Summer 2016

Voice and visibility

Andrea Jenkins, lead researcher for the U’s Transgender Oral History Project
Photo by Scott Streble

Odds are, most of us have known someone who is transgender without realizing it. Most transgender people—until recently—lived closeted lives.

The University’s Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in GLBT Studies hopes to change that. Last year, it launched the four-year Transgender Oral History Project to capture the diverse stories of 200 transgender and gender nonconforming people.

Transgender oral historian Andrea Jenkins aims to build a collection of voices for researchers, students, and historians to study, ultimately offering video, audio, and transcripts. She’s completed 77 interviews with people from ages 18 to 83.

Transgender people’s resilience and the wide spectrum of gender fluidity are what stand out to Jenkins in her interviews so far. A transgender woman, Jen- kins hopes these interviews will “change the cultural narrative around transgender people. It’s empowering for the transgender community and provides a voice and visibility for transgender people to see each other.”

The project received lead gifts from the Tawani Foundation and its founder, retired Lieutenant Colonel Jennifer Pritzker, and is seeking additional support.

“I hope this project helps people see the transgender community in a more human light,” Jenkins says. “They will get a sense of the reality that transgender people deal with, while also seeing that they are involved in every single walk of life, from driving city buses to flying commercial airplanes to treating dental patients.”