The 11th of this month, the first ever online transgender history archive was launched for a general audience by K.J. Rawson, assistant professor at the College of the Holy Cross. It is designed to increase the accessibility of transgender history by providing an online hub for historical information from archives everywhere. A daunting task, because source materials are dispersed in repositories all over the world, terminology used to describe gender non-conforming practices varies widely both historically and geographically and source materials are often difficult to discover.
“I had a hard time finding where transgender materials even were,” Rawson told telegram.com. “It was a problem I figured out early in my career. And after talking with other people, I found it was a pretty widespread concern”. It was often even hard to identify sources, because many of the groups featured in the archive had to conceal their activities. “Some of the newsletters had codes in them,” he said. “It’s really fascinating that there was codebreaking involved just to be in a community.”
The launch of the archive also supports efforts for social justice for transgender people and communities. “As our mission statement successfully captures,” professor Rawson reports on the website of the College. “Holy Cross encourages every member of our community to be passionate about truth, promote social justice and foster dialog in order to more deeply understand and respect diverse experiences. The DTA will further these qualities by counteracting negative and hurtful stereotypes of transgender people with more truthful and historically informed representations.”
This is a preliminary launch after the project already uploaded a first batch last November on archive.org and is just beginning to grow its collections. So bookmark it and check back often to see what’s new!