The Social Justice Advocate’s Handbook | Sam Killermann

Summary of: The Social Justice Advocate’s Handbook: A Guide to Gender
By: Sam Killermann


In ‘The Social Justice Advocate’s Handbook: A Guide to Gender’, author Sam Killermann delves into the complex world of gender and how it shapes individual lives and societal interactions. The book dissects ingrained beliefs and prejudices that adversely affect marginalized groups and offers practical ways to counter these damaging assumptions by adopting gender-inclusive language and promoting equity over equality. By embracing Sam Killermann’s Platinum Rule, understanding the ‘Genderbread Person’, identifying privilege, and fostering meaningful conversations, readers can help nurture an inclusive and fair environment, leading us one step closer to a world that transcends discrimination based on gender.

The Cycle of Oppression

Society provides unequal access to “wealth, education, and happiness” to different groups. Sheri Schmidt’s cycle of oppression explains the process of marginalization, which occurs when people notice differences, apply stereotypes, develop prejudices, and use their power to discriminate. Oppressed individuals may also internalize negative beliefs about themselves, perpetuating the cycle. While achieving total equity may be impossible, small steps towards fairness and justice can be taken. Using humor and accurate information to challenge assumptions is one way to combat oppression, starting with using gender-inclusive language like “they” for individuals.

The Power of the Platinum Rule

In “The Platinum Rule,” the author emphasizes understanding that everyone has different needs and suggests asking people how you can support them. The book stresses the importance of seeing others as multidimensional and avoiding characterizing people by just one trait, especially if they are part of a marginalized demographic. To ensure fairness, the book advocates for equity rather than equality. Additionally, the book urges those who hold more power to use Peggy McIntosh’s privilege checklist to support those who do not enjoy the same privileges. For people who are part of marginalized demographics, the book encourages them to be multidimensional in how they see themselves and to freely express themselves. In summary, “The Platinum Rule” is a call for more empathy, recognition of people’s diverse backgrounds, and the promotion of fairness and equity in society.

Understanding Gender and Sexuality with The Genderbread Person

Gender is not a binary concept, and The Genderbread Person serves as a helpful tool for individuals to understand the complexities of gender and sexuality. The image represents four different aspects of a person’s identity: anatomical sex, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. These elements intermix, but they do not determine one another. Unfortunately, gender roles create a no-win situation for millions of people. Breaking them creates external conflicts, whereas following them causes conflict within. To address this, some people view gender as a spectrum between men and women, and those who fall in between can identify as genderqueer. Alternatively, individuals can chart the intensity with which they identify or don’t identify with male or female characteristics. After all, people are not necessarily opposites of masculinity or femininity. Most people have traits that align with both to varying degrees. If you want to learn more about gender and sexuality, The Genderbread Person is an excellent starting point.

Gender Norms Harm Individuals

Gender identity is shaped by environment and experiences, but the gender binary limits personal expression. Resisting conformity leads to dissonance and potential harm for transgender and cisgender individuals. Creating more choices for personal identity is crucial to alleviate the negative effects of gender norms.

Understanding Transgender Identities

Transgender is an umbrella term for people who feel their identity is outside the gender binary. This group can comprise between 1% to 3% of the population and includes trans men (who identify as male but were not assigned male at birth), trans women (who identify as female but were not assigned female at birth), agender people (who feel genderless), genderfluid people (whose gender identity changes over time), and bigender people (who have two or more gender identities). While labels can create solidarity, individuals may not encompass all traits associated with a particular gender. To be respectful, always ask for someone’s preferred pronoun.

The Spectrum of Gender Expression

Gender expression is not fixed and can change from day to day, but breaking societal norms can come at a cost. Biological sex is a social construct and can be complicated, with intersex individuals comprising 1% of the population. The Kinsey Scale for defining sexual orientation leaves out nonbinary people, but there are other labels such as androsexual, gynesexual, skoliosexual, pansexual, and asexual. Moving beyond binary gender can be liberating and affirming.

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