6 Outdated Myths Everyone Still Believes About Homosexuality
Only half a century ago, homosexuality was society's worst-kept secret -- everyone knew it existed, but you didn't see gay people on TV or movies, and you didn't talk about them at Thanksgiving dinner. Understandably, there were a lot of ridiculous misconceptions about the homosexual community back then, but today there shouldn't be any excuse -- we have openly gay celebrities, politicians, and plenty of well-written fictional examples in pop culture to pick from.
Yet, the misconceptions persist. For example ...
Myth: We Know How Many Gay People There Are
We live in a world that runs on detailed demographic breakdowns -- we know roughly how many people have a fear of heights, or how many "people" like thin crust pizza -- surely we couldn't be in the dark about something as simple as how many of us are gay, right? The most common figure you hear is that it's one in 10 for dudes and about 6 percent for women. Those numbers date all the way back to legendary studier of boning Alfred Kinsey, and they've stuck around ever since.
This is approximately the percentage of the world population he had sex with, too.
But Actually ...
Nobody has any clue. That 10 percent figure might actually be as low as 2 percent, or as high as 20 percent. Polls keep being conducted, and the only thing they've determined so far is we have no fucking idea.
The problem is obvious -- we're relying on surveys in an era when it's still not OK to be gay in huge swaths of America, let alone the rest of the world (for example, if we went purely by self-reporting, there has been only one gay player in the 94 years the NFL has existed). So in those surveys, gays could hide their sexual orientation, refuse to answer the question, or simply not know the answer themselves yet -- it's not like it's a binary question (as Kinsey himself could have told you).
In his own unique way.
Being homosexual isn't like being Asian, or tall, or having brown hair -- hiding it is as easy as not saying anything. Try as he might, even Daniel Day-Lewis can't convince a census taker he's, say, a pretty Japanese schoolgirl. But he could convince them he's a homosexual -- even a happily married man could turn out to just be in the closet. So even if the pollsters and scientists spent the next year lurking in the shadows and closely observing every human's dating and sex habits, they still wouldn't get their answer.
But that thing you did with the inflatable horse and 50 gallons of maple syrup? Totally going in their notes.
So, scientists have been either using tricks or just flat-out guessing percentages of gay people, to the frustration of marketers and politicians alike (and everyone else who worships at the altar of demographics). Even Kinsey himself called his percentage bullshit, saying that you can't find a specific number of gay people or straight people, because all you can measure is how they're acting right now. Which leads us into ...
Myth: Bisexuals Are Just Indecisive Gay People
To a lot of people (even a lot of gay people), claiming to be bisexual is just waffling between being gay or straight, the "undeclared" of Sex College. Real bisexuals, they insist, are mythical creatures, like unicorns. This columnist at the Village Voice doesn't seem entirely convinced that bisexuals even exist, and he's a columnist at the Village Voice.
"He's a Bette Davis bi."
Speaking of which, remember when actress Anna Paquin said she was bisexual? And now she's married to a dude who presumably has only one set of genitalia? Pffft. What a scam.
But Actually ...
Wait, no, Paquin is still bisexual despite not dating women, just like you're still straight even if you haven't been out with someone of the opposite gender for a year because, you know, gotta get all those GTA V achievements. Yes, there are actually bisexuals in the world -- it's been scientifically confirmed with studies that measure sexual arousal and stuff, the exact methods of which we'll leave to your imagination. So now you know what the "B" in LGBTQ stands for.
Of course, since some joker stuck the answers right there, how could you not?
Half the problem is that, again, it's extremely hard to determine exactly how many people we're talking about, and the other half is that folks just plain hate bis. Studies have shown that straight people (especially men) are three times more disposed to be dicks to bisexuals.
Good thing they can always find sanctuary among the rest of the LGBTQ groups, right? Nope. To many gays, bisexuals are considered to be gays who are just still in denial about their sexuality -- and betraying the cause in the process. So they keep getting swept under the rug, whether by discrimination or by their own attempts to make their case to the world. It's known as "bisexual erasure," which sounds like an '80s cover band but is even lamer.
