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‘A Coming Of Gender Story’ From NC To Hollywood: Meet Jacob Tobia

photo of Jacob Tobia
© Oriana Koren

Jacob Tobia grew up a gender non-conforming child in the Triangle. And while many narratives of LGBTQ life in the South are saddled with stories of bullying and strife, Tobia had a different experience.

In fact, Tobia has fond memories of growing up in Raleigh, attending a church that was supportive and starting a journey of activism at a young age. Tobia’s charisma and spark earned them a national platform in the MTV special “True Life: I’m Genderqueer,” and as the creator, co producer and host of Queer 2.0, an LGBTQ series for NBC News. Tobia’s new memoir “Sissy: A Coming-Of-Gender Story” (G.P. Putnam's Sons/2019) traces their life from the South, to Los Angeles, where they are currently pursuing the dream of being a producer and performer. Tobia is appearing at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh Thursday, March 7 at 7 p.m. in conversation with Reverend Nancy Petty of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church. Tobia joins Frank Stasio to share their fondness of Raleigh and to explain why “Sissy” begins and ends in North Carolina. Tobia also shares their take on the ways in which Hollywood is getting trans stories right and wrong and the current efforts around the country to make spaces more gender neutral and inclusive.




There is this idea that the only people that struggle with our gender is trans people. Nothing could be further from the truth - Jacob Tobia


On the prevalence of gender-based trauma:

We grow up in a world that tells us that there is a proper way to live in our gender. And every person, I believe, has a part of themselves that they have to give up to be a proper man or a proper woman, or to do what girls are supposed to do or what boys are supposed to do. That process doesn’t just hurt gender nonconforming people, it hurts everybody on some level.

On Jacob’s hopes for the future:

I have hope for the future and where things are going because I know that I’m part of an entire generation that sees gender fundamentally differently and has a level of “just chill” about the whole thing.


I do not want a world where people have to worry about gender all the time- Jacob Tobia

On the trauma of being a man today:

When someone catcalls me or heckles me or bullies me or anything — especially when it’s a man — I

   don’t now feel anger towards them. I actually feel a great deal of empathy, because I think that in our culture men are walking around with all of this gender-based trauma that they are told is power. We live in a world where to be a male child is to be often treated with violence and to learn to suppress your emotions and to be taught that feeling things is wrong. And though those things are changing and certainly feel outdated saying them now, that’s how so many men walking this planet were raised.

On the history of trans people in film and television:

I’m also working to bring gender nonconforming characters to the screen in a way that we’ve never seen before. Because for much of the history of films and television, gender nonconforming and trans people have been around in the production process, have been on set, have been part of the creative teams, but if we’ve ever been on screen it’s as a sideshow or a joke or at best an empathetic supporting character.

On the Methodist Church voting to ban gay marriage and queer clergy:

My first chosen family was my church family, so I value my church community so deeply, and the decision that the Methodist church made last week to ban queer clergy, and trans clergy I assume, is the most regressive decision they’ve made in decades.      


Dana is an award-winning producer who began as a personality at Rock 92. Once she started creating content for morning shows, she developed a love for producing. Dana has written and produced for local and syndicated commercial radio for over a decade. WUNC is her debut into public radio and she’s excited to tell deeper, richer stories.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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