Debunking 5 LGBTQ+ Myths
In a world filled with mainly cis/straight narratives, there’s a lot of misinformation circulating about the LGBTQ+ community. This is really challenging for two main reasons:
1) People outside the LGBTQ+ community won’t fully understand this community, and thus won’t be able to be true, supportive allies.
2) People within the LGBTQ+ community may not fully understand themselves or be able to recognize their identities.
I definitely fell into that latter category. When I was growing up, I had no idea that I’m a genderfluid lesbian. For a while, I didn’t even know that being anything other than cis or straight was even an option. I had very little representation and very wrong ideas about what it could look like to be part of the LGBTQ+ community.
I finally discovered my lesbian and genderfluid identities at ages 20 and 23 (respectively), and that was with a lot of inner work and personal research. There’s certainly more information out there than when I was a kid, but the cis/straight narratives are still the norm, and there are still a lot of myths being perpetuated.
And that’s precisely why I decided to take matters into my own hands and debunk these LGBTQ+ myths -- to teach both myself and others about the limitless possibilities of this beautiful community.
So, without further ado… let’s bust some stereotypes!!
Myth #1: All LGBTQ+ people know their identities from an early age.
This could not be more wrong! While it’s true that many people know who they are as a kid, this is most certainly not true for everyone -- myself included.
Because of the cis/straight narrative that is told to kids (for example, if you’re a woman, it’s conveyed to you that you’ll someday meet your Prince Charming and fall in love and have lots of babies!), many people try to force themselves into that perspective.
I dated boys for 6 years (from ages 14-20), and while I was lucky enough to realize my queerness before getting married and starting a life with a guy, many queer people do get married -- and even have children -- before realizing who they truly are.
And that is totally valid! There is no one right time to discover yourself, and it’s never too late to pursue a life that is most authentic to you.
Myth #2: Once you’ve identified with a specific label, you have to stick to that one term.
Actually, sexuality and gender can be fluid and change over time -- so your label can change too! In society, this kind of fluidity and change is rarely talked about -- not only when it comes to sexuality and gender, but also in so many other aspects of life, like school and jobs.
For example, you’re “supposed” to know what you want to do with your life, and then pursue that until you retire. But life can be full of so many paths and possibilities, and it’s more than okay to try something new or change up your path mid-way.
The same goes for your identity -- if you come out as a lesbian, for example, but later realize that the word queer better describes you, that’s totally valid! Or, if you identify as a trans man and that feels right for a while, but then your gender shifts and you feel more non-binary, that is a-okay as well.
There are no rules here, and your identity is not invalidated if you change your labels -- you’re simply aligning your language and descriptors to better match who you are in any given moment.
Myth #3: In order to identify as trans, you have to experience body-based dysphoria.
This is an often debated myth, both in and out of the trans community. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of gatekeeping, and many people think that you have to actively dislike your body (that is, have body dysphoria, i.e. deep discomfort or distress with your body) and want to medically transition in order to be “really” trans.
But the truth is that body-based dysphoria is not a universal experience, and it’s not required in order to be trans. In fact, you don’t have to medically transition at all, or “pass” as your gender (i.e. look like the gender you identify as and not have people know you’re trans) -- the only “requirement” of being trans is that the gender you know yourself to be doesn’t match the gender you were assigned at birth.
So I, a genderfluid person who was assigned female at birth — yet who does not experience body-based dysphoria — can identify as trans if I want to, even though I feel very comfortable with my body as is!
So regardless of how you feel about your body, so long as the term trans feels right to you, you are welcome to identify with it.
Myth #4: Bisexual people have equal attraction to men and women.
First of all, it’s important to recognize that bisexual people are simply attracted to two or more genders -- and those don’t necessarily have to be binary genders. Typically, bisexual people say they are attracted to their gender and others -- so if someone is agender, they might be attracted to other agender people, in addition to a different gender (which could be man, woman, or any other possibility).
Second, while some bi people might relate to feeling equal attraction for different genders, that is definitely not the case for everyone. Someone could be 80% attracted to their own gender and 20% attracted to other genders, and still be bisexual! Any combination of attraction is valid, and it’s also valid to not want to (or be able to) define your attraction in percentages.
Bisexuality is beautifully vast and limitless -- truly, the definition and experiences will change depending on the individual! And bisexual people don’t owe anyone an explanation of their precise attractions.
Myth #5: You have to look gay (or ace/trans/etc.) in order to identify with that label.
This is unfortunately a really present myth, one which I’ve especially seen thrown at femme lesbians (people say things like “but you don’t look like a lesbian!” or “you’re too pretty to be a lesbian!”). But spoiler: there’s no one right way to look like any identity!
Lesbians can be femme; gay men can be masculine; trans people don’t have to “pass” as their gender; non-binary people don’t have to look androgynous; and asexual people don’t have to dress like a nun. And conversely, if you’re a butch lesbian, or a feminine gay man, or a trans person who does pass, that’s totally valid too!
Again, there is no one right way to look like any identity, so you can dress and act in the ways that make you feel most comfortable, and you can still identify however you’d like!
The sky’s the limit, and the only thing that matters is that you’re being true to you.
With that, we’ve come to the end of our first set of debunked LGBTQ+ myths. But that’s not to say these are all of the myths out there! There are so many misconceptions that need to be properly explained, but only so many words available in a blog post 😉
So if you have any suggestions for myths we should debunk in future blog posts, be sure to leave them in the comments section!
Zoe Stoller is a professional writer and digital marketer based in Philadelphia, PA.
She is deeply passionate about the LGBTQ+ and mental health communities and loves to share
her unique experiences in order to inspire others to be their fullest,
most authentic selves.