When gender binaries are being explored and broken down in cosmopolitan culture – you only need to look at the most recent menswear catwalk shows – the opening of the Museum of Transology is timely. In fact, it’s arguably long overdue: the new exhibition celebrates the history of trans culture and its evolving impact on today’s society. Curated by E-J Scott, the purpose of the exhibition is not only to celebrate trans history and artefacts but also to cast a spotlight on the deliberate omission of trans culture from previous narratives and exhibitions.
From boxes of hormones and a homemade pack and pee, to real post-surgery body parts, the collection presents a comprehensive survey of trans identity, with over 100 objects on display at Fashion Space Gallery. Each object has been crowdsourced, meaning that the display embodies a series of personal stories – a facet highlighted by the fact that every exhibit is accompanied by a note from the contributor about how that object helped them transition. These personal contributions will be juxtaposed by work from fashion designers such as Yves Saint Laurent and Vivienne Westwood, pioneers in explicating gender and identity through clothes.
Fashion has long played a pivotal role in how the self is created. In its embrace of as clothing as art, a means of expression and creativity, it invites a freedom to experiment and play. And yet inherent in this is also the tension of restraint; functional clothing such as the suit has often enforced gender binaries and pre-determined ideas, rather than challenging them. It is thus an exciting time for the industry, in which fashion must step up to the demands of fulfilling its liberal and innovative obligations, while also offering a practical means of execution. As curator E-J Scott notes:
Ultimately, the exhibition is about how every single one of us deserves the freedom to fashion who we want to be. Fashion designers and communicators of the future can – and must – continue to play an increasingly significant role in challenging the constraints of gender stereotypes perpetuated by the industry.
While we certainly haven’t reached the zenith of trans culture’s embrace by the mainstream, this new exhibition is a welcome step in the right direction.