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The Last Time I Wore a Dress

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  2,208 ratings  ·  166 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
Paperback, 224 pages
Published October 1st 1998 by Riverhead Books (first published October 1st 1997)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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Fabiana Kubke
Feb 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Francesca Calarco
Feb 10, 2020 rated it liked it
Diagnosed with “Gender Identity Disorder” at the age of fifteen, Daphne’s life takes a turn when her father commits her to a mental institution. Even though her need to act out is clearly fueled by absent and abusive parents, everyone seems to be hung up on the less traditionally feminine elements of her appearance. So begins The Last Time I Wore A Dress, a title that essentially speaks for itself.

This narrative is interwoven between Daphne’s personal recollections and the medical assessments re
Dec 03, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Oct 13, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
May 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 makes me
Nov 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sexuality
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 confused me as I was trying to sort out differences between a masculing/butch woman and a trans man. 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. The book goes back
Jul 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 01, 2012 rated it did not like it
I can't stand books by self proclaimed pathological liars. Oh, most of what's about to follow is probably bullshit? What's the point?

I'm glad Daphne was able to become Dylan and is doing a lot better these days, but he used to be such a little shit with a bad case of Conduct Disorder. It's hard to empathize with someone like that.

Hated this book.
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
Mar 09, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2012
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
Jan 19, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Dec 19, 2013 rated it liked it
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 our und ...more
Rebecca McNutt
This shocking true memoir tells the story of Daphne, one of tons of people (mostly teens and young adults) across North America who was mistakenly diagnosed with "gender identity disorder" in the 20th century. Committed to an insane asylum and forced to do "girly" things like wearing skirts and putting on makeup, she was also made to feel guilty for who she was, and was given psychiatric drugs and outdated forms of therapy. However, this memoir is original in that the author addresses this past ...more
Oct 27, 2012 rated it it was ok
this book would get 3 stars for topic, 1.6 stars for content, and half a star for style. daphne scholinski tells about the three years she spent in mental institutions in her adolescence in the 80s for not conforming to standards of femininity, aka 'gender identity disorder.' I'm unclear about the role of each of the authors in compiling this book. I suspect that the hand of jane meredith adams andor editors and marketers are to blame for the less-than-exciting writing style, but still definitel ...more
Feb 22, 2014 added it
I can't believe I not only didn't know about this book, I didn't know about the person. It's pretty amazing stuff. Thanks Drake for mentioning it and Cole for having the book to lend me. I encourage supporting authors by purchasing their books - but for those without funds, the libraries are closing more often in Georgia (anyone else notice this). So a combination of buying books and keeping libraries open!
Taken to a mental institution at age 15 for "being a tomboy" with a treatment plan that included makeup and hairstyling, it's hard to fathom this happened in the early 1980s, not the early 1900s. This reminded me of Girl, Interrupted, as Daphne reconciles her belief in her own sanity against the clearly disturbed states of her colleagues.

A sad indictment of Western mental hospitals. Now known as Dylan, his work for the LGBT community, and his art, is inspirational and impressive.
Mar 21, 2009 rated it it was ok
Hard to give a rating to this one. On the one hand, it reveals just how messed up the medical community--and society at large--is when it comes to issues of gender; on the other hand, there's not much depth to it--it lacks the level of observation and insight that some other memoir-style books on this subject have provided.
Nov 14, 2010 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Noam by: Jess
My friend lent me this book because I was interested in reading some good gender-studies books. This read more like a voyeuristic book about a very unhappy adolescence. I'd rather have just re-read Middlesex.
Jun 24, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2-meh, non-fiction
It wasn't horrible but I kind of feel deceived. All the blurbs talk about the label of "inappropriate female" and mention make-up, dresses, etc. but for the majority of the book, Daphne leads you to believe that she was only in these institutions because she had bad behaviour.
Very gripping story of a girl who was put in the hospital on a long-term basis, because she wasn't really feminine enough, and how that changed her life. Raises some very creepy questions about the mental-health system as well as the American nuclear family.
Jul 30, 2012 rated it did not like it
Sociopaths love to masquerade as victims.
Mar 23, 2014 rated it it was ok
Written with almost no emotion at all, just a recounting of a long period of time in mental institutions. For a memoir, that's troubling.
Gold Dust
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
The true story of a 15 year old girl named Daphne who was put in a mental institution for delinquent behavior. It's like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, only this story is real. Daphne was diagnosed with gender identity disorder just because she was a tomboy.

A good book showing how sane people get locked up, while real violent people are free. And the doctors that are supposed to help the patients just label them and don't believe their honesty or take them seriously. But the patients can easi
Jan 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
This memoir wrecked me. I appreciate the thought that came to it, but I really disliked the writing style. It was disjointed and incoherent. I also wasn't very impressed by the content. I was expecting to read about her "Gender identity disorder", but after finishing the book I still knew the same things as what I had initially read on the back.
I am very certain that this raw recount of Daphne's past was not easy to narrate. It includes and extensive description of the mental institutes that sh
Katie P
May 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fifteen year old Daphne was institutionalized for 3 years due to being ‘an inappropriate female’ aka having gender identity confusion. It’s so sad to think that people used to think gender identity could be ‘fixed’ by forcing girls to wear makeup or hug men. Daphne tells us about her years in various hospitals and her treatments, therapists, and other patients, along stories about her past. Interesting read.
Amanda Donovan
Apr 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a hard book to read! Even though it was dark and heartbreaking the whole time, it was hard to put it down. Scholinski did an amazing job of building empathy and understanding for the kids that act out with violence and anger. Anyone who wants to work in the mental health field should read this. Truly, anyone should read this, period.
Maria Schillinger
Mar 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Reading this book was very emotional. Trying to wrap my head around how human beings could treat another human being this way was very difficult. It's incredible to believe that this was only 40 years ago.
Rehan Abd Jamil
Nov 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Sometimes you just have to accept that you are here to stay. No matter how bad the experiences, just take a small step at a time. And you will survive, eventually.
Oct 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is an indictment of a broken mental health system. A friend recommended it and said it would break my heart. Eli Godwin was right. It did break my heart.
Mar 29, 2019 rated it liked it
I was fortunate to meet the author of this book, now Dylan Scholinski. This is an important book to understand how far we have come in our collective understanding of gender.
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