Jacob Tobia, one of Arlan Group’s extraordinary speakers, is a nationally-recognized writer, speaker, and advocate committed to inclusion for gender non-conforming, genderqueer, and transgender people. Jacob shares their message of gender empowerment and social change and provides the tools you need to build a more inclusive community – particularly within universities and colleges across the United States.
Gender-Inclusive Campuses Help All Students– Just Ask Jacob!
When I first started college, I was devastated. I’d spent my high school years surrounding myself with a safe and gender-diverse community, but as a freshman at Duke University, I found that my life was gender-segregated all over again.
In some ways, I understood why. As first year students, most of us were insecure and needed to find a way to fit in; for most people, this meant doubling down on the gender binary and gender stereotypes. All of the guys were trying to prove their masculinity to one another, and all of the girls were trying to be sure that they performed the right kind of femininity to fit in.
But it wasn’t just social pressure that created these expectations; it was also university structure. Everywhere you looked, from sports teams and residence halls, to bathrooms and the fraternity/sorority system, students were separated based on gender. This separation of facilities and communities simply reinforced the message that, in order to fit in on campus, you had to perform your gender “properly,” as only one of two options.
As a gender nonconforming student, that left me in the lurch. I watched the community around me sorted into two boxes and found myself alone, outcast, and hurt, struggling to find my place and feel confident about my identity. I wasn’t the only one who felt this way, either. Students across campus were made to feel alone and isolated because of the gender binary-based culture on campus.
That gender binary culture was also linked to other social problems. Gender normativity touched every campus problem. From the pressure that men felt to binge drink, to the prevalence of sexual assault, to the challenges with violence, racism, and bullying, the gendered scripts that we were established during orientation week set the tone for a gender normativity-driven, exclusionary culture on campus.
Over four years, I was able to work with administrators and student leaders to help transform Duke into a campus that created more room for people like me. We adopted gender neutral restrooms, created gender neutral living groups, and provided greater support to trans and gender diverse students. Fostering a culture of greater gender diversity didn’t just help LGBTQI students—it created space for all students to live more authentically.
Now, as an artist and TV personality living in New York City, I’ve expanded my work far beyond campus. In my professional work, I strive to transform the whole world into a more gender diverse, gender brilliant place.
While most of my work is now national in scope, the transformation of gendered expectations has to start on a local level. It has to start with you working in your local community. But that doesn’t mean that you have to do it alone. As you begin the process of gender transformation on your campus, I want to play a part in it. I want students across the world to know that they aren’t alone, to know that they aren’t the only ones. And I want to give students, administrators, and professors alike the tools that they need in order to create transformational change on campus.
We all deserve to live in a community where the fullness of our gender identity is affirmed and cherished. Let’s build that community together.
Learn more about Jacob Tobia or contact Arlan Group to find out how Jacob can captivate your university or college campus.