Transgender author, speaker, and artist Dylan Scholinski spoke to a crowd of University students, faculty, and members of the community about the obstacles and discrimination he has encountered throughout his life in Pollak Theatre on Thursday, March 26.
Scholinski, born Daphne Scholinski, was in a mental hospital from ages 15 to 18 after being diagnosed as an “inappropriate female.” Dylan describes his experiences within his book The Last Time I Wore a Dress: A Memoir in which he read specific passages from as a part of his presentation.
Nancy Mezey, Associate Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, offered a definition of transgender. “Transgender people tend to be people who have transitioned from one gender to another through an operation or through hormones. There is a whole variety of people who fit into that category of transgender.”
Scholinski described how the people around him had a hard time accepting his change, “There wasn’t anything wrong with me, it was more about making others more comfortable with me,” he said. In college, “It was really hard for some people to understand the concept of something other than the binary, where you have to be one or the other and you can’t be two different identities at the same time,” he continued.
Mezey discussed the discrimination and judgment transgender people face in their everyday lives. “Every person wants to be treated with dignity. Gender is one of the big blueprints in life that we look at. When we look at someone we think about whether they are male or female and decide how to interact with him or her,” she said.
“His presentation made me think about how much we categorize people regarding their gender,” said Audrey Williamson, Instructor of Political Science and Sociology. “For so long it has been male or female, we need to remember we are a human race. We need to naturally accept people for who they are,” Williamson continued.
“I hope students gain a greater awareness of the issues that transgender people face in the US. I want them to understand the history of the issues they have faced because I don’t think many students are aware of what people like Dylan go through,” said Johanna Foster, Professor of political science and sociology.
The speaker advised students who are thinking about transitioning by saying, “I am proud of you for even having the thought. It is a beautiful thing to discover yourself. Make sure to look for those people that accept you because you don’t deserve to be alone. Never isolate yourself,“ he explained. He also described the importance of preparing tactics for coming out and expressed the importance of self-love.
Scholinski spoke about how art has been an outlet for him since he was a child and how he used it as a survival strategy when he was in the mental hospital. As a result, he created Sent(a)mental Studios where the Haven Youth Project is open to children and adolescents of all ages for free. According to the official website, “Sent(a)mental studios works to help facilitate creative alternatives to suicide.” Scholinski explained that it is a safe place where “Kids are able to come in shame free and learn how they make marks, not how everyone expects them to make marks.”
Nicholas VanDaley, junior sociology and anthropology student and secretary of All Lifestyles Included (ALI) who attended the event expressed his thoughts on the art studio, “I thought his presentation was amazing. The most compelling aspect of his presentation was his focus on helping children. He helps all children at risk, not just children who identify as LGBTQ. His open door policy for children to come in and have a therapeutic experience though art, for free, is a wonderful thing.”
There is currently an art exhibit in the Pollak Gallery that includes both Scholinski’s art and examples of youth pieces from the “lead with your heat’ workshop. The university’s official website describes the workshop, which is a part of the speaker’s Haven Youth Project, “The idea is to use the image of the heart as a template to fill and show how your heart feels on the inside and to use the space outside of the heart to show what is affecting and influencing it.” The exhibit will be on display until April 10.
In addition to talking about his struggles, Scholinski spoke about his transition in general and how he has been treated differently since becoming a man. “I certainly feel privileged going from female to male gender. People now listen to me more and it has been easier for me socially,” he said.
Mezey also offered insight on the difference between transitions, “It is easier for women to transition to men than it is for men to transition to women because you gain male privileged and physically it is easier.”
One of the main challenges currently being addressed is the issue of restrooms.
According to Scholinski, it is often uncomfortable for transgender people to decide which public bathroom to use and it can often lead to anxiety throughout the day. He urged people living in privilege to start advocating for gender-neutral bathrooms.
“A huge gender issue that we have tried to address on campus is the issue of the bathroom. On campus we have tried to create some gender-neutral bathrooms. It is one of the biggest discomforts that transgender people talk about,” explained Mezey.
His presentation opened discussio regarding how Monmouth has responded to the transgender movement. “Monmouth needs a more diverse voice. For a world-renowned transgender rights activist to speak here is a tremendous step in the right direction. Not to mention, Monmouth has a relatively small transgender community. Hopefully Dylan speaking here shows anybody struggling that our university is trying to be more inclusive and that our campus is a safe place for them,” said VanDaley.
Mezey explained how the university has been progressive with its curriculum, social activities, and human resources. “We have developed ways in which all people can feel comfortable here. We are not 100 percent there but we are definitely cognitive of the issues involved and trying to make things better,” she explained.
“I absolutely do think the university has been accepting and helpful to the transgender community,” expressed Williamson. “We are further ahead when it comes to understanding different ways sexual identity is expressed. Both the students and faculty are ahead and I applaud them for that,” she continued.
“I think that Dylan’s story is compelling and inspiring. He was able to not only survive the four years or so in the psychiatric institutions but he was able to come away from that with love for himself and forgiveness for his family and also with a wonderful art that he has been able to use to help other young people to survive that. He is the kind of person Monmouth should welcome,” said Foster.
Scholinski embraced anyone with an interest in Sent(a)mental Studios and urged people to reach out to him. More information and contact resources can be found at www.dylanscholinski.com or at www.sentamentalstudios.com.