If We Knew Trans History

How would our thinking change if we knew transgender history?  The If We Knew Trans History Project aims to explore the ways transgender history can help activists understand ourselves and re-imagine our future.  Through essays, videos, and photographs, If We Knew Trans History shares the stories of transgender people in the United States.  This public history project is by and for transgender people and social justice organizers.  It also aims to center the impact of Black trans women and trans people of color.  Transgender history contains important examples that can shape social movements.  Trans people deserve to know our past so that we can fight for our future.

If Knew Trans History is launching in July 2016.  Visit this page to read new posts on the third Thursday of each month or follow If We Knew Trans History on Facebook.

About the Researcher, J.M. Ellison

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Preoccupied with the past, concerned by the future, and discontent with the present, I am time traveler.  I am a white, nonbinary trans person with disabilities and an activist, scholar, and writer.  I am a PhD student in the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies department at the Ohio State University.  I believe that if we knew transgender history, all of our movements for justice would be stronger.

Support the Project

You can support my research by becoming a patron on Patreon.  I appreciate all your support in all of the forms it takes.

In the Wake of the Orlando Shooting, Three Reasons to Learn Trans History

1. Our history helps to explain why this attack happened. Many people are trying to advance their own political agendas by providing inaccurate explanations for this horrific shooting.  Some are trying to justify increased police funding.   Others are spouting Islamophobia.  We trans people need to refuse these narratives.  If we know our history, then … Continue reading In the Wake of the Orlando Shooting, Three Reasons to Learn Trans History

Anything but the Present: Reflections on Transgender People as Symbols of the Past and the Future

A few months ago, I struggled to pay attention while I sat in a stuffy, cramped grad school classroom.  A colleague of mine was giving a presentation on the week’s readings. “I noticed,” she offered, “that the author did not consider transgender people in this text.” I smiled because I recognized her question as a … Continue reading Anything but the Present: Reflections on Transgender People as Symbols of the Past and the Future

In The Wake of Trump’s Election, Trans History Helps Me Be Brave

I’m scared.  That’s not new.  As a non-binary trans person who is very visibly gender nonconforming, I’m used to being scared.  I have been scared in bathrooms.  I’ve been scared at airports.  I’ve been scared in classrooms, even when I was the one teaching.  I’ve been scared to walk down the street.  Then Trump’s victory  … Continue reading In The Wake of Trump’s Election, Trans History Helps Me Be Brave

Teachable Trans History: Sylvia Rivera

Recently, I introduced a new feature called “teachable trans history,” designed to make it easier for community educators, activists, scholars, and classroom teachers to share transgender history.  I am compiling primary sources, videos, and other resources you can use to bring transgender history to life.  This time, I’m covering Sylvia Rivera. First things first: huge … Continue reading Teachable Trans History: Sylvia Rivera

Why I’m not excited about “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson”

Academy Award® nominated director David France’s (How to Survive a Plague) new documentary centers on self-described “street queen” Marsha P. Johnson, legendary fixture in New York City’s gay ghetto, who along with fellow trans icon Sylvia Rivera, founded Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R.), a trans activist group based in the heart of NYC’s Greenwich Village. … Continue reading Why I’m not excited about “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson”

Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, Guiding Stars

Transgender history is filled with examples of transgender people helping each other survive.  These projects of mutual support are some of our community’s most powerful forms of resistance.  Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson are two such revolutionaries whose thinking can guide our movement.  Together, Rivera and Johnson founded the organization STAR, which remains an … Continue reading Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, Guiding Stars

Four ways that Transgender and Queer People Supported Each Other before Stonewall

The Stonewall Riots are often described as the beginning of the LGBT movement, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Transgender and queer people have been resisting state violence long before 1968.  Here are five ways that transgender and queer people in New York City supported each other and resisted state violence before the … Continue reading Four ways that Transgender and Queer People Supported Each Other before Stonewall