Trans+ History Week

A banner with wavy pink white and blue sections and the text These are the songs of our people written on

By Suzi Fox

This year for the first time we’re celebrating Trans+ History Week and… Oh, wait, yes sorry, this is going to be a bit of a shock for those who believe that trans people didn’t exist before 2015.

As everyone else knows, we’ve always existed. And what’s more we’ve been contributing amazing things to the vibrant tapestry of science, art, culture, politics, business and every other area of society for millennia. We’ve just been in stealth mode. Think of us as trans+ ninjas. Does that help? If people didn’t see evidence of trans+ people in centuries past it isn’t because we weren’t there, it’s because we weren’t documented, or others have tried to erase that documentation.

What Is Trans+ History Week?

Trans+ History Week is an amazing initiative from Marty Davies (they/she) and the wonderful people at QueerAF. It’s about bringing the stories we in the trans+ community have told ourselves and putting them out into the open for everyone to see, and also uncovering other stories that have somehow been lost.

It’s about showcasing the trans people who have been shining stars so that the lies about us being a recent phenomenon can be confronted, and ended with truth. But especially, it’s about teaching young people that trans+ people have always been here and that we are a valid, natural and wonderful part of the world.

It’s a week in which we celebrate the exceptional people who have gone before us and on whose shoulders we stand. To ensure that we not only never forget them, but that they are given the special place in our history that they deserve. It’s also about looking at the big milestones that have shaped our world.

When Is Trans+ History Week

In 2024 Trans+ History Week will be from May 6th to the 12th. The date is no coincidence, as May 6th is the date in 1933 when Nazi’s broke into Magnus Hirchfeld’s trans clinic in Berlin and destroyed it, burning all of the book and the staggering amount of research into trans people that he had built up over years. 

OUR TRANS COLLECTION   view the collection

Why Teaching Trans+ History Is Important

Every cisgendered kid has their heroes growing up. Whether it’s a sports star, a musician, actor, scientist, astronaut, etc. They’re all taught about their history. It’s usually national history, and that’s fine. 

But as a trans person I never saw myself reflected back in those stories. Because they never contained anyone like me. And I longed to learn the songs of my people. Growing up I didn’t have anyone who I thought was like me to look up to.

Hardly anyone knew or had even met a trans person. Because most trans people had been in hiding for decades. Even in the early 2000s we were still scared. Only those who were the most determined began medical treatment. If you were lucky enough to pass then you did your best to assimilate into cisgendered society. 

But if you weren’t then you were forced into a life of hiding on the fringes of society, socialising only with the queer or trans people you met in gay clubs, or working in entertainment, clubs or prostitution.

So having the opportunity to educate kids about trans lives is absolutely critical to normalising trans people. To showing that we were always there. And that the reason why people think we never existed before, why they keep saying they never knew any trans people when they were at school, is because we were too scared to make ourselves known.

The hated Section 28 in the UK was a time when no schools were allowed to talk about LGBTQ+ lives or lived experiences. It ran from 1988 to 2003 and effectively robbed an entire generation of queer and gender non-conforming kids from learning that others like them existed and that they were were valid. 

But even after it ended trans lives were still not discussed. Being trans was still very much a taboo. We were still legally discriminated against and few trans people got opportunities that were afforded to cisgendered people. That took until the Gender Recognition Act 2004 to begin, and even then that was just a first step that has still never been brought to full equality.

So I love that we can shine bright lights on some of the trans people the trans community have known about for years. People who inspired us. To show eager gender non-conforming kids that there has always been a path for them to follow, and to give them some heroes and idols they can look up to, in the same way cis kids have always had them.

Misinformation has been a weapon the media have used for some time. You can’t challenge a lie if you don’t know the truth, and you can’t push back on a transphobic opinion unless you know that it’s based on a lie. The media, government, fundamentalists and those organisations who wish to harm us would love to be able to erase our past. 

So it’s an act or glorious rebellion to be able to put our wonderful, rich and long history on show. In all it’s colour, joy and, it should be said, in some cases, pain and struggle.

The history of trans people has long been a huge gap in the collective conscience. So let’s fill it. 

Why Trans+ And Not Just Trans

Language evolves, and sometimes things change their meanings. And this is especially true of labels. Once upon a time trans meant only binary trans men and women. But those ideas are rejected now as our understanding of what it means to be trans has evolved and identities like genderqueer, non-binary, gender fluid, trans femme, trans masc and agender have emerged and become firmly part of the trans umbrella. So Trans+ seems a great way to make this feel much more inclusive.

Who Is Marty Davies

A rising star of the advertising industry, Marty Davies is an award-winning creative strategist, campaigner, writer, advertising industry thought-leader and joint chief executive of Outvertising, an organisation that campaign to make the advertising industry more inclusive, and influence the media and brands to better serve the LGBTQ+ community.

They are also founder of the consultancy Smarty Pants Consultance, and co-founder of Trans+ Adland, a grassroots community group of trans, non-binary, gender non-conforming and intersex people across the world of marketing and advertising.

A portrait of Marty Davies, wearing a pink jacket, white t-shirt . She has brown curly hair and wears glasses and a nose ring.
Marty Davies

They also have a regular column in ad industry magazine Campaign called 'A Queer View', talking about issues that affect the queer and gender non-conforming community within advertising. And they are on the Mayor of London’s steering group for advertising on Transport for London, which oversees the London Underground and overground trans and busses.

We often talk of the need for representation. And that means in all forms of society. Without it the conversations happen without us in the room. Adn decision affecting us are made by cisgendered people who often don't have any understanding of our needs.

Marty has become an extraordinary representative of our community within the advertising, marketing and media world. And this is a key world because this represents what the public sees. And it’s critical that we’re portrayed fairly and positively across these industries to help normalise LGBTQ+ lives, but particularly, trans+ lives.

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