Moving Trans History Forward 2016 at the University of Victoria was a wonderful conference, to say the least. At Thursday night’s Opening Ceremonies attendees were warmly welcomed and heard Randall Garrison, MP for Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke discuss the history and hurdles involved with getting gender identity and gender expression into human rights legislation. Jamison Green gave a keynote during lunch on Friday on the triumphs and challenges of trans people around the world. Every day featured space with art exhibits that were free and open to the public. On Saturday, Andrea Jenkins and Erica Fields gave what was by all accounts a fantastic art performance called “Countering Historical Erasure of Transgender Narratives from mainstream LGBT History.” The Founders Panel, on Sunday morning featured distinguished speakers who have been involved with trans communities for decades, some since the early 1970s, and was also free and open to the public. Jason Cromwell, Rupert Raj, Yvonne Cook-Riley, and Jamie Lee Hamilton all shared memories and experiences, including the significance of the criminalization of sex work in Vancouver’s downtown eastside in the early 1980s. Aiyanna Maracle, who was slated to speak, was not able to attend due to illness, but was sorely missed by all.
Jade Pichette, CLGA Volunteer and Community Outreach Coordinator, and three of our LGBTQ Digital Collaboratory members from Toronto presented a roundtable session on Saturday called “Activating the Archive: Making Trans*/+ Histories Accessible at the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives.” Pichette spoke on the challenges of trans-inclusive volunteer management and community outreach at the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives; Elspeth Brown spoke about the LGBTQ Oral History Collaboratory and the Rupert Raj archival collection; Al Stanton-Hagan spoke about digitizing trans oral histories and the challenges of metadata; and Nick Matte spoke about the trans pathfinder and the emotional impact of trans labour in making trans histories accessible.
For many, the experience of being in community with such a diverse and inspiring group of trans and gender diverse people was the major highlight of the conference, as was the opportunity to experience using large universal bathrooms where people of all sorts of wonderful gender expressions went about their business with ease. Many new friendships and collaborations formed over the 3 days, and numerous photos were taken, hugs and expressions of appreciation shared, and standing ovations received, with great hope for the future of trans communities and trans histories. Twitter was alive with excellent critical discussions and posts at #mthf2016 and local media featured the conference prominently on the front page of the Times Colonist and the evening television news. Thanks to all who made Moving Trans History Forward 2016 a great success, especially Dr. Aaron Devor and the wonderful team of organizers at UVic and its Transgender Archives.