The Transgender Oral History Project of Iowa

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

Oral history projects are seemingly becoming important for the Trans community. As stated by Aiden Bettine, the creator of The Transgender Oral History Project of Iowa in the Daily Iowan, “there’s something really personal about sitting and listening to an oral-history interview where you just become immersed in someone else’s story and their life in a really particular way.” In essence, oral history projects allow trans folks to document and speak of their experiences without any visual stigma. Oral history allows trans people to document their lives without the fear of whether their passability or their self-expression could be seen to limit or invalidate their stories. 

In regards to The Transgender Oral History Project of Iowa, Aiden Bettine hopes to connect and document the Iowan trans experience. This project aims to “recognize, collect, preserve, and celebrate the lives and stories of transgender and gender non-conforming people across the state of Iowa.” Thus, this project is more than just historical, aiming to piece together a fragmented part of history. Rather, the Transgender Oral History Project of Iowa is vocal about being a productive space for the trans community. As a result, Bettine’s project has transgender and gender non-confirming people not only as the subject of the interviews but also as the interviewers, providing proper training. This is what makes Bettine’s project particularly unique – he not only gives queer folks to opportunity to tell their stories, but creates a safe space by giving them the ability to collect these stories. “It is a mechanism for developing new forms of cultural transmission,” Bettine says, –  “That work itself is bringing trans folk together.”

More on TOPI can be found here
TOPI Twitter account can be found here