11 Stereotypes People Should Stop Believing About the LGBTQ Community
It's time to change how we view queer people.
Before the 1970s, most stereotypes about the LGBTQ community were extremely negative. In fact, for much of the 19th and 20th centuries, a vast majority of the population (including doctors and scholars) believed that members of the LGBTQ community suffered from mental disorders.
Then, the Stonewall Riots changed everything. In 1969, police raided a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn in New York City and those inside fought back. This wasn’t just a historical moment—it was a movement. Throughout the following decade, LGBTQ rights were at the forefront of social justice activism—which, in turn, led to increased awareness about the LGBTQ community. And while the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s created more obstacles and stereotypes about LGBTQ people, by the 1990s, that started to evolve. LGTBQ characters began appearing with regularity on television with shows like Queer as Folk, The L Word, and Will & Grace.
Still, the LGBTQ community has always been pegged as “different.” And whenever a community is in that position, stereotypes abound. So, in order to set the record straight, we’ve rounded up a list of some of the most common LGBTQ stereotypes. If you hear these phrases, know that they’re all utterly, demonstrably false. Then, you can educate others by correcting them, too.
1. “All bisexual people are promiscuous.”
According to a 2011 study by the Williams Institute, more than half of all non-heterosexual people in the United States identify as bisexual. But there is still a lot of mystery and stereotyping when it comes to the B in LGBTQ. As the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) points out, bisexual people are often accused of being more promiscuous than non-bisexual people because they are attracted to both men and women.
Many even blamed bisexual people for spreading HIV and AIDS, all on the assumption that bisexual people were engaging in more dangerous sexual activities.
“A common stereotype is that bisexual people do not want to be, or cannot be, monogamous. This is simply not true,” according to GLAAD. “Bisexual people are just as capable of forming monogamous relationships as heterosexual, gay, and lesbian people.”
2. “You can’t be queer and religious.”
Some religions believe that homosexuality goes against the very pillars established in their holy texts. However, in recent decades, more religious denominations—like Reform Judaism and the Episcopalian church—have been supportive of the LGBTQ community, according to The Trevor Project.
In fact, according to a 2018 poll from BuzzFeed News and Whitman Insight Strategies, just 39 percent of LGBTQ people claim to have no religious affiliation at all. What’s more, out of the 880 people polled, 23 percent identified as Protestant or Christian and 18 percent identified as Catholic, while smaller percentages reported to be Jewish and Buddhist. That means, more than 70 percent of respondents still feel connected to religion, disproving this stereotype entirely.
3. “All lesbians are masculine.”
While it is true that some women who identify as lesbians are more masculine in appearance and disposition, the truth is that every lesbian is different. This outdated stereotype does nothing more than incorrectly corral a group of people into a small, definable box.
Another misconception that goes hand-in-hand with this stereotype is that lesbian relationships include one woman who is more “masculine,” and one who is considered more “feminine,” i.e. the butch-femme dynamic. This assumption was further examined in a 2016 study by the American Sociological Association, which found that most Americans feel the need to apply gender roles to those involved in same-sex relationships. “Even in same-sex couples where there are not sex differences between partners, people use gender differences as a way to approximate sex differences,” said Natasha Quadlin, the lead author of the study.
As a lesbian-identifying woman who is relatively feminine (and has friends who identify in the same way), I can personally say that this stereotype is completely false, and fails to acknowledge the fact that lesbians, just like every other human, come in all shapes, sizes, races, and gender expressions.
4. “All gay men are effeminate and flamboyant.”
Assuming that all gay men are more flamboyant and feminine than straight men is straight-up false. This stereotype dates back to the word “gay” itself, which had originally been used to describe someone who was overly cheerful, loud, and happy. Over the years, the etymology of the word has had a widespread effect on how gay men are perceived.
A 2017 survey for Attitude magazine polled around 5,000 gay, queer, or bisexual men—and a staggering 69 percent of them admitted that their sexual orientation made them feel less masculine at some point in their lives. Many of those surveyed also pointed to the fact that gay men are still not represented fairly in the media, which has only added to this one-note stereotype.
5. “All transgender women are drag queens.”
For those who may not be as familiar with the transgender community, it’s easy to assume that all trans women are drag queens—and vice versa. But it is also egregiously incorrect.
A drag queen is simply a man who takes on a female persona while in costume or performing, according to Them, an LGBTQIA+ publication. Those who choose to dress in drag don’t necessarily identify as women when they aren’t in drag—a distinction that often isn’t considered.
Trans women, on the other hand, are people who were born with male genitalia but identify as women. They’re not putting on a show by wearing feminine clothing—they’re expressing the gender with which they identify.
6. “Asexual people have no libido.”
Before diving into this stereotype, it’s first important to define what asexuality is. According to the Asexual Awareness Week campaign, an asexual person is someone who does not experience sexual attraction. They may have romantic relationships with others, but asexual people don’t feel sexually attracted to their partners. Despite this lack of attraction, though, some asexual people do still have a libido.
“Asexuals with a libido experience what is sometimes called an ‘undirected sex drive,'” according to the campaign. “Whereas most people would ideally satisfy their libido through partnered sexual activity, for asexuals with a libido this is usually not the case, as they are not sexually attracted to anyone.”
7. “Intersex is just another word for transgender.”
As the Intersex Society of North America points out, there are clear differences between being transgender and being intersex.
Transgender people are those who feel as though they were “born inside of the wrong body,” i.e. their genitals do not match the gender they feel they are. Those who are intersex, however, are born with a combination of reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not fit the typical definition of male or female. So, while transgender people traditionally identify as only one gender, intersex people possess external and internal qualities of both genders at one time.
8. “Lesbians hate men.”
As far as stereotypes go, this one’s rather thin. Just because a lesbian dates other women, that doesn’t mean she despises men.
Though people may assume that lesbians don’t believe that they need men in their lives, the vast majority of lesbians maintain relationships with plenty of men, whether friends, colleagues, or family members. Just because their sexual orientation doesn’t match up with yours doesn’t mean their view on men is any different.
9. “All gay men are sexual predators or pedophiles.”
In recent decades, anti-gay protesters have asserted that gay men pose a great danger to society, citing that sexual predators and pedophiles are more likely to be gay men. According to the University of California, Davis, these accusations have only been fueled by stories of priests abusing boys in the Catholic church.
However, as the UC Davis researchers point out, gay men and women only account for less than one percent of all molestation cases in which an adult was identified.
10. “All trans people are mentally ill.”
Here’s another case where the science is firm: Some of the largest medical organizations around—including both the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Psychiatric Association (APA)—don’t consider being transgender a mental disorder. Yes, in years past, both orgs used “gender identity disorder,” but no longer. Now, the terminology is “gender dysphoria.”
11. “Members of the LGBTQ community are trying to convert others.”
Being a part of the LGBTQ community does not mean you’re looking to bring others aboard. First all, no one can become gay—you either are attracted to people of the same sex, or you aren’t. And secondly, if a member of the LGBTQ community is trying to educate you on some of these stereotypes, it’s only because knowledge helps decrease hatred and ignorance. Now that you’ve read this post, you’re one step further toward that understanding. And while you’re on the LGBTQ education train, don’t miss these 15 Coming Out Stories That Will Melt Your Heart.
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