Social Justice Advocates Handbook: A Guide to Gender Understanding I'm Heading to Cairo

One reason I’m a social justice advocate (as a white, straight, male)

by Sam Killermann · 24 comments

in Op-Ed

Rainbow Trolls

I’ve dedicated my life to progressing social justice, in the hopes that one day we can have a society that is equitable for all.  I have a lot of reasons for doing this, but there are just as many reasons why it might be viewed that I shouldn’t. 

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As a white, straight, non-disabled, post-grad educated, man, most of the injustices in society actually work in my favor.  All of the privileges I talk about levying are privileges I can access.  I can go where I want, live where I want, love who I want, and be without fear for my health, worries of employment, or restrictions of rights.  And I want to change that?!

What’s worse: this life I’ve chosen is one that’s placed me well below the poverty line.  I work hard, work a lot, and barely make rent and bills each month.  Choosing to do this instead of taking an executive job, being a web designer, or – hell – even a server, I’m placing myself in a targeted group devoid of the privileges of health care and guaranteed food/shelter each month.  This is a background I’m familiar with, and as such I don’t have any semblance of a “safety net” to catch me.

So there’re plenty of reasons I shouldn’t be in this line of work, writing for this website and performing my show.  So why do I do it?

One reason is because of comments like the one below (originally posted here) from Rick:

You call yourself an advocate for social justice, when really you’re only a self-serving homosexual only interested in furthering his own agenda.  Of course you don’t care about religious, racial, or class issues because as a privileged white kid who feels alienated, you have to direct all of your efforts to a non-issue.  Boycotting marriage? OK great, check that one off the list.  Now what else is it that you’re advocating? I’m at a loss here.  Looking at the title “It’s Pronounced Metrosexual” really seems to imply that that’s what you are, a metrosexual.  When really you’re just detracting from those that are metrosexual because its quite evident that you’re gay.  If I were a straight guy who made a little site called “It’s Pronounced Homosexual” I’m sure I’d get all sorts of flack.  So keep endorsing that double standard, it’s what you do best.

I didn’t feel like responding to Rick (if that is his real name, which I doubt!) directly with this, because there are some people on the interwebs who aren’t worth the time (they’re called trolls, and not the pink-haired kind with gemstone belly buttons).  But I felt the need to respond in general to the Ricks of the world.  Let’s break this down.

“You call yourself an advocate for social justice,” (yep, I do!) “when really you’re only a self-serving homosexual only interested in furthering his own agenda.”  Whoa now.  That got dark fast.  First off, no.  Secondly, even if yes, would that really preclude me from being an advocate for social justice?  Can gay men not fight for their own rights?  That seems odd, and somehow unjust.

“Of course you don’t care about religious, racial, or class issues,” (do so!) “because as a privileged white kid who feels alienated, you have to direct all your efforts to a non-issue.”  Wow.  Okay.  I’m definitely a privileged white kid, and sometimes I do feel alienated, but did you just call equity for people of diverse sexualities and genders a non-issue?  Your true colors are starting to show here, Rick (if that is your real name, which I doubt!).

“Boycotting marriage? OK great, check that one off the list.” Checked.

“Now what else is it that you’re advocating? I’m at a loss here.”  I call it equality.  Or, as you called it, a “non-issue.”

“Looking at the title “It’s Pronounced Metrosexual” really seems to imply that that’s what you are, a metrosexual.”  (“imply” is a weird word choice, I would have gone with “overtly state”), “when really you’re just detracting from those that are metrosexual because its quite evident that you’re gay.”  Two things here.  One, don’t you dare question my allegiance to my metro brethren.  And two, where’s this evidence?  Have you seen that tape?  Nobody was supposed to see that tape.

“If I were a straight guy who made a little site called “It’s Pronounced Homosexual” I’m sure I’d get all sorts of flack.”  I think that site already exists.

“So keep endorsing that double standard, it’s what you do best.”  I’m really confused at this point, but I’m not the type to look a gift horse in the mouth, so thanks for the compliment, Rick.  You’re really a sweetheart underneath all of this misplaced aggression, aren’t ya?

Why do I do what I do?

