Photographs from the “Hall of Mirrors”, the dance studio on Östgötagatan where Transvestia had its parties in 1965–1966. Left, Eva-Lisa standing to the far right.

Dear Eva-Lisa

Reading by Sam Hultin and members of Stockholm’s trans* community

30.7 2019


When Eva-Lisa Bengtson opened Sweden’s first club for trans* people in 1964, she got mail. Piles of letters came from trans* people who shared their inner thoughts. Today, they voice a history that is unknown to most people. Welcome to a reading of letters about love, solidarity and fighting prejudices together. The reading is part of the artist Sam Hultin’s project “Eva-Lisa’s Monument”.

Eva-Lisa Bengtson opened Sweden’s first club for trans* people

Eva-Lisa Bengtson was a dedicated activist in the feminist and lesbian movement, and in the early trans* movement. In 1964, she started Transvestia, the first club for trans* people in Sweden, organising meetings from 1965 in a venue on Östgötagatan in Stockholm. She was also involved in Lesbisk front in the 1970s and 80s, and one of the original founders of the women’s house Kvinnohuset on Snickarbacken. Eva-Lisa later got involved in the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans* and Queer Rights (RFSL) in Stockholm, and the patient rights organisation Benjamin, and was a regular at clubs such as Lash, Wish and Golden Ladies.

Stories about the situation for norm-breaking communities

Eva-Lisa’s story is important, because it is part of a relatively undocumented history and largely concerns the conditions for norm-breaking communities. Eva-Lisa eventually lost her position in several of the movements she had worked for. She did not fit into the trans movement when it excluded transsexuals (and homosexuals) in the late 1960s. The movement was strongly influenced by the transvestite movement in the USA, with its narrow definition of transvestism.

Later, she was banned from Kvinnohuset in Stockholm, since parts of the feminist movement of the 1990s decided to exclude trans women. But Eva-Lisa’s story also includes people and contexts that have opened up to wider inclusion. Where friendship, love, solidarity and collective struggles against prejudice and repression have dominated over ignorance and fear of losing privileges.

The Eva-Lisa’s Monument Project

The “Dear Eva-Lisa” reading is part of the artist Sam Hultin’s project “Eva-Lisa’s Monument”, highlighting Eva-Lisa’s pioneer work within the queer and feminist movement. The second part of the project is a city walk on Södermalm in Stockholm, organised by The Stockholm Museum of Women’s history, where Hultin takes us to several of the places that played important parts in Eva-Lisa’s life. Lesbisk front’s office on Hallandsgatan, Kvinnohuset on Blekingegatan, Jerry’s damklubb on Folkungagatan, the Netherlands Embassy on Götgatan, and Transvestia on Östgötagatan are a few of the stops on the way.

The walk is organised by the Stockholm Museum of Women’s History and will take place for the first time on 1 August, at 7 pm.

Eva-Lisa’s archives are managed by the artist Sam Hultin

Since the passing of Eva-Lisa in 2018, her unique archives of photos, letters, books, minutes, member letters and magazines are managed by Sam Hultin. The intention is that the archive will be made accessible for research purposes through QRAB – The Archives and Library of the Queer Movement in Gothenburg.

About Sam Hultin

Sam Hultin, born in 1982, is an artist whose practice is often performance- and video-based, exploring queer historiography and the idea of art as proposals for possible futures. Sam’s work often links personal stories to overarching social and political structures.

Contact: Karin Malmquist, curator