Digital Transgender Archive
The purpose of the Digital Transgender Archive (DTA) is to increase the accessibility of transgender history by providing an online hub for digitized historical materials, born-digital materials, and information on archival holdings throughout the world.
The DTA uses the term transgender to refer to a broad and inclusive range of non-normative gender practices. We treat transgender as a practice rather than an identity category in order to bring together a trans-historical and trans-cultural collection of materials related to trans-ing gender. We collect materials from anywhere in the world with a focus on materials created before the year 2000. Our Scope Flow Chart provides some additional detail on our decision-making process.
We cherish, support, and uplift all trans people and all those who transgress gender norms throughout history, in the present, and into the future. We believe that all individuals have the right to define their identities and determine the ways they are represented.
We recognize the harmful effects of racial inequity, discrimination, and colonization, and we are committed to challenging white supremacy, racism, and colonization.
We recognize the harmful effects of gender-based inequity and discrimination, and we are committed to challenging sexism and gender inequity.
We value transparency in order to share our practices with related projects and to ensure accountability to trans and nonbinary communities.
We believe that trans historical materials should be publicly available online in formats accessible to as many individuals as possible, particularly those who have been denied access to archives via physical, social, and institutional barriers.
We approach the DTA as an ongoing and inclusive series of collaborations, and we continually seek to form new partnerships that uplift other projects and mutually benefit everyone involved.
Copyright, Usage, and Take Down Procedures
To fulfill our mission, the DTA creates and collects metadata and provides access to digital objects provided by a broad range of contributors, which we then expose to other digital collections and search engines to make these materials more widely available. Prior to making digital objects available on our site, we work with contributors to make a good faith effort to secure the rights to digitize materials and make them available online for noncommercial educational and research purposes.
Please note that digital objects included in the DTA reserve the copyright restrictions that are specified in the record for each object. The DTA makes no warranties about the item and cannot guarantee the accuracy of this Rights Statement. If visitors to the site wish to use digital objects from the DTA, even when "No Known Copyright" is indicated in a record, they are responsible for determining whether their use would qualify as fair use or whether they need to secure permissions from copyright holders. Requests for permission to use or reproduce any materials on this site should be directed to the copyright holder or hosting institution, not to the DTA.
The contents of the DTA cannot be used to train a statistical, machine learning, or artificial intelligence model on. Aggregation from our collections for redistribution is only permitted with prior permission.
The DTA operates with the understanding that metadata is not subject to copyright; all metadata included in the DTA is made available under a CC0 license.
We make every effort to make trans history accessible without violating copyright law. If any material on this site is found to violate copyright law, the DTA will notify the contributor and we will take down the material immediately.
Privacy and Redactions
While the purpose of the DTA is to make trans history widely accessible, we are careful to avoid violating the privacy of individuals represented in the collection. Toward that end, we redact personally identifying information such as social security numbers and home addresses. We also redact last names on sensitive materials that were not designed or intended for public circulation. If any materials on this site violate personal privacy, please contact us and we will address the situation immediately.
Harmful and Explicit Content
The DTA includes materials that are harmful (in that they are racist, transphobic, or otherwise demeaning, or that they include discussions of sexual assault, child abuse, medical abuse, homicide, suicide, or self harm) and materials that are explicit (in that they contain nudity and graphic content). This is unsurprising, given that the majority of trans-related historical documentations were not authored by the people or groups being documented. As we determine which materials to make available on the DTA, we consider the ethics of publishing and preserving harmful materials and the impact those materials may have on visitors. At the same time, we are committed to providing unsanitized access to trans history that critically frames or contextualizes materials when possible.
We have developed a detailed Harm Reduction Guide that is designed to identify potentially sensitive information, consider the implications of making that information public on an open-access digital platform, and select appropriate actions to mitigate potential harm.
