Visibili-T is dedicated to transgender members of our community in Central Florida and Tampa Bay, some you know and many you don’t. It is designed to amplify their voices and detail their experiences in life.
This issue, we check in with Tobi Layton, who you might better know as the Central Florida drag performer Sue Cyde.
Layton, who came out to a few close friends in high school, says he didn’t really start living truly authentically until he moved to Orlando from Spring Hill, Florida.
“I promptly moved to Orlando as soon as I turned 18,” he says. “Once I was living on my own I didn’t have to worry about judgement from my mom.”
Layton started to realize that he didn’t fit into the gender norms that everyone expected him to when he was in middle school, but he was still trying to figure out what that meant for him.
“I knew I didn’t feel like a girl but I didn’t know how to express that because I wasn’t a tomboy,” he says. “I still liked girlie things, I liked pretty things so for a while I didn’t want to give myself the identity of trans because it felt too serious. I was a kid and it’s scary to have to come to terms with your own queerness in a small town. It took me a while to realize that I’m just a flamboyant queer boy.”
Something that has helped Layton to find confidence within himself and acceptance for who he is has been being a member of the cosplay community. A blending of the words “costume” and “play,” cosplayers dress as characters from their favorite shows, comic books, video games, anime and more attending conventions with like-minded fans to show off their latest looks.
“I have a love of anime that started when I was a little kid,” Layton says. “My aunt had a specialty hobby, nerd store and she would sell anime on DVD and that is what first got my into it. She would have me watch ‘Sailor Moon,’ ‘Pokémon,’ all the basic ones, and I was like this is awesome. As I got older I started reading manga and playing video games.”
Layton’s first cosplay convention was MegaCon in Orlando when he was 14 or 15 years old, and his attendance at them grew from there.
“I was going to all of them that I could,” he says. “I started off buying pieces and altering them. The more I got into it I thought what if I did this and what if I did that, and I kept pushing myself to do bigger projects.”
One of those projects was as Lucifer from the anime “The Devil is a Part-Timer,” where Layton created a pair of working angel wings that he glued 3,000 individual feathers to. Another was one he spotlighted in the recent cosplay issue of Watermark — headless Alice from “Alice in Wonderland.”
“That one required a lot of blueprinting and construction to pull the illusion off,” Layton says. “I referenced an idea from drag performer Maddy Morphosis and made it into Alice. I made the construction piece and my drag mom Dollya Black sewed the garment. I would not have been able to pull it off without her help.”
Layton’s talent with cosplay has helped him to exceed in another one of his passions — drag.
“I get really excited when I can do drag and cosplay at the same time,” he says. “I feel like it was a natural progression. I have always wanted to do drag and I love playing other characters, I’m a total theater kid also, so I think they all naturally go together.”
While Layton enjoys performing in drag, it wasn’t something he always thought he’d be able to do.
“I would watch ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ and think, ‘I wish I could be a drag queen’ but also think I couldn’t because I am trans masculine,” he says.
That changed when Layton came to Orlando and saw Draggedy Anne perform.
“Seeing Draggedy, another trans masc performer on stage, made me think if he’s doing it then I could do it too,” Layton says. “He inspired me.”
Layton connected with Draggedy over social media and developed a friendship which then turned into romance.
“We’ve been together for almost three years now,” Layton says. “We really started talking and connecting during the lockdown and we grew closer and closer. Now I have this amazing partner and drag family who have been nothing but supportive and loving. I couldn’t do any of the things I do without them. They lift me up and support me and give me all the love in the world.”
Layton is currently showcasing his drag skills in the “Drag Me To Hell” competition at The Spookeasy Lounge in Tampa. You can also see him performing occasionally at Manikin’s Lounge in Sanford, Pride Night at DaVinci’s in DeLand and at Austin’s Coffee in Winter Park this month.
Interested in being featured in Visibili-T? Email Editor-in-Chief Jeremy Williams in Central Florida or Managing Editor Ryan Williams-Jent in Tampa Bay.