Sam Killerman on The Complexities of Gender

At birth you’re cast in a role, given a script, and told to play that part ’til your dead. The director of your play follows you around every day of your life. The director is your parents, your teachers, your peers, your preachers, your news broadcasters, book writers, TV producers, fire fighters… every person in your life who has an impact on you, knows the script you’ve been given, and knows when you’re missing your cues.

As we grow up we become directors in other people’s plays. We notice when boys aren’t playing the boy part right, or when girls are running astray.”

–Sam Killerman

In addition to this Comprehensive* List of LGBTQ+ Term Definitions and the Genderbread Person, this talk on the Complexities of Gender reminds me of “The Man Box”; a concept used to describe the very limited ways of being that go into the “box” of masculinity like being “tough”, or not showing emotions, not appearing and not appearing “weak” in any way, are among a list of other very narrow ways to define masculinity.


Socially, those men who do not behave in ways that adhere to what is supposed to be in the “man box” are punished, accused of being gay or more. Maintaining the dominance of the man box thrives on elements of homophobia, and the devaluing of women or traits that are considered feminine.

Killerman also goes on to say that our current understanding of gender as a binary is not only incomplete, but dangerous as well, noting that people who are transgender have a higher risk of committing suicide in his talk. People who are transgender also have a high risk of being assaulted or killed because of others’ misunderstanding of gender, and their perceived failure to follow their “assigned” script.


From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins-Jones, MSW, LLMSW



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I'm a Social Justice Educator and Aspiring Humanitarian who is interested in conflict resolution, improving intergroup relations, and building more equitable and inclusive communities. "Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian" is my blog, where I write about issues of diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice. By exploring social identities through written word, film & video, and other forms of media, I hope to continue to expand and enrich conversations about social issues that face our society, and to find ways to take social action while encouraging others to do so as well in their own ways.

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