In the upcoming book, Second Son: Transitioning Toward my Destiny, Love and Life,
author Ryan Sallans discusses transitioning and the struggles he encountered as an out Midwestern transman.
Ryan, who began his transition from female-to-male in 2005, travels the nation speaking to professionals, college audiences, and youth. Ryan has been featured in magazines around the world. He shares his story about his struggle with an eating disorder and how he came to terms with his gender identity. In addition to writing “Second Son: Transitioning Toward my Destiny, Love and Life,” Ryans work has been featured in Closer Magazine, the Salina Journal,The Reade and News Net Nebraska.
Joe: “I understand you started writing “Second Son” about 5 years ago. What made you decide to write a book about your own experiences growing up and as a trans person?”
Ryan: “I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was twelve-years old. I remember pulling out our old typewriter and starting a story that I had titled, The Green Emerald (which was basically a two-page knock off of the movie Romancing the Stone. While in college, I rediscovered my love for writing, and received a BA in Anthropology/English and then went on for a MA in English (before continuing on for another MA in educational psychology). During my six years of studying literature and writing I was always drawn more toward fiction; non-fiction is pretty restrictive, since you are retelling events from your memory. But after I began my transition and started public speaking on the topic, I realized that sharing my story through written-word is just another avenue for educating larger audiences. When the idea first came to my mind, I wanted to have it feel as personal as Loren Cameron’s book, The Body Alchemy, but I also wanted a larger story threaded throughout. I knew my story would be different than a lot that we currently see because I am from the Heartland. Being a guy that lives in Nebraska, the state where Brandon Teena was murdered, I felt that perceptions around Nebraska needed to be changed and Heartland voices needed to be heard.”
Joe: “What was the most challenging part of writing this book?”
Ryan: “There have been several challenges, but the most challenging is writing about events that happened where I was in the most despair. My eating disorder, my relationship with my parents and my relationship with my ex-girlfriend were hard to retell, partly because it brought up a lot of feelings I haven’t had in a while, and also because I’m sharing very intimate details that I hope aren’t misconstrued by readers.”
Joe “What, so far, has been the most rewarding part of writing this book?”
Ryan: “After I signed on with a publisher, I finally felt I had permission to close myself off from everything and just write. One of the reasons it took me so long to complete the book is because I was always working two or three jobs to support my family, and also pay off all of my medical debt. Being able to be in a space where I didn’t feel guilty for doing the one thing I love the most (being disconnected from everything, but the computer screen and the vast emptiness soon to be filled with where my typing took me) is amazing. After I get through this year, I hope to take on a new story and do the same thing.”
Joe: “What message(s) do you hope readers will take away with them after reading this book?”
Ryan: “A message I always share in my presentations is that for anyone, no matter if you are transgender, the biggest challenge we have in life is honoring our truths, even if those truths go against everything we had been raised to believe or understand. I know that my story is my story, I’m not a spokesperson for the transgender community and my experiences look different than others, but I hope that the reader can feel along with me to develop a deeper sense of what it feels like to be utterly alone and scared, and then how empowering it is to push past the fear and toward acceptance.”
Joe: “Finding a publisher can be very challenging for new writers. How did you go about this and what was the experience like?”
Ryan: “The publishing world has taken on so many new forms today, so it is very challenging. I have been very fortunate in life to have found my manger, Rosy, who helped me in reaching out to various publishing companies. I’m very happy with the company we signed on with and am excited to see what the future brings all of us. Working with a publisher, editor, and book designer is a great experience. I kept pinching myself over the course of this past year because everything I had dreamed about while tirelessly scribbling stories on my yellow, legal notepad (knowing they could be torn apart in my writing workshops) has been coming true. I approach nonfiction much like I would a fictional story, I want the readers to feel like they are simply reading a story where they can put themselves in my shoes.”
Joe: What advice would you give to another new writer who is interested in writing and publishing a book?
Ryan: Number one, don’t become discouraged! Number two, don’t over think your story. If writing nonfiction, you need to keep details as true to your memory as possible, but don’t let it keep you from remembering the small things around you, for example, the smell in the air, the feel of the leather couch you are sitting on while being told something that is life changing, or the little wrinkles you’ve never noticed on the face of someone across from you. Number three, read everything you write out loud, either to your dog, cat, loving partner, or friend. Reading out loud will help you catch errors and also notice where wording is choppy or sentences aren’t meshing.
Joe: What upcoming plans are in store for the book (a book tour, community readings, etc.,)?
Ryan: “I have some book signings/readings already planned, people interested can follow me on my book’s website: http://www.secondsonmemoir.com. I plan to pair my book with upcoming presentations that I give at Universities or while training professional staff interested in working with the transgender community. I also hope to bring in an art display of the photographs in the book and all the ones that were cut due to either space or flow.”
Joe: “Now that you are done with the book what is the next step/phase in your career as a writer and diversity trainer?”
Ryan: “I plan to do some more outreach with national organizations and hopefully move into some other modes of educating audiences, like documentaries, etc. I also want to continue reaching out to healthcare agencies seeking help in implementing transgender healthcare services. I have extensive experience in training staff and writing healthcare modules, so I hope to put it to good use and increase the number of providers around the nation serving the LGBQIAP and transgender communities.”
Second Son: Transitioning Toward My Destiny, Love and Life is available for pre-order and will also be available April 2nd, 2012 at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Books-A-Million, Nook and Kindle!
You can catch Ryan reading from his book at Gender Reel’s “Still Coming Out” fundraising party on 3/31 @ Tabu in Philadelphia. This event is being held the weekend of the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference. Time: 10-2 am; Cover: $5 to $10.