Myth: All Gay Relationships Have a "Boy" and a "Girl"
Here's a typical lesbian couple in the eyes of Hollywood:
And in its dick.
That's Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon in Bound (made by the Wachowskis, pre-Matrix). Note how you've got the masculine one in the tattoos and tank top, and the feminine one in lace -- representing a "man" and a "woman," in other words. You see the same thing for male couples -- in The Birdcage you have the flamboyant Nathan Lane, who frustrates his more "butch" partner, Robin Williams, with his inability to pass for straight.
He didn't punch nearly enough holes in walls when complaining about the Dolphins.
The same comes up with Modern Family's Mitchell and Cameron:
They're like that Abbott and Costello routine, if Who was the pitcher and What was the catcher.
To someone who doesn't know any better, it probably just makes sense. After all, doesn't someone have to be the strong, masculine one in a relationship, to pair up with the feminine, submissive one? That's just human nature, or something!
But Actually ...
We've known the truth about this one for a very long time -- all the way back in the early 1970s a study found only 7 percent of gay couples settle into traditional "male" and "female" gender roles. Which makes sense, considering the myth is based on the assumption that deep down, gays are still actually attracted to the "opposite" sex. It's all based on heterosexuals' inability to really wrap their heads around the idea.
"They've been at it for over an hour. Shouldn't one of these guys at least wear a wig or something?"
In reality, studies show gay couples tend to tackle things like household chores by just dividing them up equally, rather than segregate them by gender, which actually leads to less resentment between the partners (since nobody is failing to fulfill an obligation to some tradition). Humans are complicated creatures, and it turns out that declaring out of the gate that one partner needs to be dominant and the other submissive doesn't automatically lead to domestic tranquility -- it's still about making it work between individuals.
And, while all of that sounds obvious when spelled out (especially now, when it's actually OK to be a working mom or stay-at-home dad) people still see a gay couple and try to figure out which one "wears the pants."
Myth: Gay People Aren't Religious
Watching the news, you may get the sense that issues like gay marriage are all about a black-and-white battle between gays and conservative Christians. It would therefore be easy to assume your average homosexual isn't a big fan of the Bible, or any holy text for that matter -- all three of the world's major religions, after all, basically have "gays suck" written in their respective rulebooks. Even the freaking Dalai Lama said a gay Buddhist would be committing "sexual misconduct," and that guy is physically incapable of hating anything.
"Except yellow Starburst. Fuck that shit."
So add that to the number of religious groups blaming gay people for everything from 9/11 to the coming destruction of society, and it's only natural to assume that if religion hates gays so much, the feeling is definitely mutual.
But Actually ...
Try to guess which of these three people is gay: the Jewish rabbi, the Muslim imam, or the popular Christian rocker?
Pope aside, Christianity is clearly losing in the headgear department.
The answer is all three. Openly gay, too, so we didn't just get someone fired from their job here. And they're not as rare as you'd think: in 2009, the Christian organization Barna Group did a survey and concluded that 60 percent of gays and lesbians consider religion a huge part of their lives, despite the whole "having pretty much everything going against them" thing. Obviously, being a dude who praises Jesus and dates someone of the same name isn't always easy, but much like people who eat pork or shellfish, or who shave, lots of gays make it work despite being technically condemned by the official literature.
Take Imam Daayiee Abdullah (pictured above) who, immediately after being made the first gay imam in the U.S., gave funeral rites to a Muslim AIDS victim. Or Rabbi Steven Greenberg (also above), who is not only the first openly gay rabbi in Judaism, he's also the first to do a same-sex Jewish wedding. Meanwhile, organizations like the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Presbyterian Church, and the United Church of Christ are apparently trying to out-fab each other by accepting as many as 46 gay ministers at the same time.
The best part is that the ceremonial scarves also double as stylish winter accessories.
