I’ve been fortunate to know some remarkable people since I began my transition over 20 years ago. One of them is Dr. Aaron Devor, who has been doing unsung but indispensable work for years managing the world’s foremost transgender archives. He is very fortunate to call home the University of Victoria, British Columbia’s hidden gem sitting on Vancouver Island, itself one of the most beautiful places in the world. This public university is rated by the prestigious Times Higher Education World University Rankings as in the top 1 percent of universities in the world.
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly to some, UVic has become a world-class center for transgender research, largely due to the vision and hard work of Dr. Devor. Aaron is a world-renowned researcher in sociology, one of the founders of transgender studies, a former Dean of Graduate Studies, an out trans man, and the founder and Academic Director of the world’s largest transgender archives.
The Transgender Archives at the University of Victoria is committed to the preservation of the history of pioneering activists, community leaders, and researchers who have contributed to the betterment of transgender people anywhere in the world. The UVic Transgender Archives began actively acquiring documents, rare publications, and memorabilia of persons and organizations associated with transgender activism in 2007. I was fortunate to be present when Aaron officially announced the Archives at the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) meetings in Atlanta in September 2011. The collection includes more than 600 books on transgender topics, more than 500 transgender newsletters from around the world (including a full run of the pathbreaking Transvestia, 1960-86), and personal papers and memorabilia of transgender pioneers.
The archives began with the generous donation of the entire contents of the Rikki Swin Institute, which opened in Chicago in 2001, and was donated to UVic in 2007. The Rikki Swin collection includes the personal papers of Virginia Prince, one of the founders of transgender activism; 20 years of history of Fantasia Fair, the longest-running transgender convention (38 years this October); key documents from activist Ari Kane; and papers from the founders of the International Foundation for Gender Education (IFGE), Merissa Sherrill Lynn and Betty Ann Lind.
Other major collections include the personal papers of transgender pioneer, philanthropist, and activist Reed Erickson, founder of the Erickson Educational Foundation; and the entire University of Ulster Transgender Archives, chronicling more than 25 years of UK trans history and activism, which is on its way to UVic right now. There are also many smaller collections already in the Archives, and several more massive and historically significant collections that have been promised but can’t yet be publicly named. The Transgender Archives at the University of Victoria is open to the public, and content is being put online, as funds allow. I’m honored to have been asked to bequeath my personal papers to the archives. (If you have your own collections stashed away, they’d love to hear from you. You can reach Aaron Devor at email@example.com.)