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The Museum of Transology at Brighton Museum

Holly Eliza Temple

You may not expect to see the 'largest and boldest display' of LGBTQ experience exhibited in Brighton Museum, a venue usually home to historical paintings, artefacts and interior design. But The Museum of Transology, first commissioned by Fashion Space Gallery (UAL), has been extended until October 2019 at the museum in Brighton’s Pavilion Gardens.  
 
It is presented as part of Be Bold, a creative programme developed with the local LGBTQ community, aiming to bring their voices and experiences to the forefront, and depicting them honestly and without censorship. 
 
“Trans lives have traditionally been missing in museums, because they have often been hidden, ignored, misunderstood, forgotten and, in many cases, lost,” states the exhibition, which is curated by E-J Scott. Scott, a dress historian, lecturer, curator and producer, appeared on Grayson Perry’s Born Risky and is committed to providing a home for trans experiences and history. The exhibit also displays artefacts from Scott’s own experience. 
 
However, The Museum of Transology is also a celebration: of LGBTQ communities’ bravery, and of Brighton’s involvement as a safe place to accommodate these celebrations. It is a celebration and recognition of struggle and power, silence and confidence, and creating a permanent documentation of trans lives. 


Image credit: Undefinable gender by Katy Davies, Fashion Space Gallery

The exhibition achieves its goal of displaying a vitally important and moving room packed full of personal experience, voices and history, that for so long have been hidden from public sight. The entrance to the exhibition displays a film commissioned by Selfridges, featuring Hari Nef with a soundtrack by Neneh Cherry and Devonte Hynes. The film and accompanying song, He She Me, 'explores a visual response to the idea of Agender'. 

 

The collection began with a collection of personal and everyday objects gathered from people at the trans-friendly Marlborough Pub & Theatre, and now includes items from individuals all over the UK. Each item is annotated with a brown luggage tag describing its significance to the owner. 
 
Bathroom cabinets in a glass case house intimate objects and beauty products, for example a pair of fake breasts with the label “WHAT MOTHER NATURE DIDN’T GIVE ME xxx”. Other objects exhibited include binders and underwear, medicines and personal ephemera, “my first lipstick”, a handmade dress worn for an individual’s “first time out in public as a woman”. These artefacts not only bring to light these individuals’ experiences and memories, but also promote positive discussion around the history of fashion as a tool for presenting our bodies in desired ways.


Image credit: The Museum of Transology via Facebook 

But The Museum of Transology is also a vital communicative tool for achieving equality. The display of personal childhood letters, memorabilia and NHS correspondence highlights the pain of being misunderstood not only by one’s peers, but often by care providers – we are informed by the exhibition that '79% of trans patients’ treatment is in breach of NHS guidelines' due to long waiting lists, and that trans hate crimes are only increasing. The collection really is an important, ever-growing educational resource that can only improve visibility, understanding and celebration of trans identities, and is fighting to help them find a home in history. 
 
The Museum of Transology continues until October 2019 and is free with admission to the museum. 

Brighton Museum, Royal Pavilion Gardens BN1 1EE

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