Trancestry & Trans Day of Remembrance

c/w: mentions of transphobia

Transgender Day of Remembrance (TODR) is about remembering those lost to violence, denial of gender-affirming care and waiting lists. Marking time to remember, process, and mourn the loss of our trans siblings is a profound, concrete act. Remembering is important. 

In the western world, we remember not only through acts of memorial on days like TDOR but through our shared cultural past. Museums and archives are sites of cultural memory and knowledge that span and surpass generations. These cultural projects are evidence of our ancestry – for better or worse. How do transgender lives fit into this project, and just what is trancestry?

Museums and archives are responsible for collecting material to represent all people. We expect to find ourselves reflected in our museums, galleries, archives and libraries, but if we can not we find our existence denied and ourselves alienated. If these great institutions fail to collect material that represents certain people, they can commit cultural genocide. They prevent evidence and information about certain people from being passed down – erasing existence and denying identity. Sometimes this is unintentional; information is misunderstood, forgotten or lost. But sometimes it is not, and it is deliberately destroyed or obscured. If you are curious, you can read more about it in this zine, but for now, all you must remember is: if there’s no record of it, it doesn’t exist.

Trancestry is a term used by E-J Scott to describe ‘the evidence of trans lives lived before us’. The project they run, called the Museum of Transology (MoT), aims to give voice to trans experiences and halt the erasure of trancestry. Trans histories are often obscured by ignorance and carelessness, which is why when creating the MoT, E-J has been careful to record the exact contcontext and voice of the trans individuals who donated their objects – using brown luggage tags attached permanently to each item to record its significance. By ensuring that things are not misunderstood, forgotten, or lost (the collection now resides securely at the Bishopsgate Institute), E-J has powerfully preserved trans history in ways never done before.

At Queer Norfolk, we aspire to capture the values of the Museum of Transology that E-J sets out, and carry out the mission of the MoT. We are working to create our own queer archive online, as well as work with local institutions to uncover and enhance their collections to undo the historical cultural erasure of trans lives in Norfolk. As part of this, Adam and Edwin from Queer Norfolk were invited to hold a mobile donation station at Growing Roots Community and Kett’s Rebellion’s TDOR Conference. They collected physical items to add to the Trans Experience Collection at the Norfolk Heritage Centre, including a ‘Norwich FTM Norfolk shirt donated by Reid. These items will soon be put up on Queer Norfolk.

The Donation Station at The Phoenix Centre

Additionally, Queer Norfolk volunteers are uncovering stories going back over 80 years of trans people living in Norfolk. At the conference, Adam talked to attendees about the Ferrow Brothers who lived in Yarmouth, who transitioned in the 1930s. The younger brother David passed away in 2006, having run a bookshop in Yarmouth for most of his life, whist the eldest brother Mark, who passed away in 1991, has a painting in the National gallery. These stories can offer roots to those who have none; this trancestry offers a way to cement identity with confidence and accuracy, and remember what we have always known: trans people have always been here.

If you are interested in researching your trancestory in Norfolk’s archives and museums, please get in touch.