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The Last Time I Wore a Dress
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The Last Time I Wore a Dress

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  1,671 ratings  ·  146 reviews
At fifteen years old, Daphne Scholinski was committed to a mental institution and awarded the dubious diagnosis of "Gender Identity Disorder." She spent three years--and over a million dollars of insurance--"treating" the problem...with makeup lessons and instructions in how to walk like a girl.Daphne's story--which is, sadly, not that unusual--has already received attenti ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published October 1st 1998 by Riverhead Books (first published October 1st 1997)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Toni
Dec 09, 2007 Toni rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: GLBTs enthusiasts, survivors of mental health treatment, teachers and social workers
Shelves: memoirs, queer
An almost unbelievable memoir of a young woman that grows up in an abusive household and ends up institutionalized at the age of 15. Rather than treating her depression, the doctors at the institute do everything they can to "feminize" her. Some of her daily goals include wearing makeup, trying on a blouse, taking an interest in boys, and walking in a more feminine manner. Despite enduring three years of intense therapy she comes to the conclusion that she has Gender Identity Disorder after she ...more
Fabiana Kubke
Daphne (now Dylan) Scholinski relates his experiences (and some medical records) from when he was a teenager in a mental hospital in the USA. Dylan’s story is a heartbreaking warning about families, society and a broken psychiatric profession and their inability to accept (and love) people for who they are. What is more frightening is that his story did not happen that long ago.

Dylan describes his life before, during and after being institutionalised, but most of the book relates his life in th
...more
Lewis
Oct 13, 2007 Lewis rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: gender variant people, mental health workers or advocates
This book is some scary $#*@. It's a lot like Girl, Interrupted, where the "patient" isn't really crazy, but their "treatment" is. In 1981, for a girl who didn't look or act "feminine", the treatment was eye shadow, girly blouses, and feigning crushes on boys. Oh, and hospitalization and anti-psychotics.

The book is engaging and a quick read, alternating between life in the mental ward, actual notes from the author's psychiatric records, and flashbacks to the author's life pre-institutionalizati
...more
Ty
It is important to note that since publishing this book, the author has legally changed his name to Dylan.

Prior to knowing that, this book really confused me because I no longer understood the difference between a masculing/butch woman and a transman since this book made it seem like masculing/butch women could experience dysphoria the way trans men do.

It is the moving story of a psychiatrict survivor who shows it is not a lack of will or effort on a trans person's part to be unable to be cis. T
...more
Colin
I read this on the bus from New York to DC in pretty much one sitting. It's very light reading, a glossing over of a woman's life while she spends time in a mental institution for not being feminine enough. It's got a nice list of transgender resources in the back in case you're interested in learning more.

That said, if you read this don't expect to be blown away. It reminds me of that lady who, despite being from the suburbs, wrote her 'memoir' of growing up in South Central LA, only to have h
...more
jo
Jan 06, 2009 jo rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people interested in mental health, kids, and queer issues
just reread this for my class. there are so many issues this book brings up, it's hard to do justice to all of them. first of all, the devastating consequences of parental neglect and parental abuse. secondly, how abused kids can and often do develop an amazing tenderness and capacity for love that makes them treasures of comfort and light to others. then, how abuse breeds abuse, how trauma forces itself into daily life and exacts endless repetition. fourth, the role of lying in the book and out ...more
Jillyn
May 22, 2012 Jillyn rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jillyn by: psych students, LGBT
I'm not sure how to feel about this book.

On one hand, this book was really interesting. It was a nice insight into the life that someone in an institution has. I felt a bit personally attached to it on some level, for one because I'm from Chicago & know of these hospitals, & then again because my girlfriend, in the past, has struggled with some gender issues of her own.

With that being said, in the book, Daphne lies. All the time. About everything. It makes her stay far worse, plus, it m
...more
Lindy Loo
This book is a quick and easy read, but I was kinda disappointed with it. When I first started reading it, I thought: Wait. Have I read this before? It seemed strangely familiar. But I think it's because it feels and reads like every other book written by someone who spent time in a mental institution. This review is not intended to slight the experiences of Daphne Scholinski, as they *were* awful and ridiculous and she shouldn't have had to deal with any of them. But honestly, this book offers ...more
Justine Stojowski
I was hoping for more insight pertaining to the gender issues Daphne was facing. I thought the book lacked significance and missed an opportunity to really dive in to bring me into the world that I'm relatively unfamiliar but open to learning about. Clearly she has gone through some horrid experiences in her life but somehow the style of her writing made it feel a bit impersonal-and I suppose I could see why, however considering it is a memoir I would expect more to be put on the line. I had muc ...more
Victoria
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
June
Aug 22, 2014 June rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2014
Wow! This book was so hard to read--not due to poor writing, etc., but just because of how raw it is. It chronicles a young girl's imprisonment in mental hospitals. Things that went on were infuriating and angered me as I read. Other times my heart broke for the brokenness Daphne was left with, along with the dysfunction that she and others learned to embrace to simply survive. Her seemingly calloused treatments only added to my frustration as a reader! I don't see this as a book I will forget.. ...more
Julie Hayes



