Watching a talk by and about the Digital Transgender Archive

Problems in assembling the archive:
- “Transgender” is a relatively new term
- A great mass of popular articles makes it hard to find primary sources online
- Lots of use of “LGBT” that doesn’t offer more than lip service to the T in practice

Most of the collection is 1950s-1990s - primarily because they’re prioritising material from people doing the gender transgression, not just describing it

There’s also the Homosaurus - an international library of LGBTQ+ tags

“This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen” says someone in chat, seeing a sample view of detail in the Homosaurus 💜

Q: Has there been much institutional resistance?

A: At least one intersex org didn’t want to be conflated with a trans archive [reasonably enough]; many more conservative orgs don’t really know what queer material is and need educating about what they have

Q: How did you decide what was queer enough to go in the Homosaurus

A: It was a world-making project, not based on published use. So we have transgender beaches (to go with lesbian and gay ones) because they should exist but we completely forgot about gay marriage

Q: How does the Homosaurus handle non-English terms?

A: We’re working on a Spanish-language version, but of course it’s not a simple matter of translation. Each language has its own vocabulary and associated understandings - we’re working on ways to link across them

Q: We’re working on a queer archiving project in North Carolina, where universities are dropping their queer studies programmes and associated archives. Do we need accreditation to use thd Homosaurus?

A: No, it’s free to all and the user community is happy to help if you need it

Q: Are you doing anything with oral histories?

A: Oral history is really important to offset race and class bias in published sources. We have a lot, but the main wave of community oral history projects was post-2000, outside our scope. We link out wherever possible

Q: Is the archive suitable for use in schools

A: Yes, we test with younger users to make sure we’re accessible and we have prepared material for educators. We use CWs with the aim of getting around censorware

“People all around the world have emailed to say this project has given them community; has made them realise they’re not alone. This is the purpose of historical activism”

Q: We’re doing an oral history project and we’re having trouble balancing the need not to censor with the need to avoid deadnaming. Any advice?

A: We’re careful to use chosen, not assigned names, but treating historical names as deadnames doesn’t always match the person’s wishes. Some people have had many names and consider them all valid; some consider the idea of a “deadname” as imposed closeting. Need to ask for preferences

Q: How do you avoid over-representation of white people?

A: We’re going to digitise nothing but material from BIPOC for the next three years. We’re also starting to think about access, and open access as a form of colonisation

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