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Monday, 24 March 2014

Common misconceptions

Oh, dear, it's late. Didn't think I'd be up this late writing this but this is what it's come to. Want to know what I've spent far too much of my time today doing? Revamping my facebook profile. Why? Because I now know a girl, who I stupidly want to impress via a facebook profile she can't/likely won't visit. Why? Because I like the way she smiles, her firm handshake and the way she puts her sunglasses on backwards around her neck, one lens inside the collar of her shirt to keep them in place. Even though I don't know her all that well, I know enough to know I like her a lot because just thinking about her makes me smile. And that's exactly the thing I want to write about. Not her, no. I don't want to seem (too) crazy, writing all that much about her based on so little interaction. I will at least wait until Wednesday, after I (maybe) discuss this in the group. 

I want to write about sexual orientation, gender identity and common misconceptions about people who aren't straight or cisgender. More often than not made by people who are straight and cisgender, but not necessarily. Some of these common misconceptions are at least a little bit dumb. And some of them have been made, in particular, by yours truly. A little dumb, however, doesn’t mean they are hopeless or impossible to correct. What’s college if not a learning experience? Bring on the education!

In no particular order…

Misconception #1
Bisexual people are equally attracted to both men and women.
No. If you have found yourself attracted to some men and some women, without any regards to what percentage of each, you can choose to label yourself as bisexual.

Misconception #2
LGBT+ people are all militant/predatory and out to convert straights.
I suppose there may exist such people. But it's every bit as stupid as it is to say "You just haven't met the right man/woman" when trying to convince someone of trying heterosexuality (which is even stupider when trying to imply you're that man/woman). LGBT+ people aren't more "out to sleep with everyone in the set of people they are attracted to" than straight men are out to sleep with all women, or straight women with all men. Hint: they aren’t.

Misconception #3
Being a minority, LGBT+ people are beggars and can't be choosers. If you know two of them, you must get them together.
No. Just no. No one likes blind dates, for one. But also, it's kind of silly. The dating pool may very well be smaller but no one ever needs to settle when it comes to romantic relationships. If you've been settling all this time that's your problem, don't force it onto others.

Misconception #4
Being bisexual means you have the biggest dating pool… and may therefore want to sleep with everyone.
You see, the thing about sexual attraction is that everyone has a set of characteristics they find attractive in a prospective significant other. If you are straight, it means it can take you forever to find someone you feel just right about and can be attracted to. If you are not straight, it means exactly the same thing. Being bisexual (or, more broadly, pansexual) doesn't mean you want to have sex with everything that moves and see everyone as a potential partner. It just means you have more places to look for one. As in, more haystacks to find a needle in.

Misconception #5
Pansexual people are trying to make a political statement. No one can be attracted to just about anyone.
I suppose you don't need to have been attracted to every gender identity under the sun to label yourself as pansexual. That may or may not be why "queer" is often [citation needed] added as a suffix to it. You can't make a political statement by having green eyes. It's no easier to make a political statement with your sexual preferences.

Misconception #6
Your gender identity defines your sexual orientation.
No. They are two separate things. One is who you are most comfortable being, the other is who you might fall in love with. You should not assume a butch woman is a lesbian, a flamboyant androgynous person is gay, or a cisgender alpha-male man is straight. If you will, your gender identity is where you are standing and your sexual orientation is determined by the set of directions you tend to look in.

Misconception #7
Gay men know fashion/Broadway musicals/skincare/whatever.
You will embarrass yourself quite badly. Don't mistake a gay man who is your friend for the stereotypical "gay best friend." Those are not nearly as common as Hollywood (who abuses character types) would have you believe. Even if they know Hairspray and attended an event looking for cute guys, they won't necessarily know about the difference between a pair of Louboutins and a pair of Manolos, nor will they appreciate the fact that you think they would.

Misconception #8
Trans men and women look like drag kings and drag queens, respectively.
I'm not sure this is the right way to phrase it. What I'm saying is that there are such things as trans men who look like butch lesbians, trans women who look like gay men, trans women who look like boys in girls' clothes and trans men who look like pokémon nerds sporting a ponytail. My point is that they look like regular people and don’t necessarily use tons of make-up. You may mistake their gender, though, so just keep your gender pronouns neutral (them, they, person) until you know better. Bear in mind that asking respectfully is okay. And take a hint when they introduce themselves by their preferred name if it's an evidently gendered name.

Misconception #9
All people have a gender.
I'm having trouble figuring out how pronouns and adjectives work in other languages for people who prefer neutral pronouns, but it's a thing: some people don't fit in the male, female, trans male or trans female boxes. Those people will make you realize there are so many more boxes than you thought and that discreteness does not accommodate gender identity or sexuality very well. You will have trouble remembering how to refer to them and you will be inclined to follow your gut instinct when it tries to scream their birth genders at you. You can still be a nice person and acknowledge that it is not how they identify and that's not them your brain thinks it's seeing. 

