’re telling their stories. The mainstream media has picked up on it but in many ways perpetuated a lot of stereotypes. What’s actually happening is the trans community are speaking up and saying ‘that’s not what it’s about at all. We’re everyday people with everyday stories, living everyday lives. There’s nothing very spectacular about us at all’. For the most part.
It’s very important that we do appear in museums. It’s very important that education around LGB kids also includes T kids in schools. I think there are critical starting points. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales. What we should look at this year, and what this exhibition marks, is the 50 years forward that we need to go with trans rights and acceptance and education. We need to be included in spaces that are central meeting points and social meeting points and the museum has a role to play in that. The exhibition started as a way of filling that gap. It needs to go into a museum permanently. It needs to be protected and conserved so that it’s there for transcestry to be marked and saved. We don’t need trans exhibitions per se. We need trans content in all exhibitions.
The exhibition launches ‘Be Bold’; a two-year LGBTQ programme that’s taking centre stage at Brighton Museum. brightonmuseums.org.uk