Ryan Sallans, an author and national speaker, came to campus March 19 to share his story of transitioning from female to male. Before Sallans’ presentation, psychology professor Sherri Palmer and members of PRISM spoke with Sallans about why his story is important to be told.
For PRISM, Truman State’s pride alliance group, Sallans’ presentation marked the close of their Bashing the Binary Week, a week dedicated to promoting awareness of the gender spectrum and discrimination gender minorities face.
“Having Ryan Sallans present is a way to bring conversation to campus, and open people’s eyes to social norms they may not typically question,” says sophomore Mica Smith, PRISM’s Trans+ Tuesday Leader
PRISM Adviser Palmer says bringing representation to campus is particularly important because Truman’s LGBT community is disproportionately large for the size of the campus and town, specifically in transgender individuals. It is difficult to state an exact number, as Palmer says the University doesn’t track such information, and students are not asked about sexual orientation or gender identity.
Palmer says despite increasing acceptance of this community, people still think it’s okay to bash on LGBT individuals. She says when people see Sallans, however, they think of him as friendly, open, and intelligent, and she says it helps to remove the negative stereotypes people may have of transgender individuals.
Sallans first spoke at Truman three years ago. He says it was a success as there was a respectful and listening audience. This time, the public was invited and security was provided because people in Kirksville have previously spoken out against transgender individuals. Despite this, Palmer says she would recommend Truman to LGBT students.
“We have an amazing group of supporters,” on campus and in the community, Palmer says.
This time his presentation was called Scouting the Unknown. The performance was atypical because it focused more on his own transition story instead of focusing on defining gender identity and expression. After his presentation, students are allowed to ask questions, and Sallans encourages them to explore the issue further through his story, he says.
One reason Sallans does this is because after 11 years he has found that personal storytelling has the largest impact,” he says.
Sallans originally began telling his story and being an activist because it was a personal issue, but when he saw the injustice done to other people, he says it made him angry, but also gave him purpose. Through this Sallans says he realized he could help create safer environments for other people, in hopes that they don’t have to go through the same struggles that he did.