True LGBTQ stories

A teen’s genderqueer expression leads to empowerment

Jacob Tobia

Jacob Tobia

Jacob Tobia

Jacob Tobia

For some people, like Jacob Tobia, choosing between “male” and “female” is too restricting. Gender, as Jacob learned at a conference while in high school, should be more fun than that.

I had never thought about gender as something fun before. And I went into school the next day, or the next week, and talked to some of my friends who were also organizing in the GSA with me — the gay-straight alliance. And I talked to them, like, “I learned all these things at this conference! I learned that gender is this spectrum, not this binary, that you can play with gender, and I think we should encourage the people at our school to do that!”

To help the rest of the school experience the world beyond “he” and “she,” Jacob and some friends decided to organize a “Gender-Nonconforming Day.”

We have this kind of runway-coaching moment in the parking lot of this McDonald’s in North Raleigh. And I’m pretty sure I was terrible, but I can’t decide if I was terrible just because I wasn’t that good and had to get used to them, or if I was just so giddy that I couldn’t focus.

Though it might have been a little embarrassing and awkward at the time, Jacob only has words of encouragement for his younger self:

I wish I could show myself at 13 who I am now and be like, “You’re going to wear gowns! You’re not just going to wear heels; you’re not just going to paint your nails once; you’re not just going to put your mom’s lipstick on. You are going to wear a gown at a fancy event, and at a dinner, and you’re going to turn heads in it. That’s what’s in store for you, kid. Just embrace this faster. Don’t be afraid of it. Love it.”

This is Jacob’s true LGBTQ story:

“I’m from Driftwood,” a collection of “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer stories from all over the world,” appears weekends on LGBTQ Nation. For more true LGBT stories, or to share your own, visit “I’m from Driftwood.”

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