Even though there is now increased awareness about sexual orientation, gender identity, expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC), many myths and misconceptions, about lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, and queers (LGBTQ+) still abound. This misinformation cause members of the LGBTQ+ community to face stigmatization, discrimination, and harassment, leading them to experience mental health concerns like depression and anxiety at higher rates than their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts.
We asked Amber Gonzales Quiban, Director for Policy and Campaigns of the Philippine Anti-Discrimination Alliance of Youth Leaders (PANTAY) to provide the straight facts to the 8 most common myths and misconceptions applied to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.
“Conversion therapies cause more harm than good because the trauma that the person experiences can lead to the development of mental illnesses like anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders.”Amber Gonzales Quiban, Director for Policy and Campaigns of the Philippine Anti-Discrimination Alliance of Youth Leaders (PANTAY)
Myth #1: LGBTQ+ people are just going through a phase/experimenting/confused.
Fact: This misconception is especially prescribed to adolescents, as they are labeled as “misguided” and “confused” for feeling and/or experiencing a sexual attraction to someone of the same sex, both sexes, or for identifying with a gender different than the one assigned to them at birth. But decades of research have shown that being an LGBTQ+ individual is an identity; it is a part of who they are and not a choice, lifestyle, or phase that someone grows out of.
“If it were a phase or we were just experimenting, then it would have been an easier choice to just choose to be straight and not have to face the stigma and discrimination that comes with being a member of the LGBTQ+ community,” Amber explains. “But being gay, bixesual, or transgender is who we are, it is our reality.”
Myth #2: LGBTQ+ people are mentally ill; if they receive therapy, they will be cured.
Fact: Although homosexuality and transgenderism were once thought to be mental illnesses or diseases, both the World Health Organization and the American Psychiatric and Psychological Associations have declassified them as such. The WHO even went on to emphasize that homosexuality is a natural and non-pathological variation of human sexuality.
Furthermore, studies have proven that psychiatric attempts to “cure” lesbians and gay men are not only unethical and inhumane, they have failed to change the sexual orientation of the patient. “Conversion therapies cause more harm than good because the trauma that the person experiences can lead to the development of mental illnesses like anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders,” Amber points out.
Myth #3: They became LGBTQ+ because they were brought up the wrong way.
Fact: There are no studies that show that children from dysfunctional families are more likely to grow up to gay, bisexual, or transgender any more than children who were raised in loving homes.
Additionally, many scientists and researchers have studied a variety of reasons that may contribute to a specific sexual orientation or gender identity, including genetics and environmental influences. To this day, there is no consensus that sexual orientation or transgenderism is determined by any single factor or even a combination of factors.
“No one is raised to become gay,” Amber reiterates. This is why when LGBTQ+ members are asked “When did you choose to be gay/lesbian/bi/trans?” most of them would say that there was no sense of choice regarding their sexual orientation and gender identity; that is just the way they feel. “It’s like asking a heterosexual person ‘When did you choose to be straight?’ There’s no answer to that,” she adds.
Myth #4: I should not expose myself or my loved ones to LGBTQ+ peers/relatives or watch shows with LGBTQ+ themes to prevent them from becoming gay, bisexual, or transgender.
Fact: Learning about or spending time with people who are LGBTQ+ does not influence the sexual orientation or gender identity of a person or harm the well-being of minors. What it can do is help build empathy and respect towards others, potentially reducing homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia for years to come.
Myth #5: There is no such thing as trangenders. Transwomen are gays, and transmen are lesbians.
Fact: Transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression, or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth. Transpersons have been documented in many indigenous, Western, and Eastern cultures and societies from antiquity until the present day.
“Gender is a social construct, it varies from society to society and can change over time. This means you can break it,” Amber stresses. “And we should not stop people from breaking gender norms because at the end of the day, these gender roles are just imposed upon us.”
Myth #6: Letting transgenders use the bathroom matching their gender identity is dangerous.
Fact: One of the main arguments against trans-inclusive bathrooms is the perception that sexual predators can gain access to female-only bathrooms. “If people are worried about men who would disguise themselves as transwomen to enter female bathrooms to sexually harass women, then transwomen are not the problem,” Amber stresses.
Amber also stresses that having a bathroom exclusively for transgenders is counterproductive. “Creating a separate bathroom is just a form of exclusion,” she explains. “We should not be made to feel bad using the restrooms of the gender that we identify with. Creating gender-neutral restrooms would be more inclusive and affirmative.”
Myth #7: Letting my son play with dolls or my daughter play with cars will affect their gender identity.
Fact: Research has shown that behaviors such as playing with feminine toys or wearing feminine-colored clothes do not cause a boy to become gay or transgender, just as those same activities do not cause a girl to become heterosexual or cisgender.
Myth #8: If someone comes out to me, it means they are attracted to me.
Fact: “We don’t come out to people because we are attracted to them; we do because we trust them and they are a safe space for us,” Amber emphasizes. “Coming out entails so much fear and burden so when someone comes out to you, be thankful and proud of yourself because someone believes in you and they are willing to risk their lives just to come out to you.”
As an ally and a friend, it’s important that you take a stand for LGBTQ+ rights and join in the fight for equality. By educating yourself about what it means to be LGBTQ+, normalizing conversations related to LGBTQ+ matters with loved ones, and calling out myths and microaggressions, you can play an active role in helping build a kinder and more inclusive community.
To our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters and allies in the Philippines, you are not alone. MindNation’s psychologists and WellBeing Coaches are available 24/7 for teletherapy sessions if you need someone to talk to. Book a session now through FB Messenger http://m.me/themindnation or email [email protected].