Kean University tries to enlighten its students with events and discussions on campus. Whether it is a global phenomenon or not, Kean strives to teach its students. Ryan Sallans, a transgender speaker, consultant and author of the book Second Son, gave a presentation titled "Scouting the Unknown", Tuesday Oct. 10 from 2 to 4:15 p.m. at the Miron Student Center (MSC) Little Theatre.
Sallans has been a transgender speaker on over 60 colleges and universities for the past 12 years across the nation.
"Scouting the Unknown" was a presentation and discussion about identity, gender expression and sexual orientation. Sallans used humor and story-telling to get his message across to the audience.
The event started with a thanks to Equality for All (EFA), Pride, Office for Counseling and Disability Services (OFDS) and Student Government. Sallans then came up to the front and addressed that the Little Theatre would be a safe space for all to ask questions and to speak about pressing issues.
"I believe that sharing stories saves lives and allows people to open up their hearts, because when we talk about terminology that's all we see and we see another person in front of us and we hear their story we connect with them," Sallans explained. "I have two disclaimers when doing this. One is I am not the spokesperson for the transgender community. I am simply just sharing my story. The second disclaimer is if you have questions, feel free to ask," Sallans said.
He then put up a slide explaining the difference between sex, gender, gender expression and sexual orientation. Sex is the anatomy and biological aspect of a person, gender is our psychological identification, gender expression is the communication of gender, and sexual orientation is the romantic and affectionate response we have to each other.
"This is called the continuum of sex and gender over the past couple of years and it breaks down the differences between sex, gender, gender identity/expression and sexual orientation. In our society we often interchange sex and gender as if they're the same. Gender has two tiers. One is gender identity, which is in our brain, which is psychological. And two, gender expression is the way we communicate," Sallans mentioned. "When pregnancy is relevant the first thing people ask is, 'Is it a boy or a girl?' We live in a binary society where we recognize male and female."
Sallans spoke of his struggles of romance, self acceptance, family and outside relationships and the physical and emotional paths he experienced during his journey. His goal was to help the Kean community understand acceptance of themselves and others no matter what the circumstance.
"I was born and assigned a female but not intersex, and at the age of 25 I understood my gender identity, and I was allowed to use hormones and surgeries to align my body with my brain. When you look at sexual orientation, you can not convert people to being heterosexual who are apart of the LGBTQ community. That's called conversion therapy and that is highly unethical."
Advice that Sallans had for the audience:
- "A trans identity is an aspect of a person."
- "Honor your truths. If anyone says anything hateful to you, it's not about you it's about them."
"Education and information was controlled and limited for many people growing up. Now with the internet, we have instant access to the information, book, support groups, and other people's stories. So we are able to learn more beyond what education, institutions and home environments allowed when we were younger," Sallans said. "We have cultures in the world that recognize seven genders even five. We are simply catching up to expanding what's been repressed in our society."
Sallans then showed a video of him before his transition getting his breasts removed and the effect and process that he, his family and his ex-girlfriend went through. His parents and sister were troubled and not very accepting with his transition. By him sharing his story, he was able to impact the audience by fixing their awareness of trans issues and issues as a whole in the LGBTQ community.
This transition into awareness allowed the audience to be comfortable as they asked questions about sexuality and how to approach someone when they are unsure of their pronouns/sexuality. The crowd was open and EFA and Pride spoke and explained to the guests that there are outlets at Kean University.
Afterward, Sallans invited the audience to move to the Greek Lounge in MSC to continue the discussions and have an open panel.