I write for this site to provide resources, support, education, and encouragement to all those who want for a society where who one loves doesn’t dictate how they will be treated.  I perform my show around the country to introduce young people to the idea that we don’t live in a just society (in many cases this is news), and to explain to them the importance of living in a way that promotes social justice.  I do what I do because I’m not comfortable living in a society where people like Rick make the laws and enforce them.  And I want to do everything I can to transfer that power into the hands of people who care more about other people, and less of themselves.

Written by Sam Killermann

Sam is a writer and performer who uses those skills as an ally to advance progress in the realms of LGBT equality and social justice. He tours the country speaking to college students about stereotypes, prejudice, and oppression, and writes for this site when he's at home in Austin, TX.

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  • Motherjoy06

    Wow. His comment was utterly confusing and had no basis….

    • Samuel Killermann

      I had kind of the same reaction.  He wrote a follow up, too.  A whole lot of aggression, but I can’t quite place where it’s coming from.

  • lohtar

    You just do what you do and be awesome while you’re doing it!

    And though I would welcome you being gay, it is pretty cute that a straight privileged white boy is standing up for social justice.

    • Samuel Killermann

      Hahaha – thanks, Lohtar.  Now I feel pandered to.

  • Rick

    Boy, oh boy. Where to start? By reposting the second comment that you neglected, I suppose “What you do is important? A little blog pandering to people insecure about their sexuality? Bravo.  Or maybe brava (don’t want to be insensitive).  What exactly is your goal here?  Hoping a bigot will stroll by your “blog” and think to himself, “Man, I’ve had it wrong all these years, this guy who shoves his sexuality in everyone’s face has really enlightened me.” And on that note, are you honestly trying to tell me you’re not gay? Who’s the real troll now?  Then again, there’s no better way to win an argument than to be dismissive and call someone a troll. I do have to ask though: Is it only anonymous internet trolls that you don’t cater to?  I just want to make sure there is some hope for the trolls that identify themselves.”  Quite a long rant for not being worth your time.  Bottom line is that you don’t seem to understand the difference between being gay and shoving your sexuality in someone’s face.  Do I think gay marriage should be legal? Absolutely.  And do I think they should be extended the same rights as any other marriage? Of course. But do I think I should (or anyone should, for that matter) draw a gingerbread man detailing sexual orientation and then expect it to advocate social justice somehow? No.  It’s asinine to think that shoving flamboyant slogans and drawings in anyone’s face would somehow make it more socially acceptable.  So instead of emailing your local representatives and supporting a grass roots movement for equality, you blog.  You don’t seem to grasp that what you’re doing here actually marginalizes people that face discrimination.  So you’re not gay?  Then as an “advocate for social justice” why this issue?  It’s clear there are many others that don’t affect your day-to-day life.  I have to say I’m really astounded at how far you really missed the mark here Sam.  Keep on truckin’.


    • Samuel Killermann

      You’re confused, Rick.  I said you weren’t worth my time.  This post was definitely worth my time.  But do you really want more attention from me?  I gotta say you’re sending some seriously mixed messages here.  

      You support the same causes I do, yet you denounce and question me for supporting them?

      You say you think gays should have equal rights, yet you toss gay accusations at me like they are insults?

      Ditto, then you accuse me of shoving my sexuality and “flamboyant slogans” in someone’s face, while you’re coming to into my website and shoving only-you-can-make-sense-of-what into my (and my readers’) face?

      You think I should start a grass roots movement for equality, while condemning what I’m doing, which is probably about as “grass roots movement for equality” as they get?

      You ask me why I fight for “this issue”, when you say “of course” we should have marriage equality?

      I’m not going to apologize for missing your mark, Rick, because from what little I can gather from your [drunk, are you drunk?] comments, I don’t want to hit it.  I’m also not going to apologize for “draw[ing] a gingerbread man detailing sexual orientation” for two reasons: one, I didn’t – I made a gingerbread person detailing gender; and two, that graphic is AWESOME and has made a bigger impact than me “emailing [my] local representatives” a thousand times would have.

      Like I said, you’re confused, Rick.

      • Rick

        You really just keep coming back for more, don’t you Sam? Is it the attention? Is that what this is all about?  As lohtar has said, we do agree on some issues, but what you continually seem to misunderstand is that, as I said before, you are marginalizing real issues that you don’t fully grasp.  Is there a place for humor? Absolutely.  Should it be used as a guise for your beliefs? Not when it is demeaning to people that do suffer from the discrimination.  I don’t denounce you at all for your beliefs or the causes you support, only your methods.  And I’m sorry, but every time I reply to you I have to see “Samuel Killermann, social justice advocate.” What’s wrong with calling yourself a gay rights advocate?  Because, again, you’re marginalizing the plights of other minorities.  

