On first glance, the exhibition looks a bit like a hipster clothes shop in Shoreditch. The room is a minimalist white box, and hanging from the ceiling – like some sort of giant baby mobile – are t-shirts with daring slogans, party dresses, bras and boxer shorts.
But we’re not in Shoreditch. This is the Museum of Transology, held in the Fashion Space Gallery at the London College of Fashion, and the dangling garments are just some of the artefacts donated by trans people that signify important times in their lives.
The collection was curated by E-J Scott, and grew out of the hoard of significant items he kept from his own chest surgery during his transition, including a blood-stained binder, the “it’s a boy!” balloon his friends gave him during his recovery and – perhaps most memorably – his breast tissue preserved in jars of formaldehyde. (If you’re in any way squeamish about the human form, maybe give that bit a miss.)
The artefacts tell people’s stories in their own words – each item is accompanied by a handwritten note from its donor, explaining its meaning. Most carry heavy emotional weighting, such as the train ticket that one man used to see his girlfriend for the first time after his transition, hospital correspondence and first packets of the hormonal medication that has the power to drastically improve people’s lives. But there are funny parts, too – a cringey, shark-patterned pair of boxers that one man’s mother gave him after his transition provide a bit of comic relief.
It’s a tiny room, but the available space is so packed with material to read and look at that it’s easy to spend about 45 minutes in here. On the way out, visitors pass a jar full of the same brown paper tags that hang on each artefact, left blank for people to write in stories about their own experiences of being trans.
The Museum of Transology is an uplifting experience – at a time when the rights of trans people are relentlessly challenged, this curation of artefacts celebrates their personal victories. It allows us to see behind the politics, the parades and the protests and hear the voices of the trans community more clearly than ever.
Location: London College of Fashion
Running until: 22 April 2017