Out On The Couch
Myths and stereotypes are prevalent in our society, but just because they’re prevalent, doesn’t mean they’re right. Though they may seem harmless, myths can be damaging to the people and communities they target. As an organization, it’s crucial to teach your members how to avoid falling prey to common myths because making assumptions can harm clients instead of helping them.
To start, let’s take a look at common LGBTQIA+ myths. Here’s what organizations need to know about LGBTQ myths vs. reality.
MYTH: You Can Tell If Someone’s LGBTQIA+ By the Way They Look and Act
Some people claim that you can tell if someone is LGBTQIA+ just by the way they look and act. They might assume a man is gay because he has a shrill voice or that a woman is a lesbian because she has short hair.
To some extent, the way someone acts and dresses can point to their sexuality. For many members of the LGBTQIA+ community, appearance is a way to express identity. Someone who identifies as a butch lesbian, for example, may act and dress in a traditionally masculine way—but that doesn’t mean every woman who acts and dresses masculine identifies as a lesbian.
MYTH: You Can “Cure” Someone Who’s LGBTQIA+ With Psychotherapy
True, being LGBTQIA+ was defined as a mental illness in the past, but we also used to think drinking mercury was good for us—as time ticks on, we become wiser.
In 1973, The American Psychiatric and Psychological Association declared that being LGBTQIA+ isn’t an illness and that, consequently, there is no cure, nor is there a need for a cure. Previous attempts to “cure” LGBTQIA+ individuals, such as through conversion therapy, have all proven unsuccessful—all they do is create intense emotional trauma for the client.
MYTH: Sexuality Is Rigid and Unchanging
Just because a client reports past romantic or sexual experiences with someone of the opposite sex doesn’t mean they’re heterosexual, and vice versa. Human sexuality is surprisingly fluid, and when coupled with a heteronormative culture and the pressure that accompanies it, it can be hard for people to figure out their sexuality.
People who now identify as gay or lesbian may report past heterosexual relationships because society led them to believe heterosexual relationships were the only kind that were acceptable. Conversely, someone can have past same-sex relationships without being gay, lesbian, or bi! They may have explored their options but wound up discovering they’re heterosexual in the process. The point is that you shouldn’t let clients’ past experiences define them—what matters is the here and now.
MYTH: All LGBTQIA+ People Live the Same Lifestyle
Members of the LGBTQIA+ community come from different racial and ethnic groups, religious communities, and more! No one person leads the exact same life as another. Don’t assume your client has identical experiences to another LGBTQIA+ client because you’ll quickly find that isn’t true.
And that’s only the basics of what organizations need to know about LGBTQ myths vs. reality. Want to learn more? The Affirmative Couch offers LGBTQ diversity training courses for organizations that want to learn how to best assist their LGBTQIA+ clients. Knowledge is power, and through education, you can make a difference in the worlds of many.