Dispelling Myths About the LGBT Community
Knowledge is Power
Due to the lack of understanding, acceptance, or even acknowledgement of LGBT identity in the social work profession and the community at large, members of the LGBT community often have to confront the challenge of dispelling popular misperceptions and myths. Only when we address existing stereotypes that continue to fuel people’s homophobic attitudes, will we overcome issues of social stigma, alienation, intolerance, and discrimination that are expressed toward, and impede effective social work service delivery within, the LGBT community.
While it is difficult to identify all of the nuances of discrimination experienced by the LGBT community, there are some things that members of our LGBT Planning Committee for Currents recognized they commonly experienced which can be insensitive and discriminating. It is the Chapter’s hope that, through continued efforts like this newsletter, we might help to raise awareness and to encourage social workers and their colleagues to become more responsive to the concerns of the LGBT community. For example, have you ever been in a room and the conversation goes something like this?:
• “my best friend is…”
• “we don’t have LGBT people here in our agency, but if we did….”
• “they don’t look gay….”
• “I don’t know anyone or work with anyone who is LGBT…. etc.”
In addition, shared below is information that attempts to set the record straight and to dispel some of the prevailing common misperceptions and myths:
• Sexual orientation, whether it be heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual is not something that one chooses.
• Recent studies suggest that sexual orientation has a genetic or biological component, and is probably determined before or shortly after birth. Like heterosexuals, gays, lesbians, and bisexuals discover their sexuality as they mature – they are not recruited, seduced or taught to be homosexual. Information about homosexuality or exposure to gay men or lesbians will not influence a child’s sexual orientation.
• The lives of gays and lesbians are as varied as the lives of heterosexuals. There is no standard or homogenous prototype.
• It is a misconception that the lives of LGBT people revolve around sex. Their lives are not just a sexual activity –it spans beyond a person’s physical behavior.
• Lesbians do not as a group dislike men. While some are feminists, it should not be assumed that as a result they hate men. Some simply support the belief that women deserve the same rights and opportunities.
• Bisexuality is not a transitional phase between heterosexuality and homosexuality. No single pattern exists. Many people are neither exclusively heterosexual nor exclusively homosexual.
• Almost all gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals have grown up in a heterosexual world. The overwhelming majority of them were raised by heterosexual parents, educated by heterosexual teachers, and socialized with heterosexual siblings and friends.
• LGBT people are not opposed to family values, but rather the narrow definition of family certain organizations wish to promote, which excludes them.
• The LGBT community is not interested in obtaining special rights of any kind, they simple want equal rights and equal protection of those rights with regard to employment, housing, and public accommodation.
• According to the World Health Organization, over 70% of HIV infection worldwide is the result of heterosexual contact, and the CDC has documented that heterosexual sex is the fastest growing mode of transmission for HIV in the United States.
• People often use LGBT stereotypes to identify a person’s sexual orientation despite data which shows that close to 80% of subjects were unable to identify the person’s sexual orientation. (Berger et al, 1987). The LGBT community is very diverse and its members cannot be neatly categorized into stereotypes based on myths and appearance.
• LGBT relationships are not any more or less abnormal or dysfunctional than heterosexual relationships