By Jordan Uter
June 19, 2015

As part of LGBTQ Pride Month, Generation Progress is highlighting young LGBTQ activists who are working to make a difference in their communities. This week we are more than thrilled to highlight Jacob Tobia, a young advocate and consultant for gender non-conforming, genderqueer, and transgender people.

Jacob Tobia grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina and graduated summa cum laude from Duke University with a degree in Human Rights Advocacy. Many Millennials currently have been working a mixture of different jobs when their career starts and Tobia is no different.

“Like any millennial, my career has been all over the place, and I’ve worked with a broad set of LGBTQ movements and organizations,” they said. “From local and state-level grassroots political campaigns to national and international advocacy efforts, I’ve seen a wide array of the LGBTQ movement.”

Jacob Tobia

Growing up in the south helped Tobia understand the southern organizing tradition of working in a collaborative and intersectional way for social justice. Because of the history and current makeup of the southern power structure, they believe it is vital to the movement to be able to build an intersectional coalition.

As of now, Tobia has been working on creating visibility for genderqueer, gender non-conforming, and gender non-binary people.

“While the broader transgender movement has really been gaining momentum in the past four years, I feel like most of the visible figures have been predominately binary-identified transgender people (people who identify as transgender women or transgender men),” they said. “What I’m working to do is to create a broader set of gender options, where transgender people don’t have to identify as one gender or the other, but can identify between or outside of the conventional two-category gender model.”

To help bring attention to this, Tobia has worked closely with MTV, Buzzfeed, GLAAD, and the Human Rights Campaign to help them better understand gender diversity and the gender non-binary community.

Though it is a daunting task to help others understand an issue they are not personally a part of, Tobia enjoys the work and goes about creative ways to show how we need to change our mindsets.

“I’ve been really into the way that fashion is playing into my activism,” they said. “Because gender is a socially constructed institution that relies so much on clothing to signify identity, playing with fashion and expressing myself creatively through what I wear has become an incredible way to celebrate gender non-conformity. In a world where male-bodied people are only supposed to wear a certain set of clothing options and colors, strutting around in a dress is a key part of my quest to build a more affirming and inclusive world.”

With the Supreme Court marriage case coming down this month, Tobia hopes that we are able to resolve this issue so that we can move forward with others that affect the LGBTQ community. They also gave us their outlook on the future.

“In the next decade, I think that the LGBTQ movement and the feminist movement will be able to work in tandem to create opportunities and policies that allow for greater gender neutrality in the world. From gender-neutral restrooms in public schools to gender-neutral pronouns,” they began to explain. “I think we’ll see a real uptick in activism around non-binary gender policies and ideas. I also think that we’ll see a hard swing towards greater intersectional activism, and we’ll see a massive redirecting of LGBTQ movement funding to those who are most often marginalized in our community–namely transgender people and queer people of color.”

Tobia understands how hard it is for some young people to get involved in the issues that they care about but believes that you just have to start. The advice they would give to young people is to learn that you cannot get what you want if you do not ask for it.

“The first step towards getting what you want is learning to ask for what you want,” they said. “As young people, we so often forget that because we think that we don’t have enough skills or knowledge to lead. But you deserve to lead, honey!”

Wiser words could not have been said any better. If you would like to stay updated on Jacob Tobia’s activities follow them on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. And be sure to keep your eyes on our Instagram page for next week’s #MakingHistory activist.

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