Filmmaker and writer Jason Barker and director Krishna Istha have partnered with other trans and non-binary creatives and young people as well as academic researchers to create an exciting new podcast, Adventures in Time and Gender, which unveils important milestones of transgender history.

Adventures in Time and Gender is a light and quirky drama in which nothing is taboo, and gender, science and history are playfully questioned. Listeners are invited to join a talking suitcase and their curious non-binary companion on a moving odyssey through time and space to uncover transgender history.

This creative project unveils trans history by exploring the interdisciplinary dimensions of late 19th- and early 20th-century sexology – the scientific and medical study of gender and sexuality – within Western Europe and North America. It draws on research conducted by academics at the Universities of Exeter and Portsmouth as well as workshops with young trans and gender diverse people run in collaboration with the trans charity Gendered Intelligence. Originally created to be a live performance, this podcast examines the ways in which sexologists used diagnostic labels and categories and developed understandings of what would nowadays be considered as trans and/or queer identities.

Adventures in Time and Gender was made by an all-trans and non-binary creative team, led by Filmmaker and Writer Jason Barker (A Deal With The Universe) and Director and Comedian Krishna Istha. An all-star team of trans and non-binary performers, including Travis Alabanza (Burgerz), Luke Tyler Cunningham (I May Destroy You), Tallulah Haddon (Kiss Me First/Black Mirror Netflix), Mzz Kimberley (The Finellis), Emma Frankland (We Dig), have united to create this new drama podcast to showcase the history of sexual science and queer history. The drama features sound design by Jo Jackson and music by The Mollusc Dimension.

Artwork by Holly James Johnston, Henri T, Shanti Freed, and Jo Frost Flowers.

Jason Barker, the writer of Adventures in Time and Gender, said: “Everyone has been trying to find ways to connect during this pandemic. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to connect online with a group of trans and gender diverse young writers to work on something as positive and creative as our podcast script. It was a powerful experience for all of us, to find connections to trans people of the past. Giving voices to those characters and then having them brought to life by the performers was our way of honouring our shared history.”

The two-year collaboration reveals that trans people have always existed, and demonstrates that trans and queer voices have often been erased. It shows that labels to describe gender and sexual identities have changed over time, and highlights the role played by science and medicine in shaping gender and sexuality.

Available now via http://adventuresintimeandgender.org/, available internationally on Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts and Spotify, the podcast aims to educate listeners by presenting an engaging exploration of trans history. The podcast begins with a young non-binary person on a quest to uncover transgender history. 

Along the way, they find a talking suitcase full of historical fragments which hint at a past largely unknown. Following these leads, and through the magic of time travel, the narrator discovers a rich legacy of trans experiences that includes encounters in queer bars in 1920s Berlin, conversations on the streets of 18th century London and journeys into the deepest recesses of history. 

The young narrator also explores how trans experiences have been framed by encounters with medicine and science as they encounter famous sex researchers, such as Magnus Hirschfeld or Alfred Kinsey, in their clinics, or in Wetherspoons in 21st century Croydon.

In collaboration with the trans charity Gendered Intelligence and academics from the Universities of Exeter and Portsmouth, the project invited groups of young trans and gender diverse people to take part in historical workshops, conduct oral history research, and participate in a writers’ room in order to gather the relevant and much needed research to execute this historical trans project. On the basis of a wide range of historical material, from autobiographical accounts of people transitioning at the start of the twentieth century to photos from inside the first Institute for Sexual Science in 1920s and 30s Berlin, the project team explored the history of sex and gender to shape Jason Barker’s interpretation of the often undiscovered trans archive.

CEO of Gendered Intelligence, Dr Jay Stewart said: “For our young members at Gendered Intelligence to collaborate with such a range of talented and creative trans and non-binary professionals provides an important and life changing experience for them. What’s more, through working with the academics and learning that trans people have always been here, this provides the foundation for trans and gender questioning people to find a deep sense of pride in who we are and what we wish to become. This is what Gendered Intelligence is all about.”.

The project collaborated with They Them Studio to develop and design the website, with original creative contributions from Soofiya, Mud Howard, Francis Ray White, Amelia Stubberfield, Laura Bridgeman (Butch Monologues), Kate O’Donnell (Transcreative), E-J Scott (Museum of Transology), Sabah Choudrey, Holly James Johnston, Fox Fisher (My Genderation, My Transsexual Summer) and Juno Roche (Trans Power, Queer Sex, Gender Explorers).

The two-year project was funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Professor Kate Fisher from the University of Exeter said: “It has been a privilege for us to collaborate with such a talented team of creative writers, performers and young people, and witness the inspirational power of history. We are really excited to share our exciting drama podcast, to introduce listeners to so many rich and diverse trans lives and to inspire critical thinking about medical and scientific ideas.”.

Professor Jana Funke from the University of Exeter said: “Adventures in Time and Gender reveals and celebrates the existence of trans people in the past. It uncovers the richness of trans history while also drawing attention to the persistent erasure of trans voices. The drama asks vital questions about how useful it is to have labels to describe gender and sexual identities and who has power and authority when it comes to defining gender and sexuality.”

Adventures in Time and Gender website is now live here.

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