Collaborating Scholar Q&A with Chase Joynt

archiving oral history / community-based oral history / gay history / oral history / public humanities / trans history
Watch the Q&A here!

A short Q&A session with Dr. Chase Joynt, assistant professor, director and writer! Joynt is currently working as a filmmaker on the Trans Activism Oral History Project in collaboration with the Transgender Archives at University of Victoria and The ArQuives, Toronto.

More on the Trans Oral History Project
More on the Transgender Archives at UVic

Country Queers Podcast by Rae Garringer

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archiving oral history / community-based oral history / gay history / oral history / trans history / Uncategorized
Image taken from Country Queer’s Instagram

Podcast alert! With the recent surge in research on Trans oral history, different kinds of projects are beginning to emerge as well. As covered in an earlier blogpost, Transcripts seeks to share the different trans narratives in the city of Minnesota. Quite similar to Transcripts, this week we have Country Queers, which, on a fundamental level, shares the same goal: putting an emphasis on queer history to make up for the lack of research in it. However, Country Queers is unique given that this podcast highlights the histories of queer people living in rural areas. 

Being from a metropolitan area myself, I’m aware of how easily rural life can be overlooked or completely forgotten about. Given the hustle and bustle of the city in addition to smaller subcultures within multiple city communities, we often forget how the trans experience might differ in a rural setting in comparison to the metropolitan. That is why Country Queers is an oral history project that brings something new to the table, something new to contemplate. It questions and considers how geographical setting can really impact not just any identity but the queer one specifically. Rae Garringer is the founder of this project which began in 2013, “out of an intense frustration with the lack of easily accessible rural queer stories at the time, and a sense of isolation from queer community after having moved back home to rural West Virginia.” Existing while being queer does not exclusively take place within the city and Garringer demonstrates that by bringing together a myriad of rural queers across 15 states. 

This podcast opens up the doors for others to learn about the different types of experiences that queer people have while living in rural settings. Moreover, Garringer does not focus primarily on cis gay people but includes other aspects of the queer community like trans folks. Thus, this podcast reasserts the importance of not viewing rural communities as a monolith, bringing in various queer experiences to express the plurality of being queer in the country. 

Country Queers podcast can be found here

Trans Activism Oral History Project – Marsha Botzer Clip

archiving oral history / gay history / oral history / trans history
Short clip of Marsha Botzer’s Interview:

Excerpt from the Trans Activism Oral History Project – Presented in Collaboration with the LGBTQ Oral History Digital Collaboratory (project lead, Dr. Elspeth Brown), the Transgender Archives at the University of Victoria, and The ArQuives: Canada’s LGBTQ2+ Archives.

Marsha Botzer (she/her) interviewed by Dr. Evan Taylor (they/them)
Original recording using Zoom platform on February 19, 2020

Full interview found here:

A Reflection on The Trans Oral History Panel: Narrative as Trans Worldmaking.

gay history / oral history / public humanities / trans history / Uncategorized

Narrative as Trans Worldmaking”: this concept has been foundational to the multiple projects that were presented on the Friday October 23rd Trans Oral History Panel for the 2020 Annual Meeting of the Oral History Association. What this concept aims to convey is that creating a world for trans people begins with trans people telling their own stories. Traditionally, trans people, much like other queer folks, have been expected to self-navigate in the cisheteronormative world that ostracizes them. In other words, trans people are expected to overcome oppressive obstacles to advance through a society that conventionally neglects their existence, while little attention is paid to how trans folks construct worlds for themselves. The lack of research in trans history has resulted in the trans world often being perceived as something of a mystery. There are many questions left unanswered, such as: how might the understanding of trans identity evolve over time? What other aspects of one’s identity impact their experiences as a trans person? What are the benefits of taking a look into trans history with an intersectional approach? These are all questions that inform this concept of “worldmaking” for trans people, creating a collective project that is intended to become a safe space for growth. Moreover, worldmaking would presumably remedy the impacts of any oppressive obstacles or ostracization experienced outside the trans world. Consequently, this roundtable was an opportunity for the scholars, archivists, and/or activists to share their projects, which not only present but also preserve trans narratives.

