Archivo De La Memoria Trans

archiving oral history / community-based oral history / gay history / oral history / photography / trans history
Image description: un domingo hermoso

“Archivo de la Memoria Trans: el proyecto colaborativo que reunió 10.000 fotos.” The Archivo de la Memoria Trans, translated as The Archive of Trans Memory, has collected over 10,000 photos of Trans Latinx folk. According to La Nacion, the project began as a Facebook group to share old photographs of trans people amongst one another, as a way to honour and commemorate queer and trans people before them. The group allowed people to reconnect with one another, reminisce on fond memories, and inspire one another. Today, the project – widely known as @archivotrans on Instagram – has over 56.000 followers. The project was founded by María Belen Correa with the “objective of the protection, construction, and vindication of Trans Memory” as illustrated in @ArchivoTrans’ biography.

Image description: Tanto lo Anhelé

This archival project showcases the life and dreams of trans Latinx folk from the past. With photographs of trans people living their daily lives or at a party, we see trans people for who they are: humans creating memories with one another. While this may seem mundane at first, the project is unique in that it highlights the lives of trans people, piecing together elements of trans history that are often fragmented. How was Correa able to protect, construct and vindicate trans history all the way back to the 50s?  Correa often posts slides of a particular individual with a brief biography of who they are or once were. The images and stories that this project showcases ultimately humanizes trans people in a world that often reduces the community to their physicality. This is what intrigued me most about this project, as I became privy to the history and stories of trans people that existed outside of their transness. In other words, their whole lives were not only about being trans. They were sisters, siblings, friends, and family members, too.

In the media, transness is often discussed in a cis-influenced perspective, one that reduces trans people to an idealized caricature. However, The Archivo De La Memoria Trans project offers a true narrative by not only celebrating trans existence but, bringing life back into trans identity with the use of photography, anecdotes, and camaraderie. 

Image description: Memoria, Verdad, u Justicia. No al Trans-odio

Trans Activism Oral History Project – Jude Patton

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

Jude talks about generational differences in trans communities and activism, his ongoing and extensive work on knowledge gathering and dissemination, and being an early influence on the board of WPATH.

Historical and Geographical Coverage: St. Louis; Sacramento, CA; West Coast USA; 1961-2020

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.

Jude Patton (he/him) interviewed by Dr. Evan Taylor (they/them).
Original recording using Zoom platform on Dec. 19, 2019.

To view a short clip of the interview, click here
To view the full interview, click here

Keywords: Activism; Community; Healthcare; J2CP; Stanford; HBIGDA; WPATH; Family; Information; Trans man

More on The Trans Activism Oral History Project can be found here
More of The ArQuives here

PPOHP: Did You Know?

archiving oral history / community-based oral history / gay history / oral history / public humanities / publishing
Pussy Palace Oral History Project Logo by Claudia Dávila

Did you know that the Pussy Palace Logo was designed by artist Claudia Dávila? Dávila’s playful and sexy graphic features a high-femme kitten in a skin-tight, black, (latex?) jumpsuit sitting poised and ready atop a plush, ruby-red pillow. Meow!

More on the PPOHP can be found here
More of The Arquives here

Trans Activism Oral History Project – Kimberly Nixon

archiving oral history / community-based oral history / gay history / oral history / public humanities / trans history
Image Description: A Photo of Kimberly Nixon and Lawyer Barbara Findlay from The Vancouver Sun

Kimberly talks about her life and work history as a pilot and about her human rights legal cases that she pursued for over 15 years.

Historical and Geographical Coverage: Vancouver, BC, Canada; 1980’s-2020

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.

Kimberly Nixon (she/her) interviewed by Dr. Evan Taylor (they/them).
Original recording using Zoom platform on June 29, 2020.

To view a short clip of the interview, click here
To view the full interview, click here

Keywords: Activism; Legal rights; Law; Human Rights; Anti-oppression; Trans woman; Woman; Female; Rape Relief; Vancouver

More on the Trans Activism Oral History Project can be found here

Call for Applications: Work Study Interview Coder for queer and trans oral histories (LGBTQ Oral History Digital Collaboratory), working with Professor Elspeth Brown.

archiving oral history / gay history / oral history / public humanities / trans history

We seek a work-study eligible graduate student or advanced undergraduate student with experience in interview coding to code LGBQT2+ oral history interviews. The two oral history projects we’re currently working on are the Trans Activism Oral History Project and the Pussy Palace Police Raid Oral History Project. Successful applicants will be contracted from Spring/Summer May 3, 2021 to Aug 6, 2021 (100 hours) at $26.00 per hour.  

