Non-binary activists discuss gender identity


Non-binary activists Jacob Tobia and Tyler Ford engage in a conversation about gender and sexuality Nov. 6 in Taper Gym. Both speakers encourage students to overcome the stigma associated with “coming out” and transcend gender stereotypes. Credit: Crystal Baik/Chronicle

Tanisha Gunby

Non-binary activists Jacob Tobia and Tyler Ford discussed their experiences as gender-nonconforming individuals at the first all-school assembly of the year Nov. 6.

To begin the assembly, Tobia read a part of their memoir, “Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story,” which touches on their experience of growing up while hiding their identity from society.

“When queer people hide their identities, it’s not because we are cowardly or lying or deviant or withholding,” Tobia said. “It’s because the world and people around us felt predatory, because someone scared us intentionally or unintentionally and we were trying to protect ourselves.”

Activists speak about gender identity in the school community 

Ford continued to address the stigma regarding gender fluidity by explaining that it is not something that should be ignored in schools or other communities.

“Part of making the world a safer place for not only trans people and queer people, but also for everyone, is to make space and let people do their own thing,” Ford said.

Tobia also provided advice for those who are struggling with their gender identities.

“You don’t have to be so worried about the taxonomy of things,” Tobia said. “You don’t have to worry about the specific labels. You can just mess around with gender and have some fun.”

Assembly offers students insight on gender roles

Event organizer and Gender and Sexuality Awareness Club leader Felicity Phelan ’21 said that the assembly was a good opportunity for students to learn more about the changing roles of gender in various communities.

“It was just good to hear something that’s so relevant for the trans and non-binary population within the school,” Phelan said. “Also for kids who don’t identity with that, even if you have that in your radar, you can be more worldly and aware.”

Attendees reflect on their experience

On the other hand, Griffin MacDermott ’20 said he believed the assembly’s message was not universally applicable.

“I felt that the assembly was, as [Upper School science teacher and Coordinator of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Nate Cardin] said, good for morale for the LGBTQ+ members of the student body,” MacDermott said. “However, I feel that it was presented in a way that isolated or at least didn’t really help the non-LGBTQ+ members.”

Emery Genga ’21 said she enjoyed the opportunity to speak to influential members of the LGBTQ+ community.

“They did a phenomenal job speaking about a subject that is hard for many to understand, and I commend them for their bravery and transparency,” Genga said. “I also thought the effect that they had on the students afterwards was wonderful. Many people had many different opinions, but the thing that’s important is that we’re talking about it, not just sweeping it under the rug.”