Who Am I?

Hacking into the Science Museum

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Huge turn out at the LATES

Wow, well if you were there you will have seen the hoards of people attending last month’s LATES event at the Science Museum. There was a record breaking 6,916 visitors through the door, which was 1,300 higher than any other night. There were also many members of the LGBTQI community attending our tour and performance in the Who Am I? gallery.  Thanks to everyone who attended. We hope that many of you managed to hear at least something from us tour guides. But I don’t think anyone could have missed Mzz Kimberley’s amazing voice!


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LATES at the Science Museum consider What Makes Your Gender?

The Who am I? Gallery in the Science Museum explores the ways in which the world of science and technology enables us to think about humanity, life and who we are.

On Wednesday 26th February, as part of the LATES events, Gendered Intelligence will be hacking into the Science Museum with our interactive tour, musical performance, nail bar and all round showing off of our What makes your gender? display case.

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Hacking into the Science Museum is about interacting with the objects in the Who am I? Gallery, as well as adding new objects to the space, in order to reorient or reinterpret meanings, particularly to do with gender. Our display case aims to demonstrate a shift away from seeing gender simply as a boy/girl binary towards viewing gender as something much more dynamic.

Opening from 6.45pm we will have a Nail Bar and a stall set up, so why don’t you head over to the Who Am I? Gallery to hang out, find out more and – hey why not? – get your nails done.

At 8pm there will be a 35 minute interactive tour where some of the facilitators and young participants of the project will talk about some of the objects, interpretations and games in the gallery before returning to our What Makes Your Gender? display.

As part of the project, the young people collected three oral histories with important members of the trans community. These were equalities campaigner, Christine Burns; arts producer, Serge Nicholson and internationally renowned singer, Mzz Kimberley. Christine Burns will be attending the LATES and there will be a chance to hear about her experience in the project and to ask her questions as part of the tour.

Mzz Kimberley

At 9pm we will be wishing everyone a ‘Happy LGBT History Month’ as our very own Mzz Kimberley, with her powerful belting voice and broad vocal range, is surely set to make some noise!

So why not join us in celebrating this amazing opportunity to engage the wider public (think –3  million people each year visit the Science Museum) with the wonder of gender, and to show that  conforming to societal expectations of being a ‘boy’ or a ‘girl’ is – we think – frankly rather dull.

Oh and look out for the Rainbow flag at the top of the building.

Entry to Lates is free and for ages 18+ only, no prior booking is necessary. Doors open from 18.45 to 22.00.

The What makes your gender? project is part of the All Our Stories Projects and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and The Arts and Humanities Research Council

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How the medical and legal world come together to legitimate our identities

When a person wishes to change their gender identity, this can often involve a lot of documentation. In the ‘What makes your gender?‘ case in the Who Am I? Gallery, there is a bundle of papers which belongs to a young trans man who participated on the project. It includes medical records and letters that stipulate the assessment, diagnosis and treatment processes of transsexualism. There are also legal processes the person needs to go through. Changing your name by Deed Poll is necessary in order to change important identity documents such as Passports.

The legal position in the UK states that a person must be assigned either ‘male’ or ‘female’ at birth by medical practitioners. It is possible to live in a different gender from the one assigned at birth, but in legal terms this currently means you can only go from Male to Female or from Female to Male. In order to reassign your sex that you were assigned at birth, you must by diagnosed as having ‘Gender Dysphoria’. Then you can gain new identity documents such as passport and driving licences.

If you have lived in your gender for two years you can obtain full legal recognition and receive a Gender Recognition Certificate. This issues you a new birth certificate.

Mr, Mrs, Ms, Mx

In October 2011 the UK Deed Poll Service added the honorific ‘Mx’ as an option, alongside ‘Mr’, ‘Mrs’, ‘Miss’ and ‘Ms’. This was for people who do not identify themselves as either ‘male’ or ‘female’ or for those who do not wish to disclose their gender identity. One of our directors at Gendered Intelligence wrote a blog post all about getting Mx as an option for students in Higher Education.

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One of the researchers attached to the project, Sarah Chaney, said:

 I don’t think I’ve ever had the option to put ‘Mx’ on a form. ‘Dr’ seems to be commonly an option though.  I know a lot of people (myself included) who were very excited about getting a PhD because ‘Dr’ is not gender specific.

In 2011 Australia became the first ever government to offer intersex individuals to opt for ‘X’ on their passports as opposed to ‘F’ or ‘M’.

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It’s LGBT History Month, but why do we need to look back?

Young participants walk through the corridors at Blythe House

The ‘Who am I?’ – Hacking into the Science Museum project takes two main heritage focuses aimed at both trans and non-trans audiences. These are firstly to consider a history of science and medicine in relation to transgender heritage and secondly to capture the memories and experiences of older members of the trans community partly in relation to a history of science and medicine. (More on the second one of these later.) But firstly, what even is ‘heritage’? And why do we need it? 

The visibility of trans lives is poor and awareness across the general public regarding trans heritage is imperative. Trans heritage and current experiences of trans lives offers alternative ideas of gender and identity, particularly in relation to a history of medical science. By sharing our stories with the wider public, we can contribute to wider narratives that respond to the question “who am I?”.

The transgender community is thinly spread across regions. Consequently we are highly active on-line and gather across many social media networks. However, despite this, there is very little on-line content dedicated to our heritage. We hope that this website offers an opportunity for trans people to find out about their past, as it pertains to medical science.

Why we need to look back

Exploring our heritage as part of this project for us was not about digging for the truth, but about asking questions.  By looking back  we can focus on the mal treatment and the values that pertained from the turn of the 19th Century and we can consider what has shifted and changed, but also what is still current today because of that past.  We can’t conceive of gender variance today without considering a history of psychiatry for instance and without the establishment of endocrinology administering hormones would not be available today.

History is as much about the present as the past, because we interpret the past through the present, through our current values and ideas. Because of this, when we do look back we can see things differently.  Today people do regard gender as something more flexible, complex and dynamic. We can see that by not conforming to gender norms or gender stereotypes this does not make a person a ‘deviant’; such acts are no longer deemed as criminal nor pathological the way they were in the past.