Smithsonian Adds Trans Items To Expanded LGBT History Collection

August 22, 2014 ·

By Monica Roberts
@TransGriot

 

14772026379_59e4dbaaac_zYesterday The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History added hundreds of photographs, papers and historical objects to its collection to document the history of trans, bisexual, gay and lesbian people.   And in case you’re wondering about it, yes, the trans end was ably represented on this day.  

One of the trans items donated was a wooden tennis racket from Renee Richards, who turned 80 years old yesterday and was one of the newsworthy trans folks of the 1970’s.  After she was denied entry to play in the 1976 US Open because of a hastily enacted USTA women-born-women policy, she won a landmark New York Supreme Court trans rights decision in 1977. 

Another of the trans-specific items donated for historical posterity was the original trans pride flag created by longtime Atlanta based trans advocate Monica Helms back in 1999 along with a Transgender American Veterans Association button, a TransParentday.org rubber wrist bracelet, Trans and Proud and Trans Ally buttons  and items from Monica’s military career in the US Navy.

This ceremony also took place on the 15th anniversary of the August 19, 1999 day she created the trans pride flag she is donating to the Smithsonian.   

Helms was in Washington DC for yesterday’s donation ceremony and obviously thrilled to be representing the trans community on this momentous day.  In her remarks, she spoke to the importance of the ‘T’ being repped in this expansion of the National Museum Of American History’s LGBT collection.

Thank you Director John Gray, Katherine Ott, Jennifer Jones and Valeska Hilbig for all that you have done to make this moment possible. This is a historical honor for all transgender and gender non-conforming people across our country. We have always been part of America’s history since the beginning, yet we have also been marginalized the entire time. 

Now, the Smithsonian and the American Government are saying that our history is worthy of being displayed, along with that of our fellow Americans. The Transgender Pride Flag was created to give our community a unique symbol for us to show that we are proud of who we are. Not only have trans people in America embraced the flag, but trans communities in other parts of the world have also embraced it. If weren’t for them we would not be here today. The honor goes to the people of the world’s trans community. Transgender and gender non-conforming people of America are truly part of this country that we all love. 

And, since the Smithsonian will be displaying items from my military career, they are also acknowledging that we have contributed to the security of our country since the Revolutionary War. We only hope that the Department of Defense and President Obama hears this message and allows transgender and gender non-conforming people the right to serve openly in the military, like our gay, lesbian and bisexual brothers and sisters are doing today. 

Thank you for this honor.

Monica shot me an e-mail before her departure to DC for yesterday’s donation ceremony and I asked her a few questions.

Monica Roberts: What prompted the Smithsonian to seek to enshrine the original trans pride flag and when did they contact you?

Monica Helms: I contacted the Smithsonian a year ago. They are starting to collect LGBT artifacts, so I contacted them at the right time.

Roberts: How excited were they about getting the original trans pride flag and to your knowledge what other trans-historical artifacts are going into their collection?

Helms: They were very excited. I was surprised.  They became more excited when they understood how important this was to the trans community.

Roberts: How soon will Smithsonian visitors be able to see it?

Helms: It may take them a year or more before the display is put together and put out to the public. They will let me know. It will be on permanent display versus temporary.  It will be in their Armed Forces Flag display section, because I was in the Navy.

 


So how important is this?  BFD important.  Just as it happened when the April Ashley exhibit opened last September in her hometown Liverpool Museum, it notes to the world and our haters that transpeople exist.

It loudly says to the world we have a proud history we can show to our transkids and others that The Smithsonian thought was worthy enough to be enshrined in its National Museum of American History halls.    It’s one of the reasons I participate in efforts locally and elsewhere to document trans history on behalf of my African-American trans community.   It’s why I keep a lot of my papers and memorabilia around so I can pass them on so future generations can enjoy them.

Thank you Sea Monica for helping to ensure that when The Smithsonian was looking to expand the LGBT collection, items representing the trans end of the community were included.



Tip this TransAdvocate!

Writers for the TransAdvocate work hard to bring you news and commentary. If you found this article meaningful, let the author know that you appreciate the work they do with a tip!

A version of this post originally appeared on the TransGriot

In categories:History Monica Roberts
Next Post

Fact Checking Janice Raymond: The NCHCT Report

It has long been asserted that the iconic TERF opinion leader, Janice Raymond, played a part in bringing an end to the public and private coverage of transgender medical care, resulting in measurable death and suffering within the trans community.…
Read
Previous Post

How TERF violence inspired Camp Trans

In the middle of a cool August night in 1991, Nancy Burkholder was thrown out of the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival (MWMF) because she’s a trans woman.  Burkholder was Janis Walworth’s friend and she was outraged that MWMF’s would engage…
Read
Random Post

Andrea James believes a straight cis woman is a better choice for the GLAAD Board than queer trans women

In her latest cognitive-dissonance-filled diatribe, "comedian" Andrea James attempts to maintain her waning relevance by criticizing the GLAAD Board of Directors for having too much trans representation. The piece, published on Queerty (a blog with its own problematic racist and…
Read
Random Post

Stonewall Plus 22

What better way to spend Pride week than looking at drag queens on the site where it all began? The Stonewall Inn (formerly New Jimmy's) presents Extraordinary Women, a fab photo exhibit of "the most glamorous" transvestites and transsexuals of…
Read
Random Post

In Revolution, The Trans Terms Sylvia Rivera Used

I look to Sylvia Rivera, who passed in 2002, was an activist icon whose action approach to civil rights is one I admire. I like to think I've emulated part of her action approach to civil rights when I chained…
Read
Random Post

TransGiving 3: Boston Alliance of GLBT Youth

The Boston Alliance of GLBT Youth (BAGLY) is a youth-led organization that's worked with trans youth since the 1980s. BAGLY has a queer youth speakers bureau and youth led HIV/AIDS education program. Furthermore, BAGLY is where the nation’s first prom…
Read