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Gender nonconforming writer Jacob Tobia announces memoir, Sissy

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Lia Marie

Writer and gender nonconforming activist Jacob Tobia will publish their first memoir with G.P. Putnam’s Sons, EW can announce exclusively.

Tobia, who has written for and been featured in Time magazine and also works on Amazon’s Transparentwill explore their journey toward a gender identity in Sissy. As their publisher notes in the release, Tobia — who identifies as genderqueer and non-binary, not male or female — “will examine modern gender nonconformity and what it’s like to grow up as someone who wasn’t quite sure if they were a girl or a boy.”

“It’s a deeply personal work, a silly, irreverent investigation into my glitter-covered life,” Tobia tells EW. “Through writing Sissy, I’m speaking for myself and adding my personal voice to a chorus of non-binary and gender nonconforming people that are proclaiming their truth.”

As Tobia said in the book’s release, “Sissy is about the messy bits of my gender, the rough edges, the chunky bits of the stew. This is a book about a young boy in North Carolina who just wanted to feel good in a tutu. This is a book about a teenager who came out as gay, only to realize that they didn’t know if that label fit so well. This is a book about a college kid trying to strut through campus corridors and White House reception halls in five-inch heels. This is a book about a 23-year-old finally buying their first tube of mascara.”

Sissy doesn’t yet have a release date.

Below, Tobia tells EW why this was the right moment for their memoir, and what books were influential for them along the way.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You’ve been writing publicly about your life for a while — so why was this the right time to write your book?
JACOB TOBIA: Over the last year, I feel like I’ve finally been learning to own my voice and my sense of humor. I spent a long time feeling like I had to write seriously in order to be taken seriously, but at long last, I’m giving myself permission to laugh, permission to play. I want to share that joy with the world. I want to give the world a book about a messy trans millennial who hasn’t yet figured everything out. I want to give the world a book about a quirky queer kid who took on the world and, despite the fact that they stumbled the entire way, somehow managed to win.  This book feels vital to me because it is about honoring my inner child, about honoring what gender nonconforming kids go through, about honoring the courage it took to claim my identity in a world that didn’t always make that easy.

What did you learn about yourself during the writing process?
I’m not quite done with the manuscript for the book, but the writing process so far has been nothing short of transformational. Through claiming my own story and mining the humor in my journey, I feel that I’ve learned to transcend the “trauma narrative” that is put on trans/gender nonconforming people and just be funny. As trans people, we are often only valued if we have a huge, traumatic story of overcoming a specific obstacle. People want the drama. But a culture that only values trans people for our trauma is a culture that flattens us out, making us two-dimensional and oversimplified. I used to think because I didn’t have one singular moment of trauma in my life, that my story didn’t matter. Through the process of writing this book, I am realizing all the ways in which my story deeply matters. I am able to take small, intricate moments when my gender was shut down or curtailed and find the humor in them, the levity. Through writing this book, I’m learning to claim that I deserved better. I deserved to live in a world where, as a feminine kid, I could simply be carefree.

Did any other books inspire or influence you?
In writing this book, I am standing on the shoulders of giants, on the shoulders of so many queer and trans writers who have shimmered and shined and burned bright for the world to see. I’m following in the footsteps of Leslie Feinberg and Janet Mock and James Baldwin and Jennifer Boylan and David Sedaris and Julia Serano among so many others. I feel totally held by their legacy in writing this book; I know that I’m not alone in this journey, that so many have gone before me. It’s pretty awesome actually.

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