Imagine that you're a girl and someone tells you you aren't girly enough because you don't care for dresses or make-up or dolls? No big deal, right? Doesn't matter what other people think, it's how you feel, right? But what if those people have the power to put you away because they think you aren't girly enough, because they can convince other people that your behavior is indicative of something being wrong with you? Sound scary? Sound like a scenario from the middle ages? Well, it's not - it's
...more
K
Nov 01, 2010 K rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: lgbtq
Like so many people have said, this is a rather quick read and the material is interesting enough and it's an important book, which should be for obvious reasons. It's like Stone Butch Blues, where I didn't really care for the style, but I realize how important the story is for people to be able to find and connect with, and perhaps change from. So, that being said, although it is a quick read I wouldn't necessarily call it "light", as I felt pretty devastated several times, and maybe my heartst ...more
Artnoose Noose
When this book first came out, I was in the habit of attending readings at Black Oak Books in Berkeley on a semi-regular basis, if the book seemed interesting at all. This was one of them. I had never heard of the book or its author but went anyway. Seeing the author read excerpts aloud to you is often a compelling way to be introduced to a book--- I recommend it.

I was moved enough by the reading that I bought a hardcover copy right then, something that I rarely do. I also kept it in my persona
...more
Ruth
I'd been wanting to read this book for a while. It's an autobiographical story of a troubled teenager who spends a couple years during the 80's in mental health facilities being treated for, among other things, a so-called gender identity disorder. I thought when I picked it up that she had been hospitalized only for this but then I figured out that the book is also about the mental health system in general, and what happens to young people who are abused/
troubled/ "wild". The thing that seemed
...more
Micaela
I have to agree with some of the other reviews I have read here. The author constantly lies and exagerates to get what she wants. Also, she exaggerates because she wants acceptance so she tells them what she thinks they want to hear. And this book has a co-author. How much of it has been changed just by the simple fact that someone else is writing down the story? I just wasn't compelled to believe her, and it wasn't until the VERY end that she finally admits that she likes girls and that her sex ...more
Chelsie
I thought this book jumped around quite a bit and the time frames were kind of all over. It was interesting to see how then this was looked at as a disorder and rebelling behavior compared to today it is not uncommon. It was also interesting how they didn't seem to realize part of the problem was home life, it was as though they blamed her for her home life. Intriguing to see how the different institutions ran.
Carrie Clevenger


