The history of marginalized communities is elusive, imperiled and best preserved by the community itself. The goal of the Louise Lawrence Transgender Archive (LLTA) is to increase the understanding transgender people and encourage new scholarship by making transgender historical materials available to students, scholars and the public.
The archive is named in honor of Northern California transgender pioneer Louise Lawrence, who began living full-time as a woman in 1942, first in the Berkeley, CA, then San Francisco. She, along with Virginia Prince and others, published the first incarnation of Transvestia in 1952. Louise’s address book was the initial subscription list and she was instrumental in developing the trans community’s connection to pioneering sex researchers such as Alfred Kinsey and Harry Benjamin.
We are remodeling an existing structure to create a 250 square foot space in Vallejo, CA, with controlled temperature, relative humidity and air quality. The LLTA will have UV filters on all windows to protect the holdings from the damaging effects of ultraviolet exposure. We are also exploring renewable energy sources to lower operating costs. Many items are 100 years old or more and warrant meticulous care.
Donate to the LLTA
Your donation to the construction and maintenance of the LLTA is tax deductible thanks to our partnership with the GLBT Historical Society of San Francisco. Please help us carry out our mission to preserve our transgender history.
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We recently attended the Frameline Premiere of The Death and Life of Marsha P Johnson. As archivists we were blown away by the research the filmmakers did and the archival gems they unearthed. They uncovered unseen footage of Marsha and Sylvia Rivera, including the full speech/rant that Sylvia gave at the 1973 NY gay freedom …
Founder and director of Louise Lawrence Transgender Archive
For over 35 years I have been fascinated by the history of my trans community, the people who formed it and those who preceded it. The first transgender magazine I bought was the premiere issue of Female Mimics International in 1979. By the early 1990s I had accumulated a rich trove of transgender history, information that many in the community wanted to see. I began to share the archive by writing history columns for trans community publications such as Lady Like, Transgender Community News and Transgender Tapestry. Many of these articles are available at the Transgender Forum archive www.tgforum.com. I have presented lectures on trans history at conferences such as the 2nd International Congress on Crossdressing, Sex and Gender, California Dreamin’, and Fantasia Fair (2014). By 2000, scholars of transgender history had begun requesting access to my archive because of its depth and the rarity of its holdings.
The LOUISE LAWRENCE TRANSGENDER ARCHIVE is the next logical step, a community-based institution that will make this important collection available to scholars and the public. The history of marginalized communities is elusive, imperiled and best preserved by the community itself. The LLTA will preserve transgender history and encourage its study.
Ms. BOB DAVIS, LLTA founder & director, served two terms on the board of GLBT Historical Society, one as secretary. She presented her lecture, “Do the Clothes Fit? – Searching for Trans Identity in Archival Images of Cross-dressing,” at Moving Trans History Forward, the world’s first academic conference on transgender history (2014), at the University of Victoria, BC. Ms. Bob delivered the opening keynote at the 40th annual Fantasia Fair (2015), the world’s longest running, annual transgender event. Her article, “Using Archives to Identify the Trans* Women of Casa Susanna,” appeared in Transgender Studies Quarterly’s “Archives & Archiving” issue (2015), Duke University Press. She teaches music at City College of San Francisco.
LLTA Creative Director
Robyn Adams does graphic design, web design and illustration through her studio SecretFanBase.com in Oakland, CA. She created the title artwork for the gender non-binary documentary Three To Infinity: Beyond Two Genders. She handles print and web design and social media marketing for the archive and she created our initial Indiegogo Campaign. She has known Ms. Bob since they met in the early 1990s drag scene in San Francisco and even has a few pieces in the archive as the creator of the comic book Homozone5 and the editor of the zine Venus Castina. This is her message from Transgender Day of Visibility 2017 on why the archive matters to her.