Every object we own can tell a story about us. Sometimes the meaning we give to a particular item of our everyday life can change or be forgotten. Others, over time, find their connotation emboldened to the point where we cannot imagine our life without them.
Our first pair of roller skates, a coin we found on a subway platform, even a piece of paper with a scribbled note: each one of them weave a unique tale.
We construct our world’s identity. It’s almost as if by naming things we bring them into existence. By saying dragon or unicorn, these creatures can appear, at least in our minds. Evoking something makes it real.
These objects are so important to our journey through life that several museums have tasked themselves with preserving these memories. A great example of this is the Museum of Broken Relationships, a traveling exhibit that has acquired over a thousand donated objects from different places where it’s been presented. People leave their most painful memories that have surged from breakups, as a way of freeing themselves from a burden they haven’t been able to drop.
Another similar institution, the Museum of Transology, provides a space for the collection of experiences. It keeps photographs of key objects in the lives of several transgender people. Many of the artifacts were with their owners during their transitions. Clothes, makeup, toys, just about any object can be photographed to join the exhibit. The only condition is for the background story to be written on an accompanying card.
The touring exhibit is currently housed in the Fashion Space Gallery in London.
In an interview with Wonderland Magazine, curator E-J Scott spoke about the purpose behind the project. “(…) Historically, trans people’s identities have been read solely as expressions of sexuality or as career strategies that allow them to enter fields that have strict gender codes.”
What is amazing about this project is that this is not an exhibit about transfolk created by someone outside the community. This is an idea that came from within to try to reach out to either trans people who might feel isolated or people who haven't really understood or come in contact with a transgender person. It serves as a unique way of starting dialogue between family members and friends of someone going through a transition, considering on it, or those who have already gone through the process.
Scott, who is a fashion historian and trans activist, spoke about why collecting all these personal histories is a nuanced way of bringing awareness and conversation on trans issues. “[The Media tends] to focus on what are pitched as ‘before and after’ ideas of successful lives lived ‘passing.’ There are many problems with this. For one, it suggests some people fail. We do not. Our bodies are our own, not some disappointing second-rate copies of cisgendered bodies. Secondly, different people have different trans experiences, and not all seek surgical intervention –this does not make them less trans. The stories also frequently focus on trans people who seek private treatment to have radical surgery that redefines who they are. There is nothing wrong with that. But it is not most trans people’s reality.”
Each object in this museum holds a story that encompasses an important moment in someone’s life. It’s a token that reminds them of facing the world and of their own process of growth. The exhibit reminds audiences that not every transition is the same, nor do they require surgical procedures. It’s about each person presenting themselves to the world in the way they’ve always felt about themselves.
There are millions of stories about trans folk's journey to find inclusivity, acceptance, and understanding. One photographer in the sixties created an entire photographical project of a Parisian trans community, while another couple documented as both of them transitioned.
Translated by María Suárez