This is a work study position. To apply, you must be a University of Toronto student. See for more eligibility criteria. 


· Training in qualitative interview coding 

· Excellent command of various interview transcription coding, and analysis tools such as NVivo; detail-oriented 

· Excellent communication skills 

· Familiarity with intersectional LGBTQ2+ studies preferred 

· Excellent critical thinking, interpersonal, organizational, time management and prioritization skill 


· Review video oral histories and Zoom transcripts 

· Correct transcripts as need be while importing and import videos with the Zoom transcripts into NVivo for analysis 

· Working with the team, develop a workflow for reviewing and coding themes in the interviews 

· Visualize the themes via the software and/or Excel 

· Look for emerging topics/areas of focus for research articles. 

View the job posting for more information:  

View the LGBTQ Oral History Digital Collaboratory: 

To apply, email a resume, cover letter and unofficial transcript to CLN; Job#176913 @ by May 7, 2021. Questions may be directed to Elspeth Brown, by email. 

Pussy Palace Oral History Project: Tangible Traces: Searching for the Pussy Palace Polaroids


By Alisha Stranges and Elio Colavito 

Image Description: Searching For The Pussy Palace Polaroids

Did you know that the 2000 Pussy Palace had an instant photo room? On the fourth floor of the Palace, a sign reading “porn/photo room” directed patrons in two equally playful directions: towards a room for screening pornography and/or towards a room for having Polaroids taken to document one’s night at the bathhouse (Blair 163; Vogels paras. 10-13). In our most recent oral history interview, Carlyle Jansen, one of the founding members of the Toronto Women’s Bathhouse Committee, shared that the use of instant photography was an entirely conscious decision on the part of the event organizers. Beyond offering patrons a fun thing to do, Polaroids afforded a certain degree of privacy that allowed patrons to document scenes of unbounded erotic exploration, free from risk or regret. In Jansen’s words: 

You took [the Polaroid] with you. Nobody else had a copy of it. You could keep it. And it was your choice if you gave it to somebody else, but at least there was a limit.  

In other words, you could take a daring or salacious photograph of yourself, alone or with others, without fear of it being reproduced and circulated without your consent. 

Hoping to recover a Polaroid or two for the historical record (with consent of course), we’ve been asking narrators if they recall spending any time in the photo room on the night of the raid. Quite surprisingly, there are a few surviving snapshots. How wild would it be to gaze upon one of these images or, even better, to grasp one between your fingers?  

Polaroid (or “instant”) photography is a particularly fascinating type of archival evidence because a Polaroid is entirely of the moment and singular. Visual Studies scholar Peter Buse outlines the three basic properties that distinguish instant film technology from all other forms of photography: 1) the near immediate appearance of a physical print; 2) the elimination of the darkroom, which removes human intervention from the development process; and 3) the singularity of the image — since a Polaroid’s negative and positive are fused, the image cannot be reproduced (37).  

These three unique properties make Polaroid technology the optimal choice for documenting one’s night at the bathhouse. The prints are ready in seconds, and the scenes and subjects they capture can remain private. Add to this that each image is one of a kind and you can see how the Pussy Palace photo room offered patrons hassle-free access to a personalized souvenir of a night to remember.  

But, what is perhaps most captivating about the possibility of uncovering the Pussy Palace Polaroids is the tactile connection they provide us to the space and time of the raid. As curator and author Nat Trotman argues, the Polaroid disrupts conventional understandings of photography’s relationship to memory, time and place, subject and object — particularly when used in a “party” situation (10). Trotman writes: 

Over the course of a minute, a photograph does not concern remembering or forgetting. Rather, it plays between the lived moment and its reification as an object with its own physical presence. The party Polaroid is not so much an evocation of a past event as it is an instant fossilization of the present. It solidifies the constant slippage of present into past and remains after the party as a real physical manifestation of the party itself. It relates to the party not by means of its decay but of its production, revolving less around death than life. (10; emphasis added) 

Thus, the brilliance of Polaroid technology lies in the intimacy it offers between the subject of the photo and the photo as an object unto itself. Unlike standard photography — or, even, digital photography — there is very little distance between the act of taking a Polaroid and the act of observing it. Since a Polaroid camera can print a physical image seconds after deploying the shutter, Polaroids are both records and remnants of the event. They not only commemorate the event but also participate in the event as it occurs. As Jean Baudrillard puts it, “the Polaroid photo is a sort of ecstatic membrane that has come away from the real object” (quoted in Buse 44). To hold a Polaroid in your hand, then, allows you (in some sense) to touch the space and time in which it was captured, gaining an otherwise unattainable proximity to what transpired.  

