Oral Histories

ORAL HISTORIES

Bon O’Hara, Lead Youth Worker for Gendered Intelligence’s Bristol youth group, talks us through the process and shares some clips from the recordings.

The team spent a long time trying to figure out the best way to conduct this section of the project. To make the interviewees as relaxed and at home as possible. It was decided that the best way to achieve this was to hire a venue which was literally a home. A beautiful house was chosen with many rooms which could be easily turned into interview suites.

After 2 days training on conducting interviews, our young people were ready to go. They were so professional, and I felt really confident that they could hold a calm space for the subjects and create a really safe, special experience.

I had no way of knowing quite how special that weekend would turn out to be. Some young people wanted to interview people like themselves, some found that idea daunting. In the end it happened organically and according to connections people felt, and their energy levels. The atmosphere reminded me of growing up in my big Irish family when something momentous was happening. The food was plentiful, the kettle was perpetually on. It felt as if we were waiting with excitement for the arrival of family we hadn’t seen in years. Most of the guests stayed for several hours after their interview was complete, sitting around the kitchen table drinking tea and talking about life, asking the young people about their hopes, telling them they would be ok. No one was ever quite ready to leave.

After most of the interviews (which were all several hours long) I spent time with the young people, so they could process what they had heard. There were lots of tears for the guests, for old injuries, and new struggles. But also so much hope and awe. In every conversation I heard ‘I can’t believe…’ ‘I wish…’ ‘I hope…’

Many trans young people have never met an ‘older’ (40+) trans person, but here was the living evidence that we grow up, and we don’t just survive – we can thrive. We become partners, grandparents, academics, bricklayers, WI members. And sometimes we don’t thrive, not all the time. But growing older is a gift that a lot of our young people don’t particularly expect to get, so to them it was magic in every form it took.

The overwhelming feeling was of pride and love. Interviewers and interviewees connected, and neither could believe the brilliance and power of the other. A mutual ‘I’m so proud of you’ felt equally by everyone in the room.

BLAIR 1

Coming out and seeking help in the early 1970s. Content note – mention of suicide attempt.

BLAIR 2

A supportive Mum in the 1970s and an example of commonplace employment discrimination of the time.

DAN

Navigating the world as a man can mean learning a whole new set of rules.

FISH

Seeing yourself in your father’s footsteps rather than your mother’s.

JOSEPH

Navigating healthcare as a trans masculine pregnant person. With ovaries.

MICHAEL

Families – coming out to them and the embarrassing silences.

NATIOUS

The man in the Gaberdine mac + Crewe Alexandra = lousy date.

RED

Lasting friendships and struggling to feel comfortable in your body. Content note – mention of mental illness, substance misuse, suicide attempt, medication.

Bon is a proudly neurodivergent Youth Worker, community trainer and facilitator, Forest School Practitioner and home-educating parent.

From 2018 to 2020, Bon was the Lead Youth Worker for Gendered Intelligence’s Bristol youth group, supporting transgender and gender non-conforming young people. They were part of every part of the Adventures in Time and Gender project where GI’s Young People were present to provide support, encouragement, advocacy, dad jokes and snacks.

Bon can currently be found at beanlearning.com