Trans Past, Trans Present: The Making Trans Histories Project

Trans people from their teens to their 70s were asked to identify objects of personal importance and to share the objects’ stories. What emerged was a quirky collection that is a testament to the diversity of trans experiences, and which disrupts established (and cis-written) narratives about trans lives. Read the 29 stories below.

About the project

Working with Gender Minorities Aotearoa, Tranzform, and trans members of InsideOUT and Tīwhanawhana, we sought to figure out helpful ways that we, as the national museum of Aotearoa New Zealand, could support trans communities.

Recognising the power of objects to bring history to life and the importance of trans people narrating their own stories, the Trans Past, Trans Present: Making Trans Histories project was born.

In November 2019, trans people were encouraged to bring in objects of personal significance to themselves and write up that object’s story, to preserve them and make them available for all to see and share.

We celebrated the project during Trans Awareness Week, bringing participants and their loved ones together to share their stories in person.


We credit the Museum of Transology as our inspiration and thank them for their dedication to preserving trans stories.

This project would not have been possible without the hard-work, patience, and enthusiasm of Gender Minorities Aotearoa, and in particular GMA’s incredible national co-ordinator, Ahi Wi-Hongi. A huge thank you also to Kay’la Riarn from Tīwhanawhana for being so supportive of younger trans people, and her ability to marshal the troops. To the other facilitators and volunteers who we co-ordinated with to bring this project to life – especially Rosie Leadbitter and Compass Ramsay from InsideOUT, and Sol Marco Duncan and Oscar Upperton from Tranzform – thank you for your time, excitement, and support. 

Last but absolutely not least, an enormous thank you to everyone who participated in this project. Thank you for being so open-hearted and willing to share stories of your lives with us. I can’t tell you how much it means to us, to me, that you have trusted us with preserving and sharing them – and I can’t tell you how much I truly believe it will mean for the trans generations who will follow us.

Will Hansen
Project Co-ordinator, Trans Past, Trans Present: Making Trans Histories

About the objects

The taonga in these photos are for the Making Trans Histories project and are not part of Te Papa’s collection.