Review: Museum of Transology – a humbling display of Brighton’s transgender history

By Jonathan Chadwick

The Museum of Transology at the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery is a thought-provoking collection of artefacts chronicling the transition of members of the local trans community.

The often graphic collection helps the visitor understand the journey of transgender people undergoing physical surgery, from old clothes to penis casts, packets of medication, and even written stories and diary entries.

Also included are a cardboard jacket made from packaging of prescriptive drugs, soft toys, and even seemingly random objects like a DVD of the old BBC TV series from the 1990s, 2 Point 4 Children.

The latter was contributed to the exhibition by a transgender person who had identified it as a source of comfort during their transition. Being a show that I used to watch as a child, it immediately made me identify with its donor.

Honest, engaging and clinical

But the part of the exhibition that captured my attention the most is a group of items from EJ Scott, fashion historian, trans activist – and transgender male.

His Hospital Collection of trinkets and mementos from his transition is the stand-out feature of the exhibition. The collection includes an NHS hospital towel, still blood-stained from his operation, and an It’s a Boy! balloon gifted by a friend upon completion of surgery.

Most incredibly though are his tattooed breasts preserved in formaldehyde. I stared at them for a good five minutes straight – not for any weird reason, but because it is a perfectly preserved snapshot of a former life.

The exhibition was different to what I was expecting – very honest, engaging, and inevitably quite clinical. For that reason, if you are particularly squeamish, it might be difficult viewing in places.

But if you have an open mind and are willing to gain a better understanding of the difficulties often involved in being born in the wrong body, don’t miss it.

The Museum of Transology continues at the Brighton Museum until November 2019.

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