The Last Time I Wore A Dress is much more than a stark look at society's response to GID, it's an account of a person that spent years locked up for no particular reason. I found the book incredibly compelling and eye-opening as an unforgettable memoir, a document on the state of mental wards in that era, and internal thoughts that the author really needed to purge all along. There's nothing to change about this book. At the end of it are lists of resources, although possibly dated by now that
...more
Ellen
First, read the review by Osho - it pretty much sums up how I felt about the book as well, only in a way that is worded much better (and in greater detail) that I care to commit to my goodreads reviews. Overall, I feel like this novel was popular at one point because of the subject - the shocking subject that someone would be committed to a mental hospital b/c they weren't "girl" enough. However if you were to rate the novel on overall writing, as well as the self-reflections and revelations mad ...more
Bryan Davis
I had to read this for a Multicultural Counseling class, but I found it to be a really interesting memoir. The one thing that is frustrating about it, is that the book seems to focus a great deal on the idea that Daphne (the author and main character) was institutionalized for not being feminine enough, yet the author mentions (and proves multiple times throughout) that she had a conduct disorder. Conduct disorders can be fairly serious, and it's not unusual that she'd need some assistance. Rega ...more
Terry
Huh, I thought I updated my review, but somehow it didn't save. Sorry if I'm being repetitive. I feel like she wrote this book shortly after all the events, or at least, when the events were still very fresh in her mind (for good reason). Therefore, the pain of her experience is uppermost. The book just reads as a chronicle of her experiences, but with little analysis. You're left to draw your own (outraged) conclusions. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Still, a good read (perhaps especially ...more
Vin
When I first saw the publicity for this book in1997, I rushed right out & bought it. I couldn't wait to read the true account of someone who felt just like I did. Unfortunately I did not find much on the author's feelings about gender, and in '97, I don't even think I finished the book. I did finish it this year and though I enjoyed it more as an 'Institutional Memoir' I do hope the later editions include more of the gender identity aspect of the story. We have advanced leaps & bounds in ...more
Rachel Tikell
I tried to write a review on this book about 10 times. It is kind of hard, when I'm still not sure what I think of it. Fist of all, It is not a must read for everyone, but im happy I did.
I was loaned this book, from a girl I work with. My friend told me it was one of the most touching books she had ever read.
This book did not touch me, it enraged me. I took on the grief, anger, and frustration of an adolescent, Scholinski.
This book isn't light reading, but it is easy to read. It took me a
...more
Remy
This was an interesting view of treatment and mental institutions during the early 80s. The story is of a young girl who never really understood herself and was challenged to the extreme with a multitude of abusive situations inflicted upon her. She was confused by her sexuality, and she was led to believe that she was a "bad" girl. Her life was controlled by absent parents, chaos, and professionals and paraprofessionals. I was saddened that a young girl would have to experience such abuse. I ca ...more
Caldwell
i liked this. It was scary what the author went through, but interesting. I'm always up for a discussion of gender and presentation, and I liked that this book had that, but that's not all it was about. It wasn't the best written book I've ever read and I didn't find it as funny as the jacket led me to believe, I mean there were some times I laughed but the voice is one I feel like I've heard before. It was good, I think I might have found it even more relevant several years ago. Comparing it to ...more
M-E Girard
I read this book over ten years ago and I just finished reading it a second time. I can see how some reviewers wonder about how true some events were, or how self-aware the author was/is about what really happened. However, as a reader, I'm not concerned with that. I was swept away in Daphne's world and I appreciated her voice and the tone the book has. No one remembers things accurately, and we all see what we want to see--but the feelings we have about certain events can't be denied or rationa ...more
Amy
Aug 21, 2008 Amy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Amy by: Ellie
This book offers interesting insight into adolescent psych treatment for gender identity disorder in the 80's. The experiences of the author are described matter-of-factly and with little feeling which is most likely symptomatic of the trauma the author has experienced. Unfortunately, this writing style did not help generate any affection for the author. Unlike other reviewers, I didn't get the sense that the author exaggerated or lied about her experiences. It seems that she told her story from ...more
Tucker
A memoir of teenage years in the early 1980s spent in residential facilities for the mentally ill, by someone who was not actually mentally ill. The author came from a troubled family and had sexually abusive neighbors, and she "acted out" a bit by stealing candy, fist fighting, and so forth. Somehow she ended up in treatment for drug addictions she didn't have, and she was also held suspect for her gender-nonconforming dress, short hair, and disinterest in cosmetics, which her psychiatrists str ...more
Devin
Since the author wrote this book about her time in a mental institution for Gender Identity Disorder, I thought this book would be focused on that. Instead, it contained mostly accounts of the author's rebelliousness in those institutions, not really the attempts to "cure" the "disorder" (although there were a few examples of how messed up it is trying to cure something like that). If you're looking for a memoir of a society trying to "fix" a masculine girl by throwing her in a loony bin, go for ...more
HeavyReader
Scary true story of a female-bodied person who is put in a mental hospital when what might have helped was having parents at least trying to do their job as parents.

Once in the mental hospital, the main character is diagnosed with "gender dysphoria disorder." As a treatment, the hospital staff tries indoctrinization with feminity. When the insurance money runs out, the protagonist is "cured" and booted out of the hospital.

If I had a "scary mental hospital" shelf, I would include this one along w
...more
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“Being high felt as if half of me was wandering lost in the streets and half of me was calling out, hoping that I'd make it back before someone took advantage.” 4 likes
“Each person in the group said something except for me. My silence became noticed. About halfway through the meeting I started to think, I've got to talk. Today, I've got to talk. Fear racked me so bad that sweat ran down my sides. I thought, After the curly-haired woman stops talking I'll raise my hand. A man with a cocky smile told the curly woman that her story was nothing compared to his, he'd been passed out cold from heroin and God knows what, and I wanted to tell him to quit glorifying hinself. I was just about to say the words, a few faces turned toward me as if they could sense my imminent speech, when a man across the circle interrupted.

The opportunity passed; what I wanted to say wouldn't fit now. I tilted on the back two legs of the chair and waited for my desire to speak and be noticed and be part of the group to travel back through my nervous system. Up the synapses condemnation rushed: Why couldn't I spit something out like a normal person?”
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