Few academics find themselves at the centre of the modern inclusivity discussion as Aaron Devor has.
Devor, a Saanich resident, is now a year into his post as chair of Transgender Studies at the University of Victoria and was recently honoured by the Canadian Association of University Teachers as the 2017 winner of the Equity Award in Ottawa last week.
It’s the latest piece of recognition for UVic’s Transgender Studies and Devor’s Transgender Archives, a small step in bringing equity to the campus and community. The Transgender Studies position works with activists to explore issues in the lives of trans and gender nonconforming people such as health care, poverty, discrimination and suicide.
“It’s a good start,” Devor said. “UVic is a leader in the transgender area, and in dealing with issues around inclusion, but it hasn’t solved everything, I don’t know of anywhere you could say that.”
Inclusivity is one of those areas where you can never say “We’re done now,” Devor said.
“No one will ever attain total equity for all members of society.’”
Devor’s main project over the years has been the Transgender Archives, which has been based out of UVic Libraries since 2011. It has enough physical literature, some of it dating back 100 years, to line the length of football field with banker boxes.
Last year, UVic and Devor announced the launched of the Transgender Studies in UVic’s Faculty of Social Sciences on a $1 million U.S. donation by the Tawani Foundation (founded by retired Lieut. Col. Jennifer N. Pritzker of the US Army). It’s enough to fund Devor plus a full time staff member and part time employees for five years, while also funding a variety of projects and initiatives, locally and globally.
Being chair has freed Devor up from teaching to do research and create more services and support for transgender people while bringing a higher profile for transgender issues, he said.
The Transgender Archives are the largest collection of original documents by activists and researchers in the world, from 18 countries and in 10 languages. Because the archives are so large only a portion are online, it draws academics and historians from across the globe to UVic.
Devor himself was on the Healthy Saanich LGBTQ subcommitee (which acted for 2016 and left several recommendations with staff) created by Coun. Colin Plant and is currently in a consulting role with the City of Victoria regarding inclusivity. Devor is also consulting with B.C. Corrections about better accommodating transgender inmates.
In March, Transgender Studies will host Moving Trans History Forward conference at UVic. From January to March, UVic’s Legacy Gallery at 630 Yates St. will host Trans Hirstory in 99 Objects: The University of Victoria Transgender Archives meets the Museum of Transgender Hirstory & Art (MOTHA). Devor will speak at the show launch, Saturday, Jan. 13 at 2 p.m.
It is the third iteration in a multi-exhibition, multi-venue project organized by guest curator Chris E. Vargas.