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Transgender Archives: The First Pilgrimage

| Nov 14, 2011
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Yesterday I walked out the door of my girl friend’s apartment in the Hudson Valley, crossed the street, and caught a bus to New York City.

I was embarking on the first of what I hope to be a dozen or so pilgrimages to visit the world’s known repositories of transgender and transsexual historical materials.

I have a special interest in  transgender archives because the one I created now resides in the Labadie Collection at the University of Michigan Library

There’s hardly a day that goes by without me wishing my material were at hand so I could lay my hands on this piece or that piece for reference purposes, but then again, there’s not a day that goes by without my being grateful the collection I started and built is in a safe space, is available to historians and researchers today, and will be available long after I’m gone.

The Center

My first sojourn was to visit Rich Wandel, Curator of the National Archive of Gay and Lesbian History at the GLBT Community Center of New York. Housed in the former Food and Maritime Trades High School at 208 West 13th Street in the West Village,  the Center is home to more than 300 groups and maintains a long running program for gender-nonconforming people.

I met Rich in the Center’s Archives room, a small space with walls lined with historical photographs and stuffed with computers, boxes of material queued for cataloging and other boxes ready for researchers. Rich explained the archives are housed off-site and resources are transported to the Center when requested. The collection is catalogued and available online.

Rich Wandel

The Archive consists of 97 donated collections, most primarily lesbian and gay in content, some with peripheral transgender content — and a few with exclusive transgender content. Of particular note are the collections of :

  • Felicity Chandell, which include photographs, correspondence, pamphlets, and crossdressing magazines dating from the 1950s and legal papers pertaining to Chandell’s arrest, trial, conviction, and appeal on charges of misrepresentation, almost certainly relating to her crossdressing.
  • Rollerina, Fairy Godmother, a comical Village character of the 1970s.
  • Liz Eden. Eden was the transsexual girlfriend of bank robber John Wojtowicz, who was portrayed by actor Al Pacino in Sidney Lumet’s 1975 film Dog Day Afternoon.

I’ve contacted Mr. Wandel for a repeat visit. I want a look at the Felicity Chandell folder.

Readers: Your life, your history is important. Please consider adding a provision to your will for your trans-related materials to be sent to the archive of your choosing. For a list of archives, IM me at [email protected] for a list of archives.

©2011 by Dallas Denny


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Category: Transgender Community News, Transgender History

Dallas Denny

About the Author ()

Much of Dallas' work is available on her website. Dallas Denny is a writer, activist, and educator. She holds a M.A. and was licensed to practice psychology for many years. She retired her license after relocating to Georgia. Dallas founded and was for eight years Executive Director of the American Educational Gender Education Service. She started the Atlanta Gender Explorations support group in 1990. She was part of the group that started the Southern Comfort conference and did programming for the conference. She has long been involved with Fantasia Fair, where she was Director for six years. Dallas was editor of the journal "Chrysalis" from 1990-1998 and "Transgender Tapestry" from 2000-2006. She has three published three books and many book chapters and journal and magazine articles. Dallas holds a number of honors, including IFGE’s Trinity and Virginia Prince Lifetime Achievement Awards and Real Life Experience’s Transgender Pioneer Award.

Comments (1)

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  1. says:

    I love stories like these about transgender archives and histories. I wish there were a lot more of them than what we have today and wish Dallas the best in the high calling of Curator. I could name some favorite collections of my own, but I sense that Dallas is going to reveal those things in future articles. I can’t wait.

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