Misconception #10
If you are cisgender anything, people don't have to ask you which pronouns you prefer.
No. See above. But also, consider that just like straight people never need to come out (but could, in a sympathetic gesture) and don't need to clarify when their girl/boyfriend is just a friend and not a romantic partner (but can choose to call them partners to stay neutral) it is only fair to be asked. It is not meant to question your identity or imply you’re not cis. It is just to say "This is who I am. Who are you?"

Misconception #11
Asexual people are not trying hard enough to have sex. We were wired to have sex by evolution. And science or somesuch. Obviously, something must also be the matter with you if you have sex n times a week where n is greater/lesser than some arbitrary number.
Do you go about asking people how often they have sex or they would like to have sex? Is it any of your business? What would you say to being told you are on the "wrong" side (any) of some ideal mean number of times per week? Would it change how you perceived yourself? Would you force yourself to have more or less sex? If you are in the mood, you are in the mood. If you are not in the mood, you are not in the mood. There's really not much more to it. 

Misconception #12
If you are polyamorous, you don't really love your partner and it's the same as openly cheating with their approval.
No. If you love more than one person, guess what it means? It means you love more than one person. There's no implied meaning explaining how much you love each of them and there is no right way to love anyone you are in a relationship with as long as they love you back and you don't hurt one another. 

Misconception #13
Lesbian women are either masculine in appearance and nature, or just like the stars of those girl-on-girl videos you've heard about in them internets.
Nope. The fact that terms like femme and butch exist doesn’t mean they cover the whole spectrum of people who identify as lesbian. Have you heard of Portia de Rossi, Ellen DeGeneres, Wanda Sykes, Ellen Page, Hannah Hart? I rest my case. 

Misconception #14
Bisexual people are just transitioning between straight and gay.
Being bisexual means you can be attracted to different genders. Having a long term partner of one gender doesn't make you more straight or gay than having a long term partner of whichever gender makes you "straight" deletes your interest for other people of your preferred gender. I.e. Just because you are happily married and celebrating your 20th anniversary being married to John doesn't mean you stopped finding other men and/or women attractive. It just means you are committed to John. 

Misconception #15
Same-sex couples are always divided into someone more masculine and someone more feminine.
I get it. Just because straight couples consist of a man with a woman, who must by default be the "manly" and "womanly" parts of the couple, respectively, it must be the same for everyone else, no? Except some men are not that masculine and some women are not so feminine and it's just fine. Stay at home dads are a thing. So are women in high positions with lots of power and influence. It's not about appearances either. A couple is sort of defined by two people in a romantic relationship who care for one another. Nothing more is required. Nothing about matching or complimentary sets in particular. 

Misconception #16
You can only be an ally if you're straight.
Even though you don't have the same experiences or challenges as someone else because you are different, if you're willing to stand by them an support them no matter what, you may call yourself their ally. That being said, sometimes there's a distinction made specifically for straight allies and they fall under an SA in the full initialism for LGBT+. 

Misconception #17
Saying “You don’t know if they’re gay” when gossip reaches your ears about someone or “You’re so good with children in spite of being a trans woman” is a good way to be supportive.
It’s not. The underlying premise in both statements is that you think being noncisgender or nonstraight are somehow a problem. The right answer here is "Being gay or trans or pansexual or asexual or anything else is not bad and should therefore not be used as an insult, nor should is it some kind of exceptional clause to someone’s good nature." That's you being a good ally. 

Misconception #18
I'm straight and cisgender. This is not my cause and I should not do anything to help support the cause of others.
I have a question for you: do you believe we are all equal and should be given equal opportunities? Why should you stop at agreeing with me? If you don't do anything at all for causes that are not your own we'll never have true equality because, unfortunately, such changes require support from the larger portions of society in the form of both accepting people who are different and helping throw down every law, preacher and politician who think otherwise. Inequality means that people who need it the most don't have a strong voice and will not be listened to if someone else doesn't step up to help. If no one does, apathy will win and nothing will ever change. 

Misconception #19
You can't both be LGBT+ and religious. 
It’s hard to believe everything written in any of the holy books and be at peace with being LGBT+, I'll give you that much. But most religions preach love for everyone, no matter what. If the belief in a higher being makes your life better, then so be it. Don't let anyone tell you that they hate you in the name of that higher being who was already making your life better. Believe it or not, there are people out there who manage to both be religious and themselves without issue. If you want to, you can be one of them.

Misconception #20
Identifying with any of the letters in LGBT+ makes you knowledgeable about all the others.
Ha-ha. No. A random woman doesn’t know about being polyamorous based on her experiences being a lesbian. Why would she? Don't tell anyone I said so, but most people don't know the full string of letters that go after LGBT. And that's fine, as long as you're open to learn about them. 


  1. This is very informative...and should be widely read. Thanks for that!