The Pussy Palace photo room did not simply produce private souvenirs of the night; it produced tangible traces of the night that make the 2000 Pussy Palace impossibly immanent. Let’s hope there remains a wealth of these image-objects waiting to be rediscovered in the junk drawers of our narrators.  

Works Cited 

Blair, Jennifer. “‘What We Do Well’: Writing the Pussy Palace into a Queer Collective Memory.” torquere: Journal of the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Studies Association, vol. 6, 2004, pp. 143-67.  

Buse, Peter. “Photography Degree Zero: Cultural History of the Polaroid Image.” New Formations, vol. 62, no. 1, 2007, pp. 29-44. 

Jansen, Carlyle. Interview by Alisha Stranges and Elio Colavito for the LGBTQ Oral History Digital Collaboratory, April 1, 2021, Zoom video recording, The ArQuives: Canada’s LGBTQ2+ Archives, Toronto ON. 

Trotman, Nat. “The Life of the Party.” Afterimage, vol. 29, no. 6, 2002, p. 10. 

Vogels, Josey. “Polite Gal Love.” NOW Magazine, 21 Sep. 2000, Accessed 30 Mar. 2021. 

To learn more about the PPOHP, click here
Check out the last post on the PPOHP here
More of the ArQuives here

Trans Activism Oral History Project – Lin Fraser

archiving oral history / community-based oral history / oral history / public humanities
Short clip of Lyn Fraser’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.

Lin Fraser (she/her) interviewed by Dr. Evan Taylor (they/them).
Original recording using Zoom platform on Feb. 7, 2020.

To view the full interview, visit: (Part 1) & (Part 2)

More on the Trans Activism Oral History Project can be found here

All the Right Questions: Demography, Sense Memory, and the Many Narrators of the Pussy Palace Raid

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

By Elio Colavito and Alisha Stranges

The Pussy Palace Oral History Project, a collaboration between The ArQuives and the LGBTQ+ Oral History Digital Collaboratory, has finally reached the interviewing stage. We are collecting oral history interviews with patrons, event organizers, those involved in the police action, the subsequent legal case, and community activism related to the Toronto police raid of the September 14, 2000 Pussy Palace, an exclusive bathhouse event for queer women, trans, and gender-expansive people. Developing interview guides that can appropriately speak to the ranges of experience represented by the narrators we are interviewing has been a significant challenge. How do we adapt the knowledge that we have from oral historians, the secondary literature, other queer oral history projects, and recent interviews we conducted to capture the most robust narrative possible? How do we ask the right questions to the right people?

We began with former interview guides from former ArQuives oral history projects to get a sense for what sort of basic questions that we need to ask. From this, we came up with a comprehensive set of demographic questions that seek to interrogate our narrators’ varying identities and how they differ from the time of the raid and now. Using interview guides from a variety of projects, we were able to piece together many of the basic questions that structured the interview. After consulting the secondary literature on the raid, we incorporated what we knew about different aspects of the event into our interview structure. These questions form the basis for how we understand each narrator’s involvement with the Pussy Palace in general and the raid in particular. For some narrators, they were patrons who went to the Pussy Palace, had a great night (or a miserable one), and left without encountering any police officers. For other narrators, these questions ask them to recall their experiences in organizing the event, their time at the club, and their activism afterwards.

Our lead oral historian, Alisha, has a background in theatre creation and women and gender studies, which she mobilized to produce a brief intervention in the interview structure that invites narrators to distill their sense memories of the physical space. In the brief exercise, Alisha uses breath and silence to transport the narrator back to the Pussy Palace. As the body begins to reinhabit the space, narrators recall the textures, scents, flavours, and other sensory experiences that they associate with the evening of September 14, 2000 (no matter how abstract). For Alisha, this intervention attempts to capture the affective traces of the event alongside each narrator’s detailed, historical account. Despite its possibilities, this intervention presents some obstacles. Some narrators find it difficult to visit the place that Alisha wants them to access, and we revise the verbal instructions in preparation for the next attempt. However unsettling this intervention may be, each narrator inevitably reveals the unique ways that they archived the Palace in their body, so we push on in anticipation of the unexpected.