Myrl Beam, an Assistant Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, briefly mentioned an important concept when studying trans narratives: the constant struggle of manifesting the “Visibility Trap.” This concept argues that trans visibility is inherently positive, because the idea is frequent representation of trans identities would normalize trans existence. While this may be true to a certain degree, Beam argues that this is not entirely true. Beam dives more into this concept in the Transcripts podcast, explored in more detail in an earlier blog post, noting that with visibility, “we let our enemies know where we’re at.” In other words, visibility does not promise a safe livelihood nor normalize identity for trans people. When it comes to trans oral history, Beam focuses on world-building for trans folk and not just personal narratives.

Similarly, Blu Buchanan, currently a PHD candidate at the University of California, also looks into the representation of trans narratives through their project, specifically the narratives of Black trans folks. Relevant to the paradox found in the Visibility Trap, Buchanan notes that in pop culture, Black trans folks are often objects of violence. Thus, not only does the representation of Black trans folks bring forth the dangers of visibility, the type of representation that they receive only pertains to violence. Therefore, Buchanan’s project, the B.Trans Oral History Project, seeks to expand the representation of the Black trans community. An interesting cultural phenomenon that Buchanan noted was “FUBU,” otherwise known as, “For Us, By Us,” which Buchanan found that Black trans people practice as a concept of Black culture that was passed down. This cultural concept outlines that the resources created in the community are created by respective members for other members.

Lastly, Evan Taylor presented their project, which focuses on elders in the trans community. In this project, Taylor examines trans literacy and, more importantly, how the concept of “transness” differs across generations. The terminology within the community has changed generationally, ultimately offering different kinds of narratives in worldmaking for the Trans community. In conclusion, all of these projects examine the intricacies of world-building for the Trans community. The research being conducted in the trans community, working with primary resources – community members themselves – allows for a more comprehensive viewpoint in worldmaking by taking a bottom-up approach. Importantly, these projects also demonstrate the importance in considering the intersectional social categories that yield certain experiences. Exploring the different facets of the trans identity such as race or age, these projects exercise a more in depth approach to enriching trans history. 

Myrl Beam

Myrl Beam is an Assistant Professor of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, currently on research leave, serving as the Fellow in Oral History at the Tretter Transgender Oral History Project at the University of Minnesota. His work focuses on queer and trans social movements, racialized projects of inclusion and normativity, and the affective economies of neoliberal capitalism. Beam received his PhD in American Studies from the University of Minnesota in 2014. He is the author of Gay, Inc.: The Nonprofitization of Queer Politics (University of Minnesota Press, 2018). Most recently, his work has appeared in the edited volume Queer Activism After Marriage Equality (Routledge, 2019). In addition to his scholarly work, Beam is active in queer and trans leftist movements, specifically around issues of prison abolition, homelessness, and supporting the leadership of trans youth in movements for justice.

Elspeth Brown

Elspeth H. Brown is a Professor of History at the University of Toronto. Her research concerns the history and theory of photography; the history of US capitalism; queer and trans history; and oral history. She is the Director of the LGBTQ Oral History Digital Collaboratory, a five-year digital history and oral history research collaboration that connects archives across Canada and the United States to produce a collaborative digital history hub for the research and study of gay, lesbian, queer, and trans oral histories. She has been a co-investigator for the Family Camera Network collaborative research project, where her research focuses on queer and trans family photography and oral history, in the context of global migration. She has received fellowships from the Getty Research Institute; the National Museum of American History; the American Council of Learned Societies; the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada; the Library of Congress Kluge Center; the American Philosophical Society, and others. She is the author of Work! A Queer History of Modeling (Duke University Press, 2019) and the award-winning The Corporate Eye: Photography and the Rationalization of American Commercial Culture, 1884-1929 (Johns Hopkins 2005). She is co-editor of Feeling Photography (Duke University Press, 2014, with Thy Phu), “Queering Photography,” a special issue of Photography and Culture (2014), and Cultures of Commerce: Representation and American Business Culture, 1877-1960 (Palgrave, 2006). She is an active volunteer and Vice President of the Board, The ArQuives, the world’s largest LGBTQ2+ community archive.

Blu Buchanan

Blu Buchanan is a Black, genderqueer femme, unionista, and grad student working for liberation in California. They are currently a PhD candidate in Sociology at the University of California, Davis, with a completion date of Spring 2020. Blu’s research concerns n conservative gay social movements and the construction of the far right – spanning political organizations like the Log Cabin Republicans to the far-right National Socialist League (a neo-Nazi organization founded in 1974 explicitly for gay neo-Nazis). Blu writes for The Medium, and has published and/or has articles forthcoming in Radical History Review, PUBLIC: A Journal of Imagining America, and Black Feminist Sociology: Perspectives and Praxis. Blu has also founded the B. Trans Oral History Project, a collaboration between the Black trans community and its scholars. The goal is to compile and transcribe Black trans oral histories, to understand the life course and strategies of Black trans life in the United States.

