Keynote: Professor Aaron Devor

Dr. Aaron H DevorAD-credit Brian Sargent, PhD, FSSSS, FSTLHE, has been studying and teaching about transgender topics for more than thirty years. He is the world’s first Research Chair in Transgender Studies and the Founder and Academic Director of the world’s largest Transgender Archives. He was one of the authors of versions 6 and 7 of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s (WPATH) Standards of Care, and is guiding their translation into world languages. He is the author of Gender Blending: Confronting the Limits of Duality (1989), FTM: Female-to-Male Transsexuals in Society (1997, 2016), and The Transgender Archives: Foundations for the Future (2014). He has delivered lectures to audiences around the world, including more than 20 keynote and plenary addresses. He is a national-award-winning teacher, an elected member of the International Academy of Sex Research, an elected Fellow of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality. He is an out trans man, a former Dean of Graduate Studies (2002-2012), and a professor of Sociology at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada.

Much of Devor’s work focuses on the narratives of those who are gender nonconforming or trans, which is evident in his first two publications. 1989’s Gender Blending: Confronting the Limits of Duality focuses on fifteen women who do not always “pass”, despite being biological women. The book also offers an investigation into biological, psychological, and sociological discourses of gender and Devor considers the ways in which “the political nature of social beliefs and practices become translated into the everyday life experiences of members of society.” In 1997, Devor published FTM: Female-to-Male Transsexuals in Society which engages with, and details the lives of, a number of men who tell their stories about transitioning. FTM draws on interviews with 45 subjects and, in doing so, importantly investigates a previously critically neglected group. As in Gender Blending, Devor continues to interrogate questions around gender and its social construction.

2014’s The Transgender Archives: Foundations for the Future, was a Lambda Literary Awards finalist and in the book the reader is introduced to the history of trans activism and research. It also explores the founding of the Transgender Archives. The Archives are a vital resource, collecting materials that relate to the research into, the activism of and the communities of transgender and gender nonconforming individuals. Founded in 2007, it collects a wide array of material including publications, personal papers, court documents, movies, erotica, fiction, conference records and ephemera. The Archives holds the biggest collection of material relating to those who are trans and gender nonconforming in the world and has material spanning one hundred years and seventeen countries. The Transgender Archives contains a fabulous introduction to the Archives’ holdings, offering some stunning images, and it can be downloaded here.

Devor has published in journals such as Journal of Psychology and Human SexualityJournal of Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy, and GLQ, as well as contributing chapters to collections like Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (2002), The Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History in America (2003), Balancing on the Mechitza: Transgender in Jewish Community (2010), The Cultural Encyclopedia of the Penis (2014), and Handbook of the Sociology of Sexualities (2015). A full list of Devor’s many publications can be found here.

Professor Devor will be speaking on the second day of the conference, Thursday 23 June, at the University of Westminster. Paper title and abstract below.

Trans History in the Raw:

Highlights from the Transgender Archives

Aaron H Devor, PhD

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” – George Orwell

“Study the past if you would define the future.” – Confucius

The Transgender Archives, the world’s largest repository of original records of transgender activism and research, provides a vast collection of raw materials from which scholars can reconstruct trans history. Since 2007, the Transgender Archives, part of the Archives and Special Collections at the University of Victoria, in British Columbia, Canada has been actively acquiring documents, rare publications, and memorabilia of persons and organizations associated with trans activism and research. Collections chronicle over 50 years of trans activism in 17 countries on five continents, and record research going back more than 100 years.

The collections, which began with the generous donation of the entire Rikki Swin Institute collection, include thousands of books; more than 500 transgender periodicals titles; 27 years of Fantasia Fair conference records; papers and memorabilia of Virginia Prince, one of the founders of transgender activism; key documents from activist Ariadne Kane; papers from the founders of the International Foundation for Gender Education; records of the life of trans philanthropist and activist Reed Erickson and the work of his Erickson Educational Foundation; records of a pivotal Canadian court case, Kimberly Nixon vs Vancouver Rape Relief; the entire University of Ulster Trans-Gender Archive covering 30 years of UK trans organizing and activism; an extensive collection of trans fantasy fiction; audio and video recordings; art; erotica; and ephemera. Were it all the books and boxes to be placed on one long shelf it would stretch the length of a football field! The Transgender Archives at the University of Victoria are open to the public and available to the public at no charge.
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