Press release from Red Bank Regional High School
In observance of the recent Week of Respect, Red Bank Regional High School partnered with makeitbetter4youth.org to bring a special multi-disciplinary artist to RBR for a an engaging and insightful presentation on the topic of Gender Identity.
Samuel (Sam) Killermann is an author, performer and internationally renowned internet celebrity on matters of social justice. Students from Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School’s Gay Straight Alliance, as well as the Collier School, were also invited to the presentation.
Mr. Killermann explained to his audience that his fascination with gender had personal roots which crystallized in college, when he learned that his prospective girlfriend assumed that he (a heterosexual male) was gay. This misperception of his sexual identity seemed to occur often in college; so he sought counsel at the college’s LGBTQ center. He was told that people were confusing his sexuality for the way he expressed his gender.
Guest speaker Sam Killermann, center, is pictured with some of the individuals responsible for bringing his presentation to RBR. Left to right are makeitbetter4youth.org co-founder and RFH teacher Kate Okeson, RBR Source Clinical Supervisor, Stacy Liss, Killermann, RBR GSA President Skylar (Kyle) Eber, RBR Principal Risa Clay, RBR Source Director Suzanne Keller.
Sam admits that he is not the classic “masculine guy,” and that his preference for dress, and mannerism, therefore, caused people to make an incorrect assumption over his sexuality. While his presentation was interesting, funny and insightful, he managed to impart several important concepts to the students, the most important being that gender is complex.
“While there are two ways to describe every person in the world — male or female — gender is not that simple,” he explained. “There are many versions of gender, which is more a form of expression in dress and demeanor, whereas biological sex is the physical make-up of our bodies.”
He went on to explain that a person’s gender is relative and personal to each individual. Today there are a variety of ways a person may self-describe their own gender beyond the traditional binary label of male or female. They include Gender Neutral (not particularly identifying as either male or female); Gender fluid (gender expression changing from time to time); Gender Queer (not identifying within the binary of male or female, or both in-between or outside altogether); Non-binary (not wishing a classification of either male or female) and Transgender (identifying opposite to the gender assigned at birth).
Cautioning the students to use these classifications as adjectives and not nouns when describing a person’s gender preference, Mr. Killermann focused the most attention on the last classification of transgender. Studies have revealed that this population remains the most at risk for suicide, and the issue of Transgender has recently sparked a national controversy over public bathroom facilities, which were codified in North Carolina by the state’s legislature. The law caused several high profile sport organizations and large corporations to boycott North Carolina, and Mr. Killermann was invited to several town halls in the state to discuss the dilemma.
“The biggest question was, ‘What do we put up on the door’?” he told the students. In response, he put up a picture of a toilet on the internet as an “all gender restroom sign.” It was subsequently adopted for the White House restrooms as well s a dozen college campuses in the United States and on three continents.
RBR sophomore Jack Davis commented of the presentation, “I think he created a safe place for everyone and made them feel like they fit in somewhere.”
“It (the program) was amazing,” fellow sophomore Tamia Waddy added. “Schools don’t usually do this. They push it into a closet. It is really important to be open-minded about this. I was really proud of my school.”
The makeitbeter4youth.org is a Monmouth County Consortium for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Youth. For more information on Sam Killermann, visit his website at www.samuelKillermann.com.