NYC TOHP – Frequently Asked Questions

 

1) I’m interested in getting involved with the project! How can I do that?

 

2) I’m cis, I want to support the project as an ally, and I’m not sure it’s appropriate for me to interview trans people. What else can I do?

 

3) I’d like to volunteer as an interviewer, but I don’t know any trans people to interview. Can you match me up with a narrator?

 

4) I’d like to be interviewed (or: I know someone who wants to be interviewed). But I’d prefer to have someone from the project do it, not a friend. Can you do that?

 

5) I’d like to use some of the interview material for a project I’m working on. Can I have permission to do that?

 

6) Can someone from the project make an appearance at my organization (or school, community group, etc)?

 

7) I have a personal collection of physical materials/documents that are pertinent to trans history, and I’d like to donate them to an archive that can preserve them. Can I give my materials to you?

 

 

 

1) I’m interested in getting involved with the project! How can I do that?

 

The NYC TOHP is a volunteer-driven project, and there are a lot of ways to get involved! Here are a few:

  1. The most important contribution is to jump right in as an interviewer, and interview trans people in your life! Most the archive is made up of volunteer interviewers, with no formal oral history background, interviewing people they know. You don’t need our permission to be an interviewer – we have no requirements around who can participate, except that narrators should identify as trans (broadly defined), and have a connection to NYC. Our interviewer handbook provides everything you need to get started. Interviewing someone you already know is a great way to build confidence and skills doing oral history work. Having a prior relationship also tends to produce better interviews—both of you are already comfortable with each other, plus you’re familiar with your narrator’s life, so you have a sense of what to ask about.

  2. If you identify as trans, you can also be interviewed yourself! Like with volunteer interviewing, the best way is to ask someone you know and feel comfortable with to interview you. Keep in mind that the entire field of oral history emerged as a way of preserving the life stories of ordinary folk. So you don’t need celebrity status, or need to feel like you have exceptionally important experiences (though you probably do!) to share your stories. We think all trans lives have intrinsic value and historical significance.

  3. Aside from interviewing, you can also help by summarizing existing interviews on the website and tagging them with key words. Summaries and tags make the interviews searchable, and they’re key in making the archive more accessible. You can tag interviews directly through the archive website; if you’d like to write a summary, please email it to nyctransoralhistory@nypl.org.

  4. If you have more time, you can also transcribe existing interviews. Most our transcriptions are volunteer-generated, done without special transcription software (but if you have software, awesome!) If you want to write transcriptions, drop us a line and we’ll set you up with recordings that need transcribing.

  5. Get involved as a project organizer. We often have events, and we welcome volunteers to help organize, plan, publicize, and run them. This sometimes includes grassroots fundraising when we have the capacity; we also welcome support with grant fundraising. And we almost always need help with web design. Drop us a line if you if you’d like to offer help with programming, fundraising, or our internet presence.

  6. If you are a bilingual Spanish speaker, we’d really love to have you involved! We’re always looking for more interviewers who can conduct interviews in Spanish. We’re also working to translate more of our website content and other project materials. And we have Spanish-language interviews that need to be transcribed and eventually translated.

  7. Finally, use material from the archive for your own work! We created the NYC TOHP because we want trans history to be publicly accessible, and we want the material to be used—for all kinds of projects, be they historical, artistic, educational or otherwise. We try to think expansively about uses of oral history for cultural and political work, and are especially excited to hear about inventive uses of the material. If you have a project in mind and would like to coordinate with us in using archival material, let us know..

 

2) I’m cis, I want to support the project as an ally, and I’m not sure it’s appropriate for me to interview trans people. What else can I do?

 

The NYC Trans Oral History Project is a trans-led collective, and we’re committed to having trans communities take ownership over trans history, at all levels. Most of our interviewers identify as trans, but it’s not a requirement. And cis interviewers have greatly enhanced the archive.

 

Keep in mind: structures of oppression compromise the time people have to donate as volunteers. And setting up and conducting interviews is a labor-intensive process that makes a major contribution to trans history and trans organizing. Volunteering your time and labor as an interviewer can be a valuable role for an ally. (And deferring only to trans people as interviewers puts the onus on us to perform the large majority of the project’s unpaid work.)

 

Some trans people do prefer to be interviewed by trans people. Our advice is: ask! And respect a person’s preferences, but let that be their call. For many, the most important thing is being interviewed by a friend, comrade, or someone they feel close to or appreciated by. Finally, the NYC TOHP centers the intersections of trans issues with other axes of oppression. Especially for those of us who experience multiple kinds of marginalization, being trans is not necessarily the sole defining aspect of our identity. And sharing any aspect of identity, a background, or an experience with a narrator is a great asset to bring to interviewing—whether or not that common denominator is being trans.

 

Aside from interviewing, cis people can also support the project by:

  1. Getting involved in all the non-interviewing work detailed above.

  2. Donating to the project! We are volunteer-run and operate on a small budget. Also, we are indebted to critiques of the Nonprofit Industrial Complex, so the NYC TOHP is not 501(c) organization. As a result, we have limited access to foundation funding. This makes grassroots donations even more crucial to the work we do.

 

3) I’d like to be an interviewer but I don’t know any trans people to interview. Can you match me up with someone to interview?

 

Sharing one’s life story can be a very intimate and vulnerable experience. We do have a group of core interviewers who conduct interviews with people they don’t know personally. But out of respect for narrators, we almost never pair volunteers who are new to the project with narrators they don’t know. If you’re new to interviewing, we generally ask that you start by interviewing someone you have a prior relationship with. That pre-existing relationship is key in allowing you to provide support to your narrator while you’re still developing your skills as an interviewer.

4) I’d like to be interviewed (or: I know someone who wants to be interviewed). But I’d prefer to have someone from the project do it, not a friend. Can you do that?

 

We welcome interviews from all trans people who have a connection to NYC, but we especially prioritize the stories of trans people of color and low-income trans people. Generally, we reserve our limited pool of core interviewers for those communities. If you or a trans person you know identifies as POC and/or low-income, we’d love to include your stories—so please do drop us a line and we’ll discuss matching you up with an interviewer who would be a good fit.

 

5) I’d like to use some of the interview material for a project I’m working on. Can I have permission to do that?

 

The NYC TOHP is committed to public history, and all of the archive is public domain. So anyone can use material from it, and you don’t need our permission to do so. We want trans oral history to be accessible and used for all kinds of work! But we appreciate being told if you plan to use interview material, and appreciate being cited/credited in your work. If you have the capacity, we certainly accept donations for use of material (sort of like how many archives charge permissions fees). But it’s not required.

 

6) Can someone from the project make an appearance at my organization (or school, community group, etc)?

 

Sure! Labor capacity permitting. Project organizers and participants have spoken by invitation on trans history, oral and public history, the politics of archiving, the relationship between trans history and anti-oppression work, and other issues. We also conduct oral history training sessions, and we coordinate Jay Toole’s excellent Queer History Walking Tours. Depending on your institution, we sometimes charge honoraria to support the project and its participants.

 

7) I have a personal collection of physical materials/documents that are pertinent to trans history, and I’d like to donate them to an archive that can preserve them. Can I give my materials to you?

 

That’s a great question! We really, really want to make arrangements so that we can house physical records as well as audio recordings. But that’s still in the works. However, if you have personal collections relevant to trans history, and you’re looking for an archival home for them, please do let us know! We’re trying to gather as much information as we can about what personal collections are out there, and what specific needs there are for a physical archive.