LGBT+ rights advocate and transgender man Ryan Sallans, author of The Second Son, a memoir of his transition experience, retold his journey at Kean's Miron Student Center on Tuesday, October 10.
In his presentation, Scouting the Unknown, Sallans provided an overview of gender expression and sexual orientation, and assured students and other members of the Kean community in attendance that no question would be off limits.
“I believe sharing stories saves lives and allows people to open their hearts, so we can connect with one another,” he said.
In his speech, Sallans recounted his life story. Born a girl, he first thought that he was different from his mother and sisters as young as age two, and by age seven, was wishing that he had been born a boy. Living a life that didn’t match his identity led to an eating disorder.
“I connected femininity with being skinny and became anorexic,” he said. “Although it nearly killed me, it also saved my life because it forced me to go into therapy.”
The book Body Alchemy by Loren Cameron also played a significant role in allowing Sallans to slowly accept himself.
“I had my mirror and finally understood I was a transgender man,” he said.
Sallans’ presentation was sponsored by the student groups Equality for All and PRIDE, as well as the Kean University Office of Counseling and Disability Services and Student Government.
“It can be hard for students to come out and be themselves. I believe that after Ryan shared his story and experiences, students left feeling more comfortable in who they are,” said Katherine Owens, a junior communication major and coordinator on the P.U.L.S.E. Programming Committee. “Ryan opened a door to having more conversations and bringing more awareness to gender expression and sexual orientation, something that is needed on every college campus and throughout society.”
After his presentation, Sallans met informally with students in the Miron Student Center’s Greek Lounge, answering their questions, and encouraging activism on LGBT+ issues.
“We are not just one identity. We are more complex than that. Honor your truths. It is so powerful to honor who we are and hope the people around us can change to be able to see our authentic selves. If someone says something hateful to you, it's not about you. It’s about them and their own fear,” Sallans said before thanking the students for attending.