SISSY by Jacob Tobia


A Coming-of-Gender Story
Email this review


A gender nonconforming writer and performer debuts with a memoir about growing into the “most effervescent, gorgeous, dignified sissy that the world has ever seen.”

From early childhood, Tobia’s “femininity came as naturally as my masculinity.” But in a household defined by a “mundane, practical masculinity,” Tobia found few avenues for self-expression. Once in preschool, the author found that gender identity was so heavily policed by parents, teachers, and other children that they renounced all outward markers of femininity a few years later. Church—and specifically, the handbell choir—became a space that allowed Tobia to quietly "queen out.” The author also discovered another refuge among schoolmates whose tastes in anime and fantasy allowed them access to “lots of gay-leaning stuff: shows about sparkly dragons, cartoons about fairies, anime with buff shirtless dudes screaming in ecstasy as they shot their giant laser beams at other dudes.” Female high school friends gradually helped the author take their first steps toward accepting their homosexuality and femininity. But Tobia still faced opposition from others, including the members of their beloved church congregation. It was in the relative freedom of college at Duke that Tobia fought to claim their “femininity in the light of day.” By senior year, the author, who was a member of the Biden Foundation’s Advisory Council for Advancing LGBTQ Equality, became a respected, highly visible gender activist who proudly wore skirts and heels. Tobia’s “coming-of-gender” story about a trans identity that refuses to be contained within the cisgender masculine/feminine binary, is refreshing, courageous, and important. Though the author sometimes overdoes the self-congratulation and snarkiness, these flaws are more than overcome by the feisty candor and wit, especially when discussing their relationship with their parents and the church that at first rejected but then finally accepted Tobia’s sparkling “queer spirit.”

A funny, sharply observed, and intelligent journey into self-identity.

Pub Date: March 5th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-7352-1882-6
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2019


NonfictionUNBOUND by Arlene Stein
by Arlene Stein
by Sarah McBride
NonfictionREDEFINING REALNESS by Janet Mock
by Janet Mock