The Museum of Transology – currently hosted at the Fashion Space Gallery, part of the London College of Fashion – is an ambitious project. “The erasure of transcestry ends here with the Museum of Transology,” it proclaims. Transcestry is “evidence of trans lives lived before us,” with Transology also defined as “the practice of collecting trans objects and narratives.”
There is a lot of information packed into a relatively small space, both in terms of text on the walls and narratives attached to the objects. It took a long time to go round everything: an unengaged subject might have easily got bored. Many objects were deeply moving, though, while others were funny, sweet. One that stood out was twelve conjoined coloured cubes; its caption, handwritten on a brown cardboard label, read, “A fiddle toy to take my mind off negative feelings.” Whose toy? We aren’t told, yet it radiates an intensely personal energy, only exacerbated by the handwritten note. There is a sense of intimacy, tactility.
The Fashion Space gallery, located at the London College of Fashion, is hosting the collection for three months, January through April. “An exciting contemporary exhibition space in Central London,” it boasts, “presenting a critically rigorous and popular programme of changing exhibitions engaging with fashion and design in its widest sense.”
Repurposed furniture holds and hangs the items; mirrors repeatedly reflect the gaze, impossible to escape it: there’s an Alice in Wonderland feel to the whole setup, albeit not quite as colourful as might be expected. The array of objects contained within is spectacular: bras, boxer shorts and binders; prosthetics, pants and packers; a letter from the Queen.
A pair of jars each contain tattooed breast tissue, preserved in formaldehyde; an eerie sight that would seem to mock Damien Hirst, were it not for the label that reads, “Thanks for the Mammories!” Displayed alongside is the paperwork that E-J Scott (who curated the show) filed to keep the breast tissue and a photograph of him, from the 2016 series Reimagine by artist Bharat Sikka, clutching the two jars. “I recall life via the objects I save that I associate with specific interests – thus my interest in museology,” he explains. “This collection started what I now call the Museum of Transology.”
The tone shifts so quickly from light-hearted to deeply serious, it’s sometimes hard to keep up: a Hello Kitty doll, “This kitty is as fabulous! as me, it says ‘I love you’ because got to love yourself!’; a white t-shirt, “I was given this Tshirt by one of the young trans people whom I support. It’s a direct quote of my response to their lamenting the posibility of their hypothetical memorial likeness being mispronouned” – it reads, “I will make sure you are correctly gendered in martyrdom.”
It feels unfinished, a work in progress. While I’m sure this isn’t entirely intended, it’s nonetheless understandable: the Museum is part of a larger project to establish a dedicated LGBT+ museum in the UK or, at least, form a significant part of an established museum collection. There’s a lack of consistency, of continuity: while a complete taxonomic categorisation would deplete the point, something feels lacking. :My gender & transness cannot be defined in a single image,” reads a patterned square of cloth, yet this is what the collection seems to aim for at times.
Apparently, since opening the collection has expanded hugely. There are currently no future outings planned, which is a shame: projects like this need as much visibility as possible. Tucked away in the LCF, despite being a block away from Oxford Circus, I can’t imagine many people are casually wandering in off the streets to visit it. It’s preaching to the converted: but this seems to be working. A tree of comments attest to the want and need for a display – or permanent institution – exploring trans issues: “Seeing trans representation in a museum is a fantastic moment in history”; “This exhibition was exceptional. Thoughtful and provocative and at an important turning point in trans visibility. Perfect!”
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