For harmful content:
This project’s aim is to bridge trans-related experiences of the past with the present, which requires us to navigate shifting landscapes of cultures, languages, and understandings of identity. We strive to be considerate of the potential harm that may be caused to site visitors by encountering certain content, yet we are also committed to providing access to historical materials in their original form. Trans-related history is rarely authored by the people who are being documented, which often leads to the use of discriminatory language and inaccurate or unethical representations. Harmful content in our collections includes references to or depictions of self harm, hate crimes, violence (sexual, physical, and systemic), and discriminatory or dehumanizing language and images, as well as material produced or circulated in exploitative contexts. We add descriptive content warnings to certain items that seem particularly likely to harm visitors, such as documentations of some forms of violence (e.g., suicide, homicide, rape), racist imagery (e.g., blackface, redface), and items that use especially harmful slurs against others. Though we recognize that it can be difficult for contemporary audiences to encounter these items, we strive to balance the particular historical and cultural contexts in which the items were created as we evaluate whether to add content warnings. Since one of our key values is respecting the chosen identities of individuals, we generally do not apply content warnings to items with slurs when they are used by individuals to describe themselves. In cases where titles include slurs, titles may be abbreviated and marked by an ellipsis inside of a bracket. Even when we do not add a content warning, there may be harmful content in an item, which we often try to signal in the description field. We recognize that we will not be perfect in deciding which items warrant content warnings and we invite your feedback and suggestions!
For explicit content:
To determine whether objects qualify as explicit we use the following three criteria:
- object shows extremely violent, graphic, or racist content.
- object shows a person of any gender exhibiting below-the-waist nudity, front or back.
- object shows a feminine- or female-presenting person exhibiting above-the-waist frontal nudity.
These criteria are designed to respect people’s presentations, but they do not and cannot capture the full complexity of gender expression, particularly in the context of U.S. state laws that impose a male/female binary in order to censor “female” nudity. Although we disagree with this practice, we observe the criteria above to ensure, in a trans-affirming way, that DTA materials will not be restricted or removed by online content filters.
Objects are not flagged for images of obvious prosthetics (such as detached packers or breast forms) or for language or text that is considered vulgar, objectionable, or sexually explicit. Objects that are hosted in other digital repositories are also not flagged unless there is explicit content in a thumbnail. Artistic works are treated on a case-by-case basis.
Before viewing any explicit materials, visitors are prompted for their consent in order to confirm that they are not a minor and that they wish to see the materials. This practice follows a feminist model of consent and supports uses of the DTA in educational contexts.
If you believe that we have mistakenly marked an object as explicit or that we should consider adding an explicit content warning to an object, please feel free to contact us.
All of the objects in the DTA include descriptive information, or metadata, to make those objects searchable within our database. The creation of metadata requires interpretation and labeling and it can be a highly subjective and political act. Whenever possible, we adopt language that is already provided in an object and/or language that individuals represented in the materials were known to use. We strive to use contemporaneous language to reflect how individuals may have identified at the time and in the contexts in which materials were produced. As a result, some of the terms on the DTA may be experienced as outdated, unfamiliar, or offensive.
We strive to favor the names that people within the materials chose to use for themselves. However, other names (e.g., given names, deadnames, nicknames) do appear within the content of some items due to factors such as: 1) uncertainty about individuals’ preferences, which often shift situationally and throughout their lives; 2) the problematic power dynamics within historical materials, which are often authored without the consent or contribution of trans individuals; and, 3) the desire to make items searchable.
In some cases, finding aids or item-level records contributed by other institutions, which may have been created years ago or by individuals unfamiliar with trans history, include or reproduce harmful language. When processing such items, we work to revise, excise, or critically frame inaccurate or offensive descriptions. When possible, we also contact contributing institutions to recommend that they update their records to be more trans-affirming.
For non-textual objects such as photographs, we do not attempt to visually interpret cues related to individuals’ identities (such as gender, race, ethnicity, ability, etc.) given the likelihood of misinterpretation. Researchers should note that this practice causes some themes to be less apparent in search results. Personal identities should not be presumed about any individuals in our collections, especially whether a not a person identifies as transgender.
Many of the items on our site are also hosted online by the institutions that hold the corresponding physical materials. Whenever possible, we have provided links to the websites of the hosting institutions. If we have omitted those links, it was a result of oversight or because items were processed before public links became available.
We also participated in the creation of the Metadata Best Practices for Trans and Gender Diverse Resources document and highly recommend its implementation!
We strive to make all of our content available to all visitors. Whenever possible, textual materials such as articles, newsletters, and books are uploaded to the DTA as PDFs with optical character recognition (known as OCR) to make them searchable and accessible to screen readers. Auditory materials, including oral histories and sound film, are published with files or links to transcriptions when they have been provided by our collaborators. Visual materials, such as photographs, art, and videos, are often provided with basic descriptions of their content.
Due to our description policies and our limitations as a small team working without in-house access to materials, we are unable to provide detailed alternate text for all visual materials or create our own transcriptions for audio. In some cases, host institutions may offer such information upon request. If there are additional ways we can support access to materials, please feel free to contact us.