Rachel Mattson

Rachel Mattson is an archivist/historian/writer with special interests in the areas of community-engaged archival practices, audiovisual preservation, and queer and trans histories. She currently serves as the Curator of the Tretter Collection in GLBT Studies at the University of Minnesota. Her writing has appeared in the Radical History Review, the Scholar and the Feminist, Movement Research Performance Journal,KULA (A Journal of Knowledge Creation, Dissemination, and Preservation Studies), in books published by Routledge, Washington Square, and Thread Makes Blanket Press, and elsewhere. She holds a PhD in U.S. History from NYU and an MLIS from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Michelle Esther O’Brien

Michelle Esther O’Brienhas served as the coordinator of the NYC Trans Oral History Project since 2016. She is completing her doctoral studies at NYU, writing on how class politics and political economy have shaped LGBTQ organizing since the 1970s. She previously worked in trans, queer, HIV and housing advocacy. Michelle also co-edits Pinko, a magazine of gay communism. Her writing is published in Commune, Endnotes, Historical Materialism and Social Movement Studies.

Evan Taylor

Dr. Evan Taylor is the LGBTQ Oral History Digital Collaboratory Postdoctoral Fellow in Trans Oral History. Evan has been doing the interviewing for the joint project between the University of Toronto and the University of Victoria. Evan holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Social Work, and a PhD from the University of British Columbia’s Department of Language and Literacy Education. Evan’s considerable experience has found them working at the intersections of LGBTQ+ identity, Trans(gender) literacy, health literacy, and culturally appropriate access to public institutions and citizenship for marginalized populations. The previous project they worked with as a researcher was the Cancer’s Margins project – which was Canada’s first nationally-funded project to investigate the intersections of breast and gynecologic cancers with both sexual and gender marginality – and part of the project was to develop the first online archive of queer cancer stories.

Transcripts – Tretter Transgender Oral History Project

archiving oral history / community-based oral history / oral history / public humanities / trans history

What would a World without transphobia look like? Is life getting better for trans people as a result of visibility? How do the qualms of other social categories intersect with trans identity? What would it take for Black trans people to live out liberation, to live joyfully?

            These are the types of questions that Myrl Beam, Assistant Professor at University of Minnesota and Virginia Commonwealth University, and Andrea Jenkins, the Vice President of the Minnesota City Council, seek to answer in Transcripts – Tretter Transgender Oral History podcast. What is unique about this podcast is that it is both a form of activism and historical research. Both Beam and Jenkins begin their research on the ground; interviewing local trans activists and dissecting grassroot movements such as the Trans Justice Funding Project to provide a peek into how trans lives have been progressing through time. In plain words, Tretter is an oral history project seeking to fill in the gaps of trans history by collecting primary resources from none other than the local trans community themselves.

            Filling in the gaps of LGBT+ history with more trans-centred content is wonderful, given the lack of extensive research in the past. However, Tretter does more than just report trans history; the podcast seeks to change the future while shining a light on the past. In this podcast series, Beam and Jenkins tackle everyday issues of trans folk that are often overlooked in the media. As illustrated by Diamond Stylz, a Minnesota trans activist, the trans community continues to face issues such as racism and poverty. While the level of trans visibility is increasing – which Transcripts highlights as a potential issue in and of itself – trans people continue to combat other forms of injustice beyond just their gender identity. While the trans narrative is different for everyone, a concept that the podcast seeks to explore, one ubiquitous fact that this podcast successfully conveys is that trans people are multifaceted. How so? Consider giving the Transcripts Podcast a listen to find out more.

Listen here:

Image taken directly from Transcripts – Tretter Transgender Oral History Project website.

Queer Peel, Queer Space – Reflections from a Student


People are social beings. We seek out others who share our common interests, encourage us to think, and allow us to become the best versions of ourselves. We seek out communities that secure and maintain our values. It is easier to establish these communities when there are spaces that encourage its growth.

Enter the queer community. Within Peel, do queer people have an established space? Where do queer people go to spend their time and to be queer? The obvious lack of a ‘Gay Village’ would be enough to convince many that queer space doesn’t exist within the Region. This raises the question – do queer people need spaces explictly designed for them? How have queer people in Peel managed to occupy space?

