by Téa Anderson
After completing two oral history interviews for the class “Preserving ATX Queer History,” I’m realizing that there’s a lot left to do. Having taken Dr. Gutterman’s class, I feel equipped to ask people better questions and record more moments with queer elders. A lot of college projects get lost in people’s Google Drive, so it felt special to know this will make its way to the Austin History Center, and published in QT Voices, for people to learn from.
When I have read transcripts in the past, I always assumed that what I was reading is exactly how the conversation played out. Now, I have learned that there are a lot of uncertainties when it comes to transcription and it is not a uniform process. One transcriber may omit certain details like a laugh or a cough depending on the moment. It is a subjective process that I had never questioned before learning these new skills.
I had the pleasure of interviewing two activists, Trella Ann Laughlin and Maggie Lea. My first interview was with Trella, and she was delightful. I was so happy she was willing to participate with such short notice. I think the interview went well, but I was not as prepared as I would have liked to have been with Trella. I had not given much thought about the preparation that goes into interviews, so I learned a lot from the experience. Trella was very nice and gave me a lot of information. I didn’t really have to prompt her for longer answers or more details. She is a natural storyteller and was open about her past experiences. I am glad I got to speak with her even if I was a little unprepared. After scheduling difficulties, I was happy to finally be able to meet with Maggie Lea. She thought the project was about the history of the bar she runs, Cheer Up Charlie’s, so she was surprised when I was focusing on her personal experience. Again, I was gifted with a natural storyteller. Maggie gave detailed, thoughtful answers. She was open about a series of difficult topics, and she displayed a lot of courage and grace while doing so. I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation and learned a lot.
Maggie and Trella have had very different lives, yet it was apparent that they both have a passion for serving others. Trella is also older than Maggie, which led to very different perspectives on time and space. Austin was a much different place in the times they both occupied it, and it was so fascinating to hear their stories about it. It felt important to document both of their lives.
Téa Anderson is an undergraduate student in Radio, Television, and Film at the University of Texas at Austin.