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Debunking LGBT Myths and
One of the biggest challenges to helping people better understand LGBT issues is trying to get past the enormous amount of misinformation that already exists. Lots of bad press and outright lies have been intentionally circulated about LGBT people. In order to have a healthy dialogue about LGBT issues, it is important to cut through the falsehoods, stereotypes, myths and misconceptions.
The Southern Poverty Law Center is a strong advocate in behalf of LGBT rights and is active in educating the public on LGBT issues and concerns. In the SPLC Intelligence Report, they debunk 10 key myths (lies, falsehoods) propagated by the anti-gay movement. In the report they present each of the ten myths along with a discussion of the argument and a detailed presentation of the facts that discredit the myth.
SPLC: Debunking Ten Myths Propagated by the Anti-Gay Movement
Debunking Ten Myths Propagated by the Anti-Gay Movement
Live Science: Five Myths About Gay People Debunked
Huff Post: Harmful Myths & Stereotypes of Gay Men
Queereka: Myths & Misconceptions of Gay Men
Gay Voices: 8 Things Straight People Get Wrong About Gay Men
Myths and Misconceptions
Homosexuality isn’t very prevalent.
The Kinsey studies (1947, 1953) found that 10-12% of men and women identify as gay or lesbian throughout their lives. More recent studies have found that 6-12% of men and women report engaging in same sex behavior during their lives (National Survey of Family Growth 2002). Same-sex intimate behavior is common, having been found in every known culture and in the animal world as well. LGBT people are found in every social, economic, racial, and religious group. They are our teachers, colleagues, friends, parents, and children. We all know a number of LGBT people, whether we are aware of it or not.
We know what “causes” homosexuality.
The research so far has proven only one thing—we don’t know what causes anybody’s sexual orientation. This myth has an interesting heterosexist slant. Do people ever wonder and ask what causes heterosexuality?
Homosexuality is unnatural.
There are recorded observations of same sex behavior and gender fluidity throughout the animal kingdom (from seagulls and mares to primates) and from every known culture in the world.
Homosexuality is immoral.
There are several instances in a variety of religious texts that can be and have been used to condemn homosexuality. Some religious leaders and movements choose to use them; others believe they are a reflection of the social customs of the time, are not dealing with LGBT identity and relationships as we know them today, and should not be translated literally into policy for contemporary times.
Homosexuality is a mental illness.
The American Psychiatric Association voted in 1973 to remove homosexuality from their list of mental disorders because there is no evidence to substantiate this classification.
Gay men and lesbian women have many more sexual partners than heterosexuals.
Certainly, individuals within the LGBT community have as many sexual partners as do heterosexual individuals. Society does not provide any of the supports for gay and lesbian relationships that it does for heterosexual couples, yet over 50% of LGBT individuals are in long-term relationships and there are same-sex couples in 99% of counties in the U.S. Heterosexual marriage has a 50% divorce rate.
Gay men molest children.
97% of child molesting is perpetrated by heterosexual adult males on adolescent females. The “average” offender is a white heterosexual male in an adult relationship and is a man that the child knows. The adult who does molest children is often a pedophile—a person who is attracted to children regardless of their sex.
You can spot a gay man or lesbian women by the way they act and dress.
Gender roles do not determine sexual orientation. Many LGBT people are impossible to distinguish from straight and more gender normative individuals. There are some lesbians who dress in a very masculine way, some gay men who act in traditionally feminine ways, and many LGBT people who feel the freedom to explore a range of gender expression. They are also many gender normative LGBT people who “pass” unnoticed every day.
Gay people are not good parents as they introduce their children to their “lifestyle;” their children will grow up to be gay.
According to the
American Psychiatric Association, studies comparing groups of children
raised by homosexual and by heterosexual parents find no developmental
differences between the two groups of children in four critical areas:
their intelligence, psychological adjustment, social adjustment, and
popularity with friends. It is also important to realize that a parent's
sexual orientation does not dictate his or her children's.
Myth: You can spot a gay or lesbian person by the way they act and dress.
Reality: Some people believe all gay men are effeminate, and all lesbians are tomboys. While there are some gay and lesbian persons who fit these stereotypes, they are no more representative of all homosexual people than are the Marlboro Man and June Cleaver types representative of all straight people. LGBT people generally look and act like everyone else. Most people never suspect the sexual orientation of an LGBT individual.
Myth: I’ve never met a person who is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.
Reality: Most people know a number of LGBT persons, but are unaware of it because these persons are “in the closet”. Because of intense prejudice and hatred directed toward LGBTs in our society, many are quite reluctant to reveal their sexual orientation. As noted above, most LGBT people look and act just like everyone else. They come from all walks of life, all races, all economic levels, and all political perspectives. So heterosexual people can assume that they probably have homosexual neighbors, friends, relatives, and fellow worshipers—although those persons may be afraid to reveal that they are not straight.
Myth: LGBT people want to come into our schools and recruit the students to their lifestyle.
Reality: There have been attempts to bring LGBT issues into schools, but certainly not to convert anyone. There is no evidence that people could be “recruited” to a homosexual orientation, even if someone wanted to do this. The intent is to teach adolescents not to mistreat LGBT classmates, who are often subjects of harassment and physical attacks. Talking openly about homosexuality is also crucial to students who are LGBT. Feeling alone, frightened and confused, these young people are much more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. A recent study indicates that 30% of gay and lesbian students attempt suicide around the age of 15.
Myth: To be bisexual implies that a person has multiple partners.
Reality: Bisexual individuals have affection and sexual feelings towards persons of the other sex, as well as the same sex. This does not imply involvement with more than one partner any more than a heterosexual person’s ability to be attracted to more than one person implies multiple partners.
Myth: You can always tell homosexuals by the way they look or act. Men who act in a feminine manner must be gay. Masculine women with short haircuts and deeper voices must be lesbians.
Reality: These stereotypes only apply to about 15% of gays and 5% of lesbians. These stereotypes confuse the concept of sexual orientation (whether you prefer the same or the other sex as sexual partners) with gender roles (exhibiting masculine or feminine behavior). Just as the vast majority of gays and lesbians do not fit these stereotypes, only a portion of heterosexuals match them. Except for their actual sexual activity or admitting their sexual preferences, there is no accurate way to judge someone’s sexual orientation.
Many adolescents and some adults are not secure in their masculinity or femininity. For them, it is important to be as different form an LGBT person as possible. They may even have homophobia—an unreasonable fear and/or hatred of homosexuals. With their insecurity, they maintain stereotypes of effeminate male gays and masculine lesbians. When they follow the stereotyped gender roles, they feel more sexually adjusted. They use the stereotypes to distinguish between out-group and in-group members. When these individuals meet homosexuals who do not fit the homosexual stereotypes, they feel very upset and threatened. They are extremely upset by any activity with people of the same sex that even hints at being sexual.
Myth: Christians are united in their opposition to homosexual people and homosexuality.
Reality: There are a wide variety of opinions about homosexual persons among the various Christian denominations, and among individuals as well. Some religious groups interpret certain Biblical passages as injunctions against homosexuality, while others view these passages in the light of historical context, pointing out other passages Christians no longer take literally, such as those advocating slavery, dietary laws, and ritual purity laws. In addition many Christian denominations have issued statements condemning discrimination and prejudice against homosexual people, as have a number of Jewish and other religious groups. There are numerous congregations who welcome and affirm homosexual Christians as fully participating members of the body of Christ, with unique gifts to offer.
(From Gay Straight Alliance, Penn State Altoona)
Association for Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender Issues in Counseling of Alabama