This Vintage Talk Show Episode Will Destroy Everything You Think About Gender

by:   |   Jan 28 2015


Rummaging through some old Sally Jessy episodes on YouTube (you know, as you do from time to time), I came across one extra-amazing show. It focuses on gender identity, and features a person called Toby, who self-identifies as a “neuter” person. To clarify: not neuterED, but a neuter—Toby’s genderless. Yes, I can see you staring at me blankly.

Luckily for us and all the confused Sally Jessy audience members, Toby’s extremely bright, so when they (we’ll use this pronoun just to make things a little clearer) speaks about their condition, they answer all the pertinent questions thoughtfully. Even more inspiringly, Toby’s extremely confident and feels very much at home as a genderless person. What’s astonishing is that this aired on daytime TV in the late ’80s (at least if the bangin’ fashionz in the audience are any indication).

I did some Internet digging about genderless identification, and although there are definitely people out there experiencing this, it’s still not a subject that’s well understood or represented in the mainstream. According to my research, there’s one person in the U.K. who was officially recognized as genderless in 2010. As a society, we’re just starting to bring light to the transgender experience in mainstream media right now. And back in the ’80s, when Orange Is the New Black was just a twinkle in a TV writer’s eye, trans and gender issues were far from the forefront in America. So you have to give props to Sally Jessy for being way ahead of her time.

The thing that really strikes me about this episode—besides the fact that I love Toby’s brilliant personal styling—is that Toby’s comments about gender and humans in general are so beautiful and spot-on. Because of Toby’s personal experiences with gender, they has been forced to view the world through the eyes of someone who doesn’t feel or see gender. We all try to be gender-unbiased in our actions—at least that’s the goal, right?—but we can’t help but view the world through a male or female lens. Toby doesn’t divide life into a female/male binary: instead, we’re all just human. How beautiful and revolutionary is that?! If everyone could be like Toby, this cruel world would be a little more tolerable and a lot more peaceful. Did Toby invent an ultimate utopia? Toby, where are you now when we need you as a leader?!

This Sally Jessy ep is broken down on YouTube into 5 parts. I know it’s a lot to tackle, but I’m telling you, you will fly right through it. From the moving and poignant look at gender it presents, to the informative Q&A, this is a must-watch. Toby, thanks for sharing your experience with the daytime-TV world! Your ideas, confidence, and glasses still inspire us.


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  • Suzuki35

    looks female,voice male.. refused to say what his xx or xy chromosome test revealed because he /she said what good is it to say your eyes “would have been green” if you do not have eyes. this person is not a true neuter.. as the xx xy would have to be something inbetween or neither. this person didn’t WANT to say he/she doesn’t have the parts to MATCH the chromosome test result. the person doesn’t want to emotionally or socially identify with either as this person doesn’t want to have sex or reproduce and THATS whats FINE. to me.montell Williams also has a vintage episode on youtube about asexuality which is even MORE empowering in a sense. as far as choice goes. Toby said why wear a skirt,its encumbersome/annoying.. rides up , gets bunched up etc… wearing a skirt has an appeal to certain types of males for sexual attraction,religious ramifications etc and represents a certain type of female socially. so yes we all learn from Toby:)