Jacob Tobia is a 26-year-old American LGBTQ rights activist. Jacob has co-produced and hosted the MSNBC television series known as Queer 2.0. Besides being a vocal spokesperson for LGBTQ, Jacob has also written for publications such as MTV, The Washington Post and The New York Times. Recently, Jacob wrote a letter to Buzzfeed that was directed at parents and how they should talk to their children about gender fluidity.
Aside from being a self-proclaimed lover of Sriracha, Jacob identifies as ‘genderqueer’ and goes by singular they pronouns. In an article that Jacob wrote for The New York Times, they said: ‘[I was] never masculine enough for the boys and never feminine enough for the girls. It took me years of my life to even find a word to describe my identity, but late in high school, a new word came into my life that changed how I thought about myself forever: the word “genderqueer.”’
The term ‘genderqueer’ signifies someone that doesn’t conform to society’s conventional gender distinctions of man and woman. Genderqueer people can identify with neither, both or a combination of the male and female gender. Some genderqueer people, like Jacob, prefer to use gender-neutral pronouns such a ‘they’, ‘them’ and ‘their’.
The 26-year-old activist described wrote in their letter for Buzzfeed: ‘I traveled from Los Angeles to Florida for a queer conference at the Orlando Hilton resort. Half of the hotel was filled with queers trying to learn how to better serve trans youth; the other half was filled with nuclear families who’d come to Orlando to meet Minnie and Elsa and Goofy at Disney World. It made for an interesting combination.’ Jacob then went on to describe that whenever kids would point and stare and exclaim to their parents ‘look that boy is wearing lipstick!’ or ‘hey dad, he’s wearing high heels!’ parents would simply avoid the underlying question.
‘Parents, I’ve decided that we need to have a little chat because you can do better than that.’ Jacob continues to write, ‘You have to do better. You owe it to me, to the trans community, and to your kids’ emotional development to do better. In reality, when your child turned to you and said “Look, that boy is wearing lipstick!” what they were really doing was asking a question. So when your child commented on the fact that they saw a boy wearing lipstick, what they were really asking was, “Mom/Dad/Parental Unit, is it okay for boys to wear lipstick? Is what that person’s doing acceptable?’’’
Jacob offered a suggestion, rather than avoid the question and embarrassingly avoid eye contact after a child raises an important question, parents can do this: ‘instead, try answering the question that they’re really asking; try talking to them about the beautiful diversity of gender expression in our world. I promise it’s not that hard. You could say “Yes, Johnny, sometimes boys do wear lipstick and that is perfectly okay. You can wear lipstick too if you want!” Or you could say, “Why yes, Sarah, she is wearing a bowtie. Girls and boys can both wear bowties. Would you like one?”’
At the end of the day, what Jacob really wants is for parents to take advantage of the opportunity to teach their kids about avoiding conformity and questioning things. Rather than shutting down their curiosity, pique it by stoking that little fire. Jacob finished with: ‘Children can smell parental discomfort from a million miles away. If you show your children that you’re uncomfortable when confronted with a gender-nonconforming person like me, then your children will learn to mirror that behavior. And that’s not okay. Just be cool, alright? Is that really so much to ask?’
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