Faced with a dearth of intentionally-constructed queer space, queer people have always forged their own ‘spaces,’ spaces that are largely more effective than anything someone outside of the community could construct (which is not to say that these spaces are not guilty of ignoring valuable voices). Yet it is still worth exploring the lack of explicitly queer spaces within Peel, and the apparent disinterest in creating them. Throughout the Queer Peel Project, a number of narrators stated that they didn’t have an explicitly queer space, and some even voiced a lack of interest in them. For example, for some, a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) was a place where queer people could solidify their identities within schools, and for others it simply “wasn’t their thing.” A specific interview intrigued me, however. When asked if there was an explicitly queer space or place in Peel that they frequented, Elio Colavito responded, “Actually we hung out at Tim Hortons. We were Tim Hortons rats for sure, which is like the trashiest thing I’ve probably ever been a part of in my life. Tim’s is a great place for all the misfits.” 

A bus driving down a street

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Elio’s experiences were likely not unique from that of other teenagers growing up in Peel. The non-existence of explicitly queer spaces does not stop queer people from living their lives. It does, however, place a greater emphasis on the people that they share those spaces with. Sometimes these spaces may be occupied by other ‘misfits,’ including straight people. Irrespective of the occupants, it appeared that for many, physical space was secondary when people were attempting to construct community. 

We tend to be fixated on the physical things we can see, touch, experience. It is the immaterial qualities that are sometimes more relevant. Through its development, the Region of Peel focused on the physical – highway here, townhouses for the nuclear family there, schools for kids close by – but largely neglected the variety of people that would take up those places. 

This conversation surrounding queer spaces highlights that queer people are first and foremost people. They possess the ability to organize themselves however they’d like. Just as one’s life in not defined by one’s straightness, a queer person should not be defined by their queerness. A lack of queer space does stop one being queer. Elio’s experience included late nights at a Tim’s – and although it wasn’t a queer Tim’s, that’s irrelevant. The spaces that queer people occupy speaks to the resilience, creativity and innovation that exists within the community and only adds to their continued shared history.

Introducing the Queer View Mirror Oral History Project

archiving oral history / community-based oral history / gay history

The LGBTQ Oral History Digital Collaboratory is happy to announce the Queer View Mirror Oral History Project! A community-based oral history project led by long-time activist Ed Jackson, Queer View Mirror will focus on collecting oral histories from Toronto lesbian and gay activists involved in 1970s and 1980s activism. The Collaboratory is happy to provide Ed and his project with assistance and student support. Read on to learn more about this exciting project and what Ed hopes to capture in his Queer View Mirror.

Let’s start with your name, pronouns, and a fun fact about you.

My name is Ed Jackson (pronouns: he, him). Although I now have completely white hair and beard, I actually began to get silver dollar-sized patches in my beard as long ago as age 21.  White hair has since become a feature, not a bug, for me.

What is the Queer View Oral History Project?

The QVOHP is a focused project to interview a wide variety of lesbian/gay/trans/queer folks who were active in community organizing in Toronto and elsewhere, particularly in the 1970s and 80s.

Why is it important to you to seek out interviews with other gay and lesbian activists?

I am seeking interviews with other lesbian and gay activists and community members from this time period because (a) It was a period of great lesbian and gay activism across Canada, particularly in Toronto, but my sense is that in the current historical record only certain events from that period tend to get highlighted and the same individuals tend to get privileged and given a voice; and (b) many of these folks are getting on in years and may soon be unavailable for direct documentation of their lives and views.These decades were the core gay liberation and AIDS activist eras, which  have had important residual impacts on how queer politics and communities in Canada have evolved. I think some of the current interpretations of those times are sometimes too “presentist” in approach. These interviews will provide an important source of first-hand documentation of experiences that will be available to researchers and historians in the future.

What do you plan to do with the interviews once they’re collected?With Elspeth Brown’s guidance in terms of up-to-date archival recording keeping and collection, I will deposit the records in The ArQuives and, if a partnership between the two develops, also with the U of T Digital Archives.  I am indebted to Elspeth for her generosity in making her process knowledge and student support available (I’m talking Tomasz Glod here!).

What are you most looking forward to about the process of Queer View Mirror?

It will be fascinating to document the perspectives of older queers who lived through dramatic times but who now perhaps feel like time has passed them and their contributions by.  It will be fun to make contact with people I have not interacted with, in some cases, for decades.

Now I’ve got to get the first interviews under my belt!