The University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada has an impressive inventory of papers, plaques, photographs, newsletters, certificates, posters and tapes in the Transgender Archives, the gift of Rikki Swin, a one-time Chicago manufacturer of plastic injection moulding who moved to Victoria in 2007.
She founded the Rikki Swin Institute for transgender research and education in 2001 and offered the institute’s contents to UVic. With that came the archives of other leading activists such as Ari Kane and Merissa Sherril Lynn.
“We’re pretty sure that we have the largest transgender collection of archival and published material in the world,” archivist Lara Wilson said.
There are plenty of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans, or LGBT, collections in North America, but few that feature only trans. “So we’re putting the T in LGBT.”
Other rare items include brightly coloured 1970s booklets by Reed Erickson – who transitioned from woman to man and sought to explain everything from transsexuals and religion to counselling and family dynamics – and a copy of the Zenith Foundation’s 106-page manual, Transsexuals and their Caregivers.
Along with 600 books that deal with gender identity in the UVic library, the archives now boast an “incomparable collection of newsletters and publications from both large and small transgender organizations” that stretches to more than 1,000 individual titles.
The collection is still growing, Wilson said, adding that she hopes to hear from people who have items related to transgender activism and the betterment of transgender people.
“Now that there’s a website, we’re getting offers from all over North America,” she said.