While my love of reading for pleasure may make it plausible for me to read during school, I understand that college students already have a plethora of information dumped on them, and may not have the energy nor time to read an entire memoir. However, this book, Sissy: A Coming of-Gender Story, has been transformational in my understanding of self and others; I whole-heartedly believe their story needs to be shared. Tobia eloquently explains gender-based trauma as relating to everyone: cis or trans. Not only are they an exquisite writer, but comedic as well. They are able to elegantly weave their personal intimate experiences with the macro structural struggles LGBTQ+ folx face.
Who is Jacob Tobia? A fabulous gender non-conforming trans writer, activist, performer, and actor who you may know as the voice of Double Trouble in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, a glamourous (with hints of queerness) show. Also, they are known for running in high heels across the Brooklyn Bridge—the whooooole bridge. Through these efforts, they raised money for a foundation centered around LGBTQ+ homeless youth. Tobia is a multi-faceted being and an admirable advocate for the community, encouraging radical visibility.
This book is so fabulous because it is made accessible to new learners without over-simplifying complex ideas about sexuality, gender, and identity. It shares knowledge I wish all the world knew. It tells an expansive and complicated story—not just what people want to hear.
“I’m sharing this with you because I want the world to understand that depriving a child of the ability to express their gender authentically is life threatening. I’m sharing this with you because I want you to understand that gender policing is not some abstract, intellectual concept; it is a pattern of emotional abuse that came from every direction and singularly robbed me of my childhood…”Jacob Tobia, Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story
Jacob Tobia [@jacobtobia]. (2019, October 21). Video
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Tobia’s vulnerability is extremely appreciated and relatable. While confident and courageous, they explain the struggles of not feeling “trans enough” or fitting into the optimal trans narrative to appease cis-gender people. Basically, what they try to explain is how people are only okay with (1) if a transgender individual fits into the binary of male or female, (2) if they have a narrative of suffering, and (3) always knowing that they were in the wrong body (straight from the womb).
Though this narrative may be true for many people, not all trans and non-binary people have this experience which does not in turn make it any less true or valuable. A lot of people believe in gender essentialism. This is something you may believe and you didn’t even know had a term. It’s the belief that men and women are inherently different, but also the notion that if someone is trans they must have been “born” into the wrong body and that they have always been this gender—male or female. Yet, this leaves no room for fluidity. Some trans and non-binary do not experience gender dysphoria immediately, or ever. We’re looking towards a future where trans-ness doesn’t have to go hand and hand with suffering or pain. Much of the suffering arises from the intolerance of society.
“It will likely take the rest of my life to return to a gender that is free of shame. I will spend the rest of my life trying to resurrect who I was when I was four…”Jacob Tobia, Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story
When we are children this shame is not innate or natural. Gender is free until someone or something begins to constrain us, condition us. Whether this is intentional or malicious is not the point, either way, it happens. Children are socialized at a very young age to fit into a box, be that box, and nothing else, or they will face discrimination. They are taught to supress what is not “normal”, but what if gender freedom is normal?
What if regarding gender, our society could stay in that shame-less place past childhood, and into our futures? What if we could avoid the shame and let ourselves blossom into the beauty of gender-queerness?
Jacob Tobia [@jacobtobia]. (2018, August 30). Photo of “Sissy: A Coming of Gender Story”.
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