Myths and misconceptions about LGBTQ+ people — what is the reality?

Yes Magazine

In our ever-progressing society, understanding and supporting diversity is more important now than ever. Nevertheless, myths and misconceptions about LGBTQ+ people continue to persist actively, hindering the process of establishing an equal and inclusive society. These baseless beliefs not only harm the lives of LGBTQ+ individuals but also prevent the formation of a healthy, discrimination-free environment.

In this article, we will review the most harmful myths and misconceptions surrounding the LGBTQ+ community.

Myth #1: Homosexuality is a choice

Truth: Sexual orientation is determined by factors such as genetics and the biology of brain development — it is not a choice.

Scientific data indicates that sexual orientation (whether it be homosexuality, heterosexuality, or otherwise) depends on biology. While more research is still needed in this area, existing studies suggest that what determines a person’s heterosexuality or queerness has its roots in genetics (e.g., DNA), epigenetics (e.g., how factors influence our genes), and brain development before birth.

Parenting methods or active discussions on this topic do not determine a person’s sexual orientation. Homosexuality is no more a choice than heterosexuality. Asking a gay person, “When did you decide to be gay?” is the same as asking a heterosexual person, “When did you decide to like people of the opposite sex/gender?”

► Homosexual behavior is found not only in humans but in over 500 animal species — there is nothing “unnatural” about it.

Myth #2: Homosexuality is “curable”

Truth: Psychotherapy cannot change a person’s sexual orientation, and any so-called “conversion therapy” is harmful.

Homosexuality is not a disease. Therapies that claim to “turn” lesbian, gay, and bisexual people into heterosexuals (so-called “conversion” therapies) are unscientific and harmful.

A working group of the American Psychological Association, which reviewed years of research on psychotherapy, determined that it is highly unlikely that sexual orientation can be changed. Additionally, leading mental health organizations worldwide advise people against undergoing “conversion therapies.”

Myth #3: It’s the parents’ fault that their child is queer

Truth: Nothing a parent has done can “cause” their child to grow up non-heterosexual. However, how a parent reacts to their child’s coming out (disclosure of identity) is very important, as it will have a significant impact on their well-being.

Parents who learn that their child is gay, lesbian, or bisexual often initially blame themselves. This is false — sexual orientation is not learned from anyone, including parents. Just as a parent cannot make their child heterosexual, they cannot cause their child to be non-heterosexual.

However, a parent’s reaction when their child discloses their sexual orientation will have a significant impact on their well-being and quality of life. Support from parents and family is very important for LGBTQ+ individuals and can protect them from homelessness, bullying, and depression.

Myth #4: Homosexuality is a mental illness

Truth: LGBTQ+ individuals are just as mentally healthy as everyone else.

As early as 1973, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics released a joint statement:

“Homosexuality is not a disease. It does not require treatment, and it is not changeable. Gender differences are normal expressions of human relationships.”

At that time, homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), which is the official list of mental disorders, and it is no longer considered a mental disorder.

LGBTQ+ individuals are just as healthy as everyone else. However, it is true that stigma, negative biases, and discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals create a hostile and stressful environment that can lead to mental health issues, anxiety, depression, and so on.

Myth #5: Fighting against homosexuality is “Christian”

Truth: The Bible is most concerned with treating others well and opposes cruelty, exploitation, and violence against all people — whether they are heterosexual or queer.

The cornerstone of Christianity is love; it preaches acceptance, not persecution. Using God and faith to sow fear, discomfort, and hatred has never been part of the Christian creed.

Myth #6: Increased visibility of LGBTQ+ people and issues is “propaganda”

The myth that increased visibility of LGBTQ+ people and issues is “propaganda” is false and harmful. This misconception suggests that mere visibility or the fight for equal rights means that LGBTQ+ individuals and their supporters are trying to impose a “lifestyle” or “beliefs” on others — this is completely untrue. Additionally, it is homophobic to imply that a person’s orientation is a “lifestyle” or “beliefs,” because, as mentioned before, homosexuality is not a choice, unlike lifestyle and beliefs.

Below, we explain why this myth is harmful and what the reality actually is:

Why is this myth harmful?

