Jacob Tobia and Tyler Ford visit Harvard-Westlake

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Jacob Tobia, author of Sissy: A Coming of Gender Story, with Tyler Ford, advocate and founder of the website http://myfriendtyler.com/, discussed topics of gender fluidity on Nov 6 at the Upper School assembly.

Tobia started the conversation by reading an excerpt of Sissy. Within that, they compared coming-out-of-the-closet with being a garden snail- the burden of this process is not on the person, but the world around them to host an open environment to welcome this process.

Tobia and Ford then discussed their own process of coming out. Although there were many laughs within the audience, the core of the discussion was still met- whether one is cis-gendered, trans, or anything in between, society continues to place “rules” as an attempt to create binaries (which are only psychological- Tobia said it best when they said “there is no real connection with the color blue and one type of genitals, as there is no connection between the color pink and another type of genitals).

Although the assembly was only 45 minutes long, both Tobia and Ford were able to deconstruct common stereotypes of what it means to be genderqueer and raise new opportunities for discussion. Tobia says, “Today was so much fun. It was really great to be able to do an assembly in a classic high school gym because as a gender non-comforming kid, those always weren’t my favorite places. But it was great to be able to break out of the box in order to be gender non-comforming as a young person that you have to be perfect and understand everything. The most important thing is that we are all trying to figure out this gender thing and figure out how to live in our gender and bodies and sexuality in a way that feels good in this world. Middle school and high school can be a really hard time for that, but I hope that today we were able to help people start to have more critical and empathetic conversations.”

As a 9th grade English Class prepares to read this book, Tobia gave a word of advice to them during the meet-and-greet: “You may think you know what type of book this is, but I will not have done my job as a writer if you haven’t cried or even peed your pants a little from laughing at least once while reading this book. This isn’t some polite gender non-conforming book- this is a silly, sometimes edgy, super fun adventure. Don’t come in with expectations, and have fun with it.”

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