Stereotypes are not cute. Generalizing entire groups of people based on gross over representations and media caricatures will lead you down the rabbit hole of logical fallacies. This is especially dangerous in college, where you are bound to meet people who don't look, talk or identify like you do. With the increasing awareness of people in the LGBTQIA+ community on college campuses, I spoke with college students to break down 10 misconceptions about the LGBTQIA+ community you need to forget.
1. Yes. We like both sexes. No, we aren't confused.
When I spoke to Nova Southeastern student, Samantha "Sammy" Suarez, she pointed out two common misconceptions plagued by students who identify as bisexual. First, she deconstructed the belief that, "bisexual people ... can't make up their mind." For Sammy, attraction is not about making a decision between male or female, and it really is not this point of confusion or cognitive dissonance that society makes it out to be. She wanted to make it clear that while "we like both sexes ... we aren't confused." Then, she explained, "Bisexuals aren't promiscuous just because they like both sexes." The underlying sentiment in society seems to be that bisexual people have relations with everyone they encounter but this is just as ridiculous as assuming that all heterosexual people pounce on every person of the opposite gender. Bisexual people are not predators stalking prey.
2. Just because I like girls, doesn't mean I'm going to hit on every single girl I know.
Following in line with this sentiment, Kylee O. from Central Washington University, bluntly stated, "We have types, too." Kylee identifies as queer and does not appreciate the assumption that she's constantly on the hunt for a relationship. Most people adopt a self-centered mindset and assume that queer folk are looking to romanticize them. Sorry, but just because someone identifies as queer, does not mean they're attracted to you.
3. I am attracted to any/all gender [but that] does not mean that I date more than one person at once.
Again, the common thread seems to be that people in the LGTBQIA+ community are indecisive, aggressive or non-committal. However, college sophomore, Shelby Everett dispelled that myth as she unpacked a misconception about pansexuality. Though the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines pansexual as "sexual desire or attraction that is not limited to people of a particular gender identity or sexual orientation," people often equate that to non-monogamy. Pansexuality and non-monogamy are like two circles of a Venn diagram. There are people who are non-monogamous, there are people who are pansexual and there might even be some overlap in which people are both non-monogamous and pansexual. Still, the main point is that pansexual people are perfectly capable of maintaining monogamous relationships and it is not okay to assume that all pansexual people exist in that meeting place between pansexuality and non-monogamy.
4. People reject that being pansexual is different than bisexual.
In case the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of pansexuality was not enough, Brandon Lim of the University of California, San Diego is here to clarify. He defined pansexuality as being "attracted to people before their gender" and prefers the identity pansexual to bisexual as "the prefix 'pan-,' mean[s] all, includ[ing] people outside of the gender binary." Brandon felt it was important to explain what it means be pansexual as it's "so often overlooked both inside and outside of our community."
5. [One misconception is] that gay men are less capable of performing certain actions or duties or are weak.
Hailing from Florida International University, Drake Schoeppl pivoted the conversation towards the tendency that society has to diminish gay men. While Drake recognized that there are "plenty of other [misconceptions]," the notion that being attracted to men makes a person sub-par or weaker-than, was the "first that came to mind." It is shameful that society still uses attraction as a test of someone's worth. Gay men are men. They are not inherently weak.
6. Androsexual is thought to just be gay. It is similar but it is not the same.
Simply, V. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) wanted to clear up a misunderstood identity within the LGBTQIA+ community: androsexuality. V. described androsexual as "sexual attraction to males and masculinity." The key distinction between androsexual and gay, however, is that it is "usually used by genderqueer or non-binary individuals." Essentially, androsexual explains an attraction to typically masculine features and includes people who do not identify as male or female.
7. Yes, it's completely possible to identify as neither male nor female...
Those who scream, "There are only two genders," without a clear understanding of the distinctions between gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation and sex characteristics should definitely revisit that feeling after some research. Emmitt Kussrow from High Point University specifically pointed to the distinction between gender identity and gender expression. The way a person chooses to dress does not necessarily reflect their gender. Emmitt explained, "I'm 'they' when I'm wearing a dress, jewelry and makeup, and I'm 'they' when I'm in my binder, a baggy t-shirt and cargo shorts." This sentiment makes up part of Emmitt's identity as agender, meaning they do not fit into traditional definitions of he or she, and instead uses they/them pronouns.
8. Non-LGBTQIA+ can still stand up for people within the community.
University of Oregon student, Cyrus Lyday, identifies as an ally, which is a point of controversy in the LGBTQIA+ community. Some people argue that the A in LGBTQIA+ stands for agender or asexual, while others contest that it stands for anonymous or ally. Besides the semantics of the acronym, people inside and outside the LGBTQIA+ community debate whether there is place in the community for cisgender, heterosexual people. They question if including allies eliminates the safe space created in LGBTQIA+ communities, if allies should attend Pride events or if an ally should allow someone in the LGBTQIA+ to call them an ally before they start using the label. Like I said, the ally identity is a bit controversial. However, Cyrus still makes an important point. LGBTQIA+ rights are human rights. You may not identify with the LGBTQIA+ community, but you can still support it.
9. People in the community tend to look at asexual men as being "in the closet" homosexual men.
With our focus still on the 'A' of LGBTQIA+, Ian Dean from Georgia State University considers it "complete nonsense" that asexuality is not recognized as a valid sexual orientation. Considering society's fixation with sex, it is easy to see how a person who does not experience sexual attraction gets erased from conversations. Even further, a man who does not lust after women is automatically deemed gay or an anomaly. This is a misconception, as Ian pointed out. Attraction is not as tidy as exclusively liking men or women. It also includes people who do not experience sexual attraction.
10. The "choice" of being transgender...
Firstly, being transgender is not a choice. Occidental College student, August Barringer, broke down this misconception and explained, "It is extremely difficult to be transgender." She also delved into hurtful perceptions about transgender people including the widespread belief that "trans people are just perverts." In reality, transgender people are the ones subject to violence (especially trans women of color), not the other way around. August broke it down further when she said, "Cis[gender] people don't understand how the things they say can be harmful or transphobic." It is time to stop dehumanizing and targeting transgender people.
Some might be thinking, "What about lesbians, did she just forget to include lesbians?", "Were there always that many letters in the acronym?", and my anticipated personal favorite, "So pansexual people are not attracted to pans?" The last comment actually needed clarification, as college student Angélique Van Laer said, "pansexuals don't like pans." I can only imagine the situation in which Angélique had to explain that to someone. Unfortunately, members of the LGBTQIA+ community often find themselves in circumstances where they have to explain a part of their identity. Also, people easily forget about one of my favorite concepts, intersectionality. Someone within the LGBTQIA+ community can identify with more than one letter in the acronym.
For example, when I asked, "How do you identify in the LGBTQIA+ community," August Barringer answered, "transgender and lesbian." People are multi-faceted (and also gender is separate from sexuality). In fact, V. from MIT identifies as panromantic and non-binary, which does not erase V.'s identity as androsexual or the misconception that V. debunked. Emmitt Kussrow also identifies as grey-asexual, but chose to dispel a misconception about agender people. There are definitely more examples of the fluidity and intersection between gender and sexuality, but this is just a small sample size of the LGBTQIA+ community and 10 misconceptions you need to forget. Don't let this article start and end the conversation about the LGBTQIA+ community. Start with definitions about basic concepts and learn more about any unfamiliar identifies sprinkled throughout this article (the + in LGBTQIA+), so that we can all understand each other a little better.
Lead Image Credit via Unsplash