LGBT Myths: New Book “You Can Tell Just By Looking”

Years ago I regularly taught workshops on LGBT-related issues to other mental health professionals. My usual intro involved tackling a list of 20 common LGBT myths, and the first was, Gay males are readily identifiable by their effeminate mannerisms, high-pitched voices, and talents in the arts.

Which now seems like a grandparent to the title of the new LGBT myths book by Michael Bronski, Ann Pellegrini, and Michael Amico: You Can Tell Just By Looking.”

My own rebuttal to that myth included citing the Kinsey Institute for Sex Research, which had found that only 15% of males and 5% of females are stereotypically gay or lesbian. Although I haven’t read the aforementioned book (subtitled And 20 Other Myths about LGBT Life and People) the non-myth truth is clear: you in fact cannot often tell just by looking (or hearing).

Another myth is the “born that way” controversy, previously covered in my post “Born Gay—Or Not.”

The cousin to this on my LGBT myths list was, Everyone is born heterosexual, but each of the following factors can cause homosexuality: having a domineering mother and passive father, seduction by older homosexuals during childhood, having homosexual parents, hormonal imbalance, or incest. The two main points I’d make: there’s no conclusive proof about the causation of any sexual orientation; and if you want to show acceptance, there’s no need to know anyway. Still true today.

In The Huffington Post, Christopher Rudolph has provided other LGBT myths from You Can Tell Just By Looking. The following one mirrors another from my old list: There’s no such thing as a gay or trans child. The fact: It is possible, even likely, that even young children can be aware of their sexual desires, as well as their gender identity. This possibility would be better understood if we encouraged children to speak openly about their desires and bodily experiences — and actually listened to what they have to say.

Several others from the book:

  • Myth: Most Homophobes Are Repressed HomosexualsFact: Do all white racists secretly want to be black? Of course not. Many factors larger than the individual can make a person feel uncomfortable around those who are or seem different. It’s more accurate to address how a combination of prejudice and power perpetuates antigay violence rather than to isolate any one factor.
  • Myth: LGBT Parents Are Bad For Children. Fact: Overwhelmingly, national psychological and social-work professional groups have declared that LGBT parents do no harm to children. Good parenting does not rise and fall on the sexual or gender identity of a parent. What matters for children is that their parent or parents offer love, support, and understanding.
  • Myth: All Religions Condemn Homosexuality. Fact: This is absurd on the face of it; religions are so varied and nuanced in their belief systems and practices that it is impossible to claim they all hold any single belief. This myth is primarily promoted by conservative Christian opponents of homosexuality as a political attack on same-sex marriage.

Although most therapists today would know, I hope, that the statements on my workshop list are all false and why—for example, that homosexuality is not deemed a mental disorder, that conversion therapy is a crock, and that there other ways for couples to have kids than to marry heterosexually—believe it or not, many didn’t know these things in the 80’s and 90’s.

And many readers won’t know all the info You Can Tell… now has to offer. It’s unfortunate but true that a book such as thisup to date in its reflection of current assumptions and misunderstandings the general public may have, is still necessary and valuable today.

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