Misconceptions and Myths About the LGBTQ+ Community
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- Understanding myths and misconceptions about LGBTQ+ folks is necessary for equity.
- When harmful myths are perpetuated, they create stigma against queer people.
- There are countless misconceptions about the LGBTQ+ community that must be dismantled.
- Allies must listen to queer experiences first and then act accordingly.
LGBTQ+ people are frequently misunderstood and misrepresented in popular culture and media. Mischaracterizations contribute further to their marginalization by much of the general public, resulting in a great amount of stress and anxiety. Queer people have shockingly high rates of mental illness as a result of discrimination. According to Mental Health America, they are 2.5 times more likely than heterosexual people to experience mental health conditions.
As students learn more about diversity, equity, and inclusion, they should be sure to understand how LGBTQ+ communities are marginalized.
How Misconceptions and Myths Stigmatize LGBTQ+ Students
Stereotypes inform many people's opinions about unfamiliar subjects, especially regarding marginalized communities. Though some stereotypes are simply exaggerations of the truth or misunderstandings of cultural norms, others have been put in place to cause harm. Unfortunately, the vitriol toward the LGBTQ+ community is rooted in misconceptions about queer people based on these kinds of stereotypes.
Consequently, the influence and power of these stereotypes have resulted in myths about LGBTQ+ people and culture, causing subsequent stigma and discrimination. LGBTQ+ students may bear the brunt of this stigma. Though colleges and universities are institutions for learning, schools may still permit bigotry by not addressing the harm resulting from stigma and misinformation.
The following myths and misconceptions about the LGBTQ+ community must be debunked to prevent stigma and promote equity.
Common Misconceptions and Myths About the LGBTQ+ Community
#1 - Sexuality is always a choice or is taught.
Many people believe that being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or otherwise is something a person actively chooses. However, it is more complicated than that. There is no "reason" for a person's sexual orientation. People are born with certain predispositions, however, sexuality can also be fluid and evolve over time. Approximately 8% of American adults identified as LGBTQ+ in 2021, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
#2 - Nonbinary people are always androgynous.
Stereotypical nonbinary gender presentation is popularly characterized as being "in-between." Yet, being nonbinary is only meant to describe an individual that does not fit into the gender binary; it does not mean that a person who is nonbinary is a combination of both man and woman.
#3 - "Who's the man in the relationship?"
The dynamics in queer relationships vary from couple to couple, and, therefore, gender roles are fluid and depend on the individuals. Both queer and straight couples have begun to challenge heteronormative gender roles in relationships. There is no "man" in a queer relationship unless someone identifies as a man.
#4 - Children shouldn't be raised by two moms or two dads.
It is a common misconception that children mature best in traditional, heteronormative households. In the face of marriage equality and the establishment of queer families in the mid-2000s, anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric often cited the necessity or merit of a nuclear family structure. Today, people still perpetuate these misconceptions. However, diverse parenting arrangements have always existed, including single parents, close relatives acting as caregivers, and adoptive families. The American Psychological Association has stated that children are equally likely to succeed in straight and queer households.
#5 - Pronouns aren't real.
The use of pronouns to specify gender identity is an increasingly polarizing issue. What is upsetting or confusing to most people is that pronouns are explicitly highlighted in contexts about gender and sexuality. Yet, as a heavily utilized part of the English language, pronouns have always served to identify gender.
#6 - Queer people are hypersexual.
The perception that LGBTQ+ people are hypersexual is inaccurate. Many likely (and wrongfully) assume there is something perverse about queerness because of the celebratory atmosphere at Pride parades. However, just as sexual desires vary among heterosexual people, they vary among queer folks.
#7 - Gay men are more likely to be pedophiles.
Just as it is untrue that LGBTQ+ folks are hypersexual, it is inaccurate that gay men are more likely to be pedophiles. Rooted in the Boy Scout and Vatican scandals, the belief that gay men are child molesters is erroneous and extremely harmful. There is no correlation between homosexuality and pedophilia.
#8 - Trans people assault others in the bathroom.
The fear of being assaulted by a trans person while using the bathroom is unfounded. If anything, the opposite is true. Trans people often fear the bathroom because of their increased likelihood of being bullied or assaulted if they do not "pass" (or if their physical appearance is not perceived to "match" their gender identity).
#9 - Bisexuality is just a phase.
Even though bisexuals are represented within the LGBTQ+ acronym itself, their validity is often questioned. Commonly depicted as a transitional phase to being "fully" gay or lesbian, bisexuality is not always accepted by other queer people. However, according to the Human Rights Campaign, bisexual people made up the largest contingent of LGBTQ+ folks in the U.S. in 2021, representing 4% of U.S. adults.
#10 - "There are only two genders: man and woman."
The typical argument against transgender and nonbinary individuals is that gender and biological sex are not different; detractors say there are only two genders because there are only two sexes. Yet, even biology is never clear cut. It has been proven that biological sex does not even exist in a binary — not to mention that this ideology completely erases the existence of intersex people.
How to Combat LGBTQ+ Misconceptions and Myths
The first step to defeating these myths is to become aware of them. Understanding the nuance and the root of stigma will help a person recognize how they may contribute to the harm against LGBTQ+ individuals.
Listening to queer people about the struggles they face is of the utmost importance. Only they can communicate the distress and issues they experience due to these myths. Following LGBTQ+ rights organizations, the social media accounts of advocates within the community, and newsrooms that focus on queer people and allies is an easy way to get started. For students, visiting campus institutions like LGBTQ+ centers can be helpful, too.
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Additionally, it is important to understand that progress cannot happen without action. Allies should join forces against bigotry by protesting, raising awareness of LGBTQ+ issues, and speaking up for the humanity of queer people. It is essential to become an active voice for LGBTQ+ people by promoting their perspectives and concerns, as their voices are often downplayed or ignored entirely (especially those of trans people). Allies should use their voices to amplify those of queer individuals.
Myths and misconceptions greatly impact the general public's perception of the LGBTQ+ community. After educating themselves about stereotypes, students should actively use what they've learned to find and dispel other forms of misinformation. Students have the power to ensure campus spaces are inclusive and welcoming for themselves and their peers.