LGBTQ Myths and Stereotypes

There are myths, stereotypes and misinformation about sexual orientation and gender identity that contributes to the LGBTQ stigma.[1]

Myth: It’s a phase.

Being LGBTQ is not “just a phase.” LGBTQ people are coming out (acknowledging their sexual orientation/gender identity to themselves and others) at younger and younger ages. Studies by the Family Acceptance Project have found that most people report being attracted to another person around age 10 and identifying as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (on average) at age 13. Gender identity may begin to form as early as ages 2 to 4. Someone who has reached the point of telling a foster parent that he or she is LGBTQ has likely given a great deal of thought to his or her own identity and the decision to share it.

Myth: Being exposed to LGBTQ adults can cause a child to become LGBTQ

No one caused a youth’s LGBTQ identity. Sexual orientation and gender identity are the result of complex genetic, biological, and environmental factors. A youth’s LGBTQ identity is not the result of anything a birth parent or any other person did. LGBTQ people come from families of all religious, political, ethnic, and economic backgrounds. Experiencing childhood trauma or reading about, hearing about, or being friends with other LGBTQ people did not “make” the youth become LGBTQ.

Myth: Being LGBTQ puts you at greater risk of mental illness

LGBTQ youth are no more likely than other youth to be mentally unwell or dangerous. It is true that LGBTQ people experience higher rates of anxiety, depression, and related behaviors (including alcohol and drug abuse) than the general population. Studies show that this is a result of the stress of being LGBTQ in an often-hostile environment, rather than a factor of a person’s LGBTQ identity itself. Professional mental health organizations agree that being non-conforming is not a mental disorder and is a natural part of the human condition.

Myth: You can decide your sexual orientation or gender identity

LGBTQ identity cannot be changed. Medical and psychological experts agree that attempting to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity does not work and usually causes harm.

Myth: All religious groups exclude LGBTQ people

Many religious groups embrace LGBTQ people. Many religious communities welcome LGBTQ youth, adults, and their families.

Myth:  All gay men are like women, and lesbian women are like men.

Everyone is different. Some gay men are effeminate and some lesbians are masculine, but many are not. A lot of lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals are assumed to be heterosexual whether or not they are trying to do so. However, some lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, two-spirited, queer and questioning individuals choose to resist homophobia and transphobia by challenging ‘rules’ about how women and men are supposed to look and behave.

Myth: All LGBTQ people have been abused in childhood or had some kind of negative experience to ‘make them that way’.

There is no evidence whatsoever linking child abuse with sexual orientation or gender identity in adult life.

Myth: AIDS is a curse from God on gay men.

While the gay community in North America and elsewhere has suffered great loss through AIDS, the vast majority of gay men are not infected by HIV. Around the world, most people with AIDS are heterosexual.

Myth: Sexual orientation is only about sex.

Being LGBTQ is about a person’s life and not just about what one does in bed. It is also about who one loves, spends time with, chooses to raise children and have a family with.

Myth: Gay men are more likely to be pedophiles.

Statistics show that most child molesters are heterosexual men who abuse children within the nuclear family and are related to the children they abuse.

[1] Supporting Your LGBT2SQ Youth: A Guide for Foster Parents, & Equity and Inclusive Education Resource Kit for Ontario High Schools, Egale Canada.

Further Reading & Resources