‘Notes to Self,’ an excerpt from “Sissy”

Thank you to Jacob Tobia and G.P. Putnam's Sons for their permission to publish this excerpt from Jacob's national bestseller, Sissy: A Coming-Of-Gender Story. Mark your calendar for our 21st annual LGBTQ+ author series featuring none other than Jacob Tobia!

Wed, Oct 16, 2019
6–8 pm
Murphy-Wilmot Library

Note to Self (epilogue, Sissy: A Coming-Of-Gender Story)

Hey you.

I know you just graduated college and are terrified about the world beyond school, but I wanted to drop in to give you some reassurance and a touch of spiritual guidance. I’m gonna do my best to be Oprah for you: to hold your hand and comfort you with my life wisdom, to let you cry against my perfect, billionaire bosom.

I want to start with lipstick, because where else would I start? These days, you keep a compact in your book bag so you can apply makeup on the go. You’ve started doing this new thing where you put a little Chapstick down and then lipstick, because the resulting red is a touch more subtle. Subtlety is something you’re learning, by the way. You’re cool with being more subtle about your gender now, not because your gender means less to you, but because you’ve emancipated yourself from the idea that you always have to prove something to other people. You’ve finally begun to realize that you don’t owe anyone shit, and you don’t have to wear bright lipstick all the time in order to demand to be seen and heard and validated. You only wear bright lipstick when you damn well please—which, to be fair, is still pretty often.

It’s surprising how well you’re doing these days. I mean, your life is still messy because you’re changing careers for the fourth time in as many years, but you’re holding it together pretty well, all things considered. Weathering the turbulence like a pro.

The coolest thing about where you’re at now is that your identity has begun to feel sorta, I dunno, natural? You’ve done the internal work of naturalizing your own gender to yourself. You’ve told yourself enough times that you are beautiful and worthy of love, and at some point recently, you started to actually believe it. It’ll take a few more years for you to understand this, but the thing about humans is that we have to learn everything at least three times. First, we learn it intellectually in our brains. Then, often months or years later, we learn it emotionally in our hearts. And then, sometime after that, we learn it instinctually in our guts. Your brain knew that your gender was beautiful in college. Your heart learned it a few years after that. And at the tender age of twenty-seven, your gut, your instinctual self, your subconscious thoughts, have started to get on board with the idea, too. Which means you’re actually starting to feel happy on the regular.

You’ve learned that strength doesn’t look like never getting hurt; it looks like being able to recover more quickly when you do. It’s not about whether you fall—it’s about getting better at picking yourself back up.

Writing a book has helped immensely. You were holding on to a lot of unsorted, messy baggage when it came to your identity. In the process of writing a book, you’ve forced yourself to pull those old suitcases out of the attic, dust them off, dump them out on the carpet, and begin the arduous process of sorting it all out. It’s been helpful, edifying, cathartic. You’ve cried in cafés on at least a dozen occasions; the intensity of your (re)discoveries surprising even you.

Like what you've read? Read the full excerpt on Lit Hub.