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TransSanAntonian: Examining Identities and Gender Fluidity in the Archives is San Antonio’s first exhibition that explores identities and appearance across the gender spectrum through the lens of archival materials housed at UTSA Libraries Special Collections. San Antonio and South Texas have a rich history of LGBTQ+ culture. Photographs, print materials, textiles, video, and ephemera reveal diverse interpretations of what it means to be lesbian, gay, Trans, and queer in Texas. By examining past lives, events, and places, we contemplate how contemporary concepts and perceptions of gender, identity, and appearance are rooted in the historical fabric of emerging queer culture.

The exhibition features eight collections spanning the years 1963 through 2017. TransSanAntonian showcases collections that uncover how lesbians, gays, and trans persons claimed safe spaces in which they affirmed queer identities, experimented with transgressive performance, and resisted outside attempts to disrupt the sanctuaries they so carefully constructed.

Drag shows, gay bars, and gender bending performances—staples of queer culture—are depicted in the many photographs on display. The juxtaposition of t-shirts from the 1970s and 80s with recent activist signs created by students, remind us that members of the LGBTQ+ community continue to demand equal rights and acceptance. Digital records from the Community Alliance for a United San Antonio (CAUSA) chronicle San Antonio’s battle to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and veteran status.

The terms transgender and queer are used as umbrella terms that represent a diverse array identities, expressions, and experiences that deviate from social and cultural norms. Other terms include crossdresser, drag, transvestite, and transsexual which depict variant stages of gender fluidity and expression. The term LGBTQ+ often does not apply when describing archival objects created before widespread use of the acronym.

Organized for the McNay Art Museum by Melissa Gohlke, Assistant Archivist and Katie Rojas, Manuscripts Archivist for UTSA Libraries Special Collections.

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