Lauren Simkin Berke

Interviewed By Ric Tennenbaum

Lauren Simkin Berke describes their work as an illustrator, animator, artist, and zine creator based in Brooklyn, NY. They walk us through growing up in an unconventional primary school setting, finding community in an anti-oppression college drama troupe at Cornell University and the Art Students' League of New York, as well as their artistic inspirations and hobbies, reflecting on changes in trans and nonbinary identity and terminology over the last ten years. (Summary by Boyda Johnstone.)

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gender nonconforming (01:14)
genderqueer (01:29)
pronouns (01:57)
early childhood (02:17)
Manhattan (02:32)
Episcopal church (03:13)
octopus (04:54)
painting and drawing (05:59)
parents (06:20)
philosophy (06:41)
mother's death (07:03)
suburbs (07:32)
nonhierarchical school (08:21)
unconventional education (08:59)
standardized testing (10:08)
Crete & Thera (11:26)
The Illiad (11:45)
The Day School (12:32)
The Art Students' League (13:19)
artistic community (14:35)
older friends (15:40)
maternal friendships (16:04)
egalitarian family (17:20)
US Copyright Law (18:37)
ceramics classes (20:49)
antisocial childhood (22:47)
M.C. Escher (24:38)
dance & choreography (26:31)
life drawing (27:02)
puberty (28:02)
gymnastics (29:34)
Lucy Maud Montgomery (30:40)
Anne of Green Gables (30:50)
Ursula K. Le Guin (31:54)
maturity (36:03)
Quaker high school (36:30)
meditation (36:40)
divorce (37:30)
subway (38:15)
Gramercy Union Square (38:50)
Lower East Side (39:04)
Cornell University (42:17)
fine arts degree (42:26)
anthropology (42:37)
Risley artistic program house (42:54)
student organizations (43:42)
program transfer (47:20)
children's books (47:29)
humanities program (48:33)
Ithaca NY (49:00)
summer painting program (51:22)
breast reduction (52:07)
clothing production (53:52)
Cornell Design League (53:56)
breast lump (54:57)
double mastectomy (55:16)
male presenting (55:59)
anti-oppression drama troupe (57:24)
reading gender (57:59)
graduate school (01:00:19)
School of Visual Arts program (01:00:27)
9/11 (01:00:29)
Central Park (01:04:16)
The Alien Diaries (01:05:16)
H. R. Giger (01:07:46)
illustration and design (01:12:28)
artistic profession (01:13:08)
custom portraiture (01:13:41)
Fineberg comic (01:14:34)
androgynous characters (01:14:57)
The Boondocks (01:15:03)
genderqueer (01:16:01)
Leslie Feinberg (01:16:24)
Loren Cameron (01:18:20)
Bornstein My New Gender Workbook (01:19:04)
marshmellow peeps (01:21:43)
straight majority (01:22:23)
Christopher street (01:22:42)
coffee shops (01:23:12)
queer environment (01:24:00)
adult straight men (01:26:10)
authenticity (01:27:45)
illustration and design (01:28:42)
Neighborhoodies (01:29:10)
heat press operation (01:29:17)
Fineberg cartoon (01:29:42)
The Onion (01:29:56)
painting (01:30:17)
genderqueer artists (01:30:25)
arts festival (01:31:01)
Jules Rosskam (01:31:44)
Ladyfest East festival (01:32:33)
Morgan stop in Bushwick (01:33:21)
inclusive language (01:34:46)
feminist punk queer music (01:37:19)
apartment problems (01:38:54)
straight queer people (01:41:26)
drinking culture (01:42:10)
Meow Mix bar (01:43:12)
FTM community in NYC (01:44:46)
transmasculinity (01:47:50)
top surgery (01:48:48)
hormones (01:48:54)
surgery (01:49:54)
letter for mental disorder (01:51:30)
therapy (01:51:41)
Canadian drugs (01:52:11)
dying mother (01:52:32)
relationship with father (01:53:43)
supportive parents (01:53:54)
art gallery solo show (01:57:25)
Elsewhere art space North Carolina (01:57:52)
productive play (02:00:39)
multiple projects (02:01:35)
frame animation (02:01:54)
GIF creation (02:02:13)
stop animation (02:02:39)
puppet building (02:02:53)
social media engagement (02:03:40)
bathroom activism (02:04:23)
Resist publication (02:04:49)
trans identity politics (02:11:39)
gender (02:12:14)
androgynous girls (02:12:42)
Portraits of My Mother show (02:14:32)
Virginia Quarterly Review (02:15:30)
lessons from mother (02:16:13)
found photographs (02:18:41)
ethnographic study (02:20:18)
mythology of family (02:20:25)
baking (02:21:41)
merchandise (02:22:19)
Columbia Waterfront District BK (02:22:24)
keyrings (02:23:45)
Williamsburg (02:23:57)
gentrification (02:24:13)
gender performance (02:27:45)
parental separation (02:30:15)
love (02:31:03)


Read transcript.

Interview Data

Date of Interview
June 27, 2017
Location of Interview
Brooklyn, New York
Place of birth
Bronx, New York
Birth Year
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About This Collection

NYC Trans Oral History Project

NYPL's Community Oral History Project is teaming up with the NYC Trans Oral History Project to collect, preserve, and share oral histories from our city's transgender and gender non-conforming communities. 

We'll be training a community corps of interviewers to collect these largely undocumented oral histories in order to build a lasting and expansive archive on NYC transgender experiences.

About the NYC Trans Oral History Project:

We are a collective, community archive working to document transgender resistance and resilience in New York City. We work to confront the erasure of trans lives and to record diverse histories of gender as intersecting with race and racism, poverty, dis/ability, aging, housing migration, sexism, and the AIDS crisis. 

We are inspired by the public history activism of the ACT UP oral history project to build knowledge as a part of our anti-oppression work. We believe oral history is a powerful part of social justice work, and that building an alternative archive of transgender histories can transform our organizing for transgender liberation. 

You can listen to interviews, search interviews tags (like #genderfluidity #self-knowledge #gentrification and #queerfamily), and soon read transcripts. We hope the interviews and tags will preserve and proliferate new knowledges about trans and gender non-conforming experiences.

Content warning: Many of the interviews here include personal accounts of violence, sexual assault, abuse as children, or trauma.