  • Erasure of existence: The view that visibility equals “propaganda” ignores the simple fact that LGBTQ+ people exist and are members of our society. This harmful approach implies that their visibility is merely conditional and needs regulation, which dehumanizes individuals.
  • Silencing effect: This myth is used to silence LGBTQ+ voices and their advocacy for rights, suggesting that speaking out about human rights and experiences is inappropriate or aggressive, rather than a basic form of self-expression and the fight for equality.
  • Promotion of inequality: Labeling LGBTQ+ visibility as “propaganda” implies that the struggle of LGBTQ+ people for equal rights is somehow different from or less important than other civil rights movements, which fosters social and legal inequality.

What is the reality?

  • Visibility equals representation: For many in the LGBTQ+ community, the goal of increased visibility is to enhance representation; seeing oneself in media, politics, education, etc., can have a very positive effect on one’s sense of belonging and self-esteem.
  • Educational value: Visibility helps educate society about the diversity and richness of human experiences and identities. It fosters empathy and understanding and dispels stereotypes and misconceptions.
  • Advocacy for equal rights: The visibility of LGBTQ+ issues often revolves around the fight for equal rights, including anti-discrimination policies and healthcare rights. This is not “propaganda” but ensuring that all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, are treated fairly and with dignity.
  • Community and support: Increased visibility can provide key support and validation to those who feel isolated or marginalized due to their identity. It can help build supportive communities and increase access to resources, which can be vital for those facing discrimination.
  • Cultural richness: Including diverse LGBTQ+ perspectives and stories enriches culture and society, contributing to a more vibrant, dynamic, and empathetic country.

In summary, the myth that increased visibility of LGBTQ+ people and issues is “propaganda” disregards the fundamental needs and rights of individuals regarding representation, equality, and acceptance. It is essential to counter this myth and promote inclusivity, understanding, and respect for all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“I don’t know any LGBTQ+ people; they are not around me” — how true is this?

It is very likely that you know someone who is queer — they just may not have publicly or personally disclosed it to you yet. Many LGBTQ+ individuals hide their identity to avoid harassment and discrimination.

Below, we discuss why the misconception that there are no LGBTQ+ people around us exists and what the reality is:

Why does this misconception exist?

  • Lack of open discussion about one’s identity: Not all LGBTQ+ individuals openly discuss their sexual orientation or gender identity. Some may not feel comfortable or safe enough to talk about these aspects of their lives in certain environments to avoid discrimination, exclusion, or even harm.
  • Stereotypes and incorrect assumptions: People often try to “identify” LGBTQ+ individuals based on stereotypes. If someone does not fit these stereotypes, they may be automatically assumed to be heterosexual and/or cisgender, which creates a false perception of their identity.
  • Privacy and personal space: Sexual orientation and gender identity are just one part of a person’s overall identity. Many LGBTQ+ individuals might not mention these aspects in conversation, just as many heterosexual or cisgender people might not.
  • Bi-invisibility: A significant portion of the LGBTQ+ community consists of bisexual and pansexual individuals who are attracted to multiple genders. However, bi/pan individuals’ visibility and acceptance are very low, even within the queer community. We might assume that a person attracted to the opposite gender is necessarily heterosexual without considering that they might be attracted to multiple genders.
  • Ubiquity of LGBTQ+ people: LGBTQ+ individuals exist in all aspects of life, in every profession, community, and culture. Their visibility or acknowledgment of their existence may not be pronounced due to existing social norms or personal choices.

What is the reality?

  • Statistics: Research and surveys show that a significant portion of the population identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community. This number fluctuates around 10%, and it is even higher among young people, indicating that all of us likely know queer individuals, although we may not be aware of it.
  • Diverse identities: The LGBTQ+ community includes a multitude of identities, not all of which are easily visible or recognizable. You might know an LGBTQ+ person but not be aware of their identity due to preconceived notions about how queer people “should look.”
  • Changing dynamics: As society becomes more accepting, more people feel comfortable “coming out” (disclosing their identity). Those who previously thought they did not know any LGBTQ+ individuals may discover that their friends, family members, or colleagues are queer when these individuals feel comfortable and safe enough to speak openly about it.

► Remember: Invisibility does not mean nonexistence. The perception that there are no LGBTQ+ community members around often stems from a lack of visibility or open discussion, not from the absence of LGBTQ+ people around us. It is important to understand that we are all natural and integral parts of society, regardless of our identities. Creating an environment that is more open and accepting will help those around us speak more honestly, safely, and comfortably about their true identities, if they choose to do so.

Source: Strong Family Alliance