The real challenge, however, was revising the first draft of our interview guide to fit the needs of various interviewees. We became instantly aware of the possibility that we could create a monolith out of such differing and complex experiences. To understand our response to this challenge, I want you to recall the choose-as-you-go stories you may have read as a child, or read to a child in your life. Each interview is constructed to bring narrators down a series of pathways that correspond to their lived experience as organizer, patrons, and activists. Where the narrators go, we follow; probing them along the way.

We are conducting interviews through the end of May 2021. We know that there were more than 350 people in attendance the night the Palace was raided, and we want to gather as many accounts of the event as possible. If you, or someone you know, may be interested in being interviewed, contact:

More on the Pussy Palace Oral History Project can be found here

The Dragon Fruit Project: An Intergenerational API LGBTQ Oral History Project

archiving oral history / community-based oral history / gay history / oral history
Image Description: Overlay of paper cut hearts over black background. Artwork by Fei Mok.

How might being both queer and an Asian-American impact an individual’s life while growing up in the 1960s-90s? Are the stories of queer Asian and Pacific Islanders important to analyze to better contextualize what it means to be queer? What were the experiences of these individuals growing up prior to the 1990s? How might re-telling the stories of queer Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders of the 60s-90s benefit us today? 

These are the types of questions that the Dragon Fruit Project aims to answer through community-based research. More specifically, the project defines itself as “an intergenerational oral history project that explores queer Asian and Pacific Islanders and their experiences with love and activism in the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s.” In the introduction video found on the project’s webpage, we are introduced to various participants who are a part of the project. The video contains snippets of queer Asians and Pacific Islanders from the 70s and all the way to present in order to illustrate the historical continuity of being queer and Asian in North America. With that in mind, the Dragon Fruit Project does more than just take a look into the lives of different queer Asian individuals, it creates a storyline that connects generations. Oneida Chi, a participant in the video, states that, “it is the stories that unify us and make us feel that we’re not alone anymore.” The Dragonfruit Project flushes away the need for queer Asian-Americans to compartmentalize themselves when being a part of a queer space or an Asian-dominated space respectively. Instead, this project embraces both identities by creating continuities via oral history which not only pieces together a fragmented part of queer and Asian/Pacific Islander history, but grants a platforms to those who were often silenced.

The Dragon Fruit Project particularly interests me as a queer Asian individual myself. Although I am not American, which may create a difference in my personal experience, it was still heartwarming to see the camaraderie on the participants’ faces when watching the introduction video. More importantly, I often found myself resonating with certain experiences of the participants, such as the need to compartmentalize myself when I’d introduce my racial identity and follow up with my queer one. To one of the participants addressed, being both Asian and queer requires a ‘coming-out’ twice, and while I am lucky enough to grow up in a cultural and sexual mosaic such as Toronto, the feeling of carrying two imposing identities rings true. Ultimately, the Dragon Fruit Project demonstrates that there are increasing amounts of safe spaces for racialized queer folk which not only aim to create security but also share their stories.

Link to The Dragon Fruit Project here

NOTE: I write in a spirit of sympathy. I drafted this blogpost on Monday March 15th 2021, perhaps 24 hours prior to the attack of six women of Asian descent in Atlanta, Georgia. When I came across The Dragon Fruit Project, I was initially excited to hear that there exists a safe space for queer Asian folk. Nevertheless, in light of the pandemic, anti-Asian and anti-Pacific Islander hate-crimes have increased by 150 per cent in major U.S. cities. Here in Canada, there have been 925 reported incidents of anti-Asian racism since March 2020. To those who are not of Asian descent: please continue to be allies and advocates in the battle against anti-Asian racism and violence.

I would also like to attach three different anti-Asian racism and AAPI (Asian-American Pacific Islander) organizations to support:
Building Transgender, Non-Binary, and Queer API Power
Tracking and Responding to Asian Hate Crimes
Asian Health Services