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Embracing Gender Nonconformity in a McDonald's Parking Lot (VIDEO)

02/12/2015 10:09 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

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I'm From Driftwood is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit archive for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer stories. New stories are posted on the site every Wednesday.

For some people, like Jacob Tobia, choosing between "male" and "female" is too restricting. Gender, as Jacob learned at a conference while in high school, should be more fun than that:

I had never thought about gender as something fun before. And I went into school the next day, or the next week, and talked to some of my friends who were also organizing in the GSA with me -- the gay-straight alliance. And I talked to them, like, "I learned all these things at this conference! I learned that gender is this spectrum, not this binary, that you can play with gender, and I think we should encourage the people at our school to do that!"

To help the rest of the school experience the world beyond "he" and "she," Jacob and some friends decided to organize a "Gender-Nonconforming Day" with the GSA, leading them and their straight male friend on a quest to buy heels:

We went to Charlotte Russe, and we go into the store, and it's an all-women's store, so immediately I'm terrified. And so we're sort of breezing past all this various anxiety and the other shoppers, and we go to the clearance rack of shoes. I find a size-10 pair of black-leather pumps that are about five inches. I grab them off the shelf, and I try them on, and they hurt like hell, and getting my feet in them is a big challenge, but they went on. And they were the only pair of shoes in the whole store that went on my feet.

Even though the heels were weird and too small, it was time to learn the catwalk -- in the parking lot of a McDonald's:

[W]e have this kind of runway-coaching moment in the parking lot of this McDonald's in North Raleigh. And I'm pretty sure I was terrible, but I can't decide if I was terrible just because I wasn't that good and had to get used to them, or if I was just so giddy that I couldn't focus.

Though it might have been a little embarrassing and awkward at the time, Jacob only has words of encouragement for his younger self:

I wish I could show myself at 13 who I am now and be like, "You're going to wear gowns! You're not just going to wear heels; you're not just going to paint your nails once; you're not just going to put your mom's lipstick on. You are going to wear a gown at a fancy event, and at a dinner, and you're going to turn heads in it. That's what's in store for you, kid. Just embrace this faster. Don't be afraid of it. Love it."

What do you think about genderqueer identity and gender nonconformity? Watch the full video below and leave your thoughts in the comments.

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