Again, this doesn't mean everything's peaches and sacramental bread for gay believers, but they do exist in great numbers, and most of the religions in the U.S. do seem to be starting to come around. Might as well, guys -- it's not like the gays are going anywhere.
Myth: Gays Make More Money
More so than making out with people of the same gender, the main identifying features for gay characters on TV shows are (1) dressing super well, (2) living in super nice apartments, and (3) being super in general. Two of these three things cost money, so the message here appears to be that being gay is only for those who can afford it -- which does make sense, because aren't San Francisco and New York, two of the world's gay headquarters, also two of the most expensive places to live? Hell, even advertisers have started targeting gay people specifically for sales.
Not having child-shaped money pits bringing them down might be a factor.
Just to show you how widespread the idea of gay people being rich is: in 1996, after failing to convince the rest of the Supreme Court that Colorado's gay populace doesn't need to be protected from discrimination, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in his official dissent that "those who engage in homosexual conduct tend to ... have high disposable income," as if immediately after leaving the closet they'd been dropped into a pool full of money, Uncle Scrooge-style.
He does look exceptionally well groomed for a fowl.
But Actually ...
Shockingly, it looks like Justice Scalia wasn't hip to the latest trends in the gay community, the most recent of which is called "being broke."
In 2013, UCLA's Williams Institute released a report showing that gay men and women in the U.S. were far more likely to be victims of poverty during the recession than straight people (the fact that most states still let employers fire you for what you do in your own bed might have something to do with it). As a result, about one in five gay people from the ages of 18 to 44 had to go on food stamps last year.
If you want your conservative uncle to have a stroke, just flash him this headline.
God also forbid that you're gay and black, or gay with children, because then the rates get higher. Or a lesbian, whose higher rates are subject to the long-standing tradition of women making less than men. So if you're a black, lesbian couple with children trying to make ends meet, your apartment probably looks less like the nicely decorated one in Will & Grace and more like the set of The Hunger Games.
"We have to eat mockingjays when the food stamps run out."
As for how this particular myth got started, well, we've already established that the demographics of homosexuality are a complete unknown, due to the flaws of asking people to self-report on something that could get the shit beaten out of them. Now imagine how much worse things are in the poorest parts of the country -- it's a hell of a lot easier to be openly gay in San Francisco than your average trailer park.
Myth: You'll Always Be Permanently Gay or Straight
It's taken decades of progress, social changes, and Lady Gaga songs, but people are finally catching on to the fact there isn't a switch that can turn gayness on or off (those are called nipples, guys). You're just born that way ... for better or worse. Whenever a married politician has a homosexual affair with his pool boy, we assume he must have been secretly gay all along.
Come on, look at the wife: she's been practicing that look for years.
Likewise, if a "gay" celebrity announces they are now straight, we figure they just had a tense conversation with their agent who explained that Middle America still buys lots of movie tickets.
But Actually ...
Science officially says that you can totally turn gay or turn straight -- but no, it doesn't mean you can control it, or that gay kids can be "cured" if you show them enough GIFs of Scarlett Johansson running or something. In recent years, scientists have been looking into the growing trend of "late-blooming lesbians," or straight women in their 30s or 40s who suddenly realize they want some lady lovin'. Dad gets a new convertible; mom gets a girlfriend.
Or, if you're a single parent, you can go with both.
Again, you'll be tempted to think they're just going through a phase (or worse, doing it "for attention") but several studies say otherwise. Scientists followed a group of women for years and measured changes in what they wanted to hump, confirming that what gets people to the summit of Fuck Mountain can absolutely change with time. It's different for dudes, because society as a whole is way more into lesbians than gays, but these changes can manifest in other ways: like heterosexual men increasingly getting into all sorts of butt stuff, or the proud tradition of married guys who fool around with other guys but still consider themselves straight.
"My boyfriend is the only gay one here."
It's situations like these that bring credibility to the concept of "pansexuality" -- being attracted to people, not genders. A lot of people