        • Samuel Killermann

          This is why I should have followed through on my initial gut reaction and ignored you instead of engaging you.  It’s impressive, in a way, that you’ve been able to trigger me in a way hundreds of others haven’t.  I’m happy to have a conversation with you about this stuff, but this isn’t a conversation.

        • lohtar

          I think social justice advocate works. I most often refer to myself as social activist.

          I don’t believe in gay rights. Or LGBTQ+ rights. I believe in human rights. 

          If you ask me, it would be a bad thing if there are separate rights, would not change the current situation, only change the focus from ‘heteronormative’ to LGBTQ+.

    • lohtar

      Y’know, when I read this it sounds like you both are actually on the same side, just have a different approach. And that is both your right.

      I do think, Rick, it is not up to you to decide someone’s sexuality. Whether Sam is gay, straight or whatever is irrelevant. He identifies as straight publicly, which is simply what we have to accept than. Easy as that. I do not doubt it, but even if so that would be my problem. Not Sam’s.

      I see Sam’s work not as pushing things down people’s throats. Not like he is buying Superbowl ads. Of course part of the work is about visibility. It is no different for what I do, being a social activist myself. But posting material online, having a one-man show and making yourself visible, allowing people to see you is quite something different than forcing it upon them.

      You likely are right that a bigot won’t come here and suddenly changes their mind. But that might not be the main goal (Sam has to answer this though). How about people who are LGBTQ+, reaching them? Help them understand, if they are questioning. Help them find a place of acceptance and information. Give them tools they can use to advocate for our course. The same for allies.

      A website won’t easily changes someone’s opinion. But someone you know personal who is well educated on the topic and can speak with compassion just might.

      Seriously. Both of you. If you are on the same side, don’t fight over it. The energy is better used elsewhere. Have a civil discussion if you think things need a different approach. But also accept that we all do things in our own way.

      • Rick

        Thanks for being level headed lohtar. And you are right about some things, sepcifically ” How about people who are LGBTQ+, reaching them? Help them understand, if they are questioning. Help them find a place of acceptance and information. Give them tools they can use to advocate for our course. The same for allies.” It would be great if that were the case here, but unfortunately it’s not, and other websites have done just that, and have done it well. I’m just trying to make everyone see that this site is nothing more than an exercise in self adulation.

        • Samuel Killermann

          How might I do a better job, Rick?  I am a huge fan of constructive criticism and feedback.  Help me create a resource that lives up to your expectations and is more than an exercise in self adulation.  I can assure you that’s not my goal, so it’s unfortunate that it’s being interpreted that way.

          • Rick

            You can start by linking to real resources:

            It’s not wrong to only support gay rights, but if you’re going to plaster social justice everywhere, then embrace that, otherwise just gay rights.  No need to say you’re something that you’re not (I believe you do support equal rights for all, but that isn’t what this site is about).
            Just don’t misrepresent yourself, that’s the main thing.  

          • Samuel Killermann

            Well that seems easy enough.  And I’m not misrepresenting myself in any way, so you don’t have to worry about that.  

    • Joy Butler

      Quoting your original post to Sam, you said “really you’re only a self-serving homosexual only interested in furthering his own agenda”, and now you question “why this issue?”  You answered your own question before you asked it.  Gay people are often stigmatized and discounted when they try to speak up for themselves.  Why belittle the efforts of anyone fighting for discrimination?  

  • Chuck

    Just a few points I’d like to
    make. The sexual orientation of anyone should not matter, including Sam’s.
    Constantly (an erroneously) claiming that he is a “homosexual,” should not deter from the fact
    that he is trying to support social justice and LGBT equality
    on all levels. Can’t any
    person advocate for LGBT rights and equality, regardless of their race, gender,
    sexual orientation, or background? Claiming that Sam could not possibly, “care about religious, racial, or class issues
    because [he is] a privileged white kid who feels alienated…” is
    without foundation. Why can’t a privileged white kid, or anyone else, care
    about these issues? The NAACP was cofounded by several wealthy, white leaders
    (including Henry Moskowitz, Mary White Ovington, and William English Walling) and whites still play a prominent role in the
    organization because it was, and still is, understood that you don’t have to be
    black to recognize the need for racial equality. My point is that the same
    holds true here; regardless of Sam’s sexual orientation, race, or upbringing, if
    he can still provide an outlet and resources for others who support social
    justice and LGBT rights, then he will have been successful. And this site does both.

    • Samuel Killermann

      I didn’t know that about the NAACP, Chuck.  Fascinating!  

  • Eric Teske

    What an odd feud. Looks like I’m a few days late to the comment party, I’ll just throw in my two cents. Yes the Human Right Campaign and Freedom to Marry have nice websites and they are great resources. They also have tons of money and full time staff. Freedom to Marry has over a million dollars in assets ($1,066,870 to be exact*) and over $3 Million in revenue in 2010.

    Sam does his site for free with two little Google ad banners on the side and still manages to reach thousands of people with eye-catching content. Sam’s face is on the site because he is relatable, and maybe people like that and keep coming back because they feel like he’s a real person whereas the other sites are great references but might come off as impersonal.

    There’s no one-way to do it, there’s nothing wrong with making a small site that puts out content with a positive message. I don’t understand why the possibility of Sam wasting his time is so personal to Rick?


    • Samuel Killermann

      An odd feud indeed :)  Thanks for sharing, Eric, and for being ever-so-well-cited.  

      So far the ad revenue from my site is less than the cost of the annual domain registration, so you could argue that I’m making negative dollars writing for this site.

  • Devian Michaels

    I am a female genderqueer masculine-identity pansexual who has been trying to find a way to explain this to people since exiting high school. I used to just go by gay or by transman, since people (including myself) didn’t understand the rest of that.  I follow HRC and others, but this website has given me the tools I needed to convey who I am in “the simplest terms with the most convenient definitions” (The Breakfast Club). 

    Thank you so much for this site.  I don’t care that you are white, male, and straight, hell, I wouldn’t care if you were a pink and purple polka-dotted fuzzy flying elephant.  The fact that you are not only sticking up for me, but also providing me with resources to help me stick up for myself and explain who I am to those who do not understand is enough to earn my respect and my appreciation.

  • Jono

    Rick, I’m sorry but just shut up! If you want to support LGBT rights, then do so. Don’t hate on the work of another. As a sexual health educator and health promoter, a queer youth group facilitator, and a gay person myself; Sam’s resources are awesome and very useful as a way to explain sexual identity and gender identity. All of this stuff works toward social justice. Stop complaining and do something to support the cause yourself! Furthermore, I personally don’t feel marginalised or further oppressed by Sam’s blog or his resources, nor do other queer friends of mine. So leave the man to do the work he’s doing.
    Sam, love your work mate! Plain and simple :)

  • Reubs J Walsh

    Wow Sam. It really warms me (a disabled genderqueer Christian who doesn’t really get read as hetero!) deep in my heart to see such a beautiful and impassioned plea for LGBT rights from a straight guy from texas. Restores one’s faith in humanity. As a white person, I believe that I am better off living in a society with taboos that inhibit racism, and laws that protect racial equality, because diversity, including those with privilege, but without the privilege, is good for everyone. Privilege is not something I want! OK so there are some kinds I want: I want a doctorate, because I want to be a scientist. I want influence because I hate the flaws in the system. But most of all I want equality, which includes the removal of the systems under which a doctorate confers privilege.
    You’re awesome. Your God bless you.

  • Kyle

    Loved the response, Sam, but just clicked on the link you gave in response to “it’s pronounced homosexual” comment, and the link said I shut it way before it could load, but could we maybe have some warning about that kind of thing in future, please? I always worry about the government logging that kind of site, if I visit it…
    Onto the actual message of this article though, Sam, keep doing what you’re doing! Seriously, it’s helped me no end, both with the LGBTQ+ group I created at my high school (where, one of our sessions we spend 45 minutes going through the genderbread person, because people genuinely didn’t know much about different genders) and in sending specific resources to people who really wanted to know better (like the privilege lists – it’s not that they supported the idea of privilege, it’s just that they didn’t see it).

    Ok, I think I’m mixing up the comments on this post and the actual post, but never mind. Either way, man, I love this. And also, if/when I become a millionaire, I am totally going to endorse this site big time. It’s the best one I’ve found so far.

  • zips

    You are just such a wonderful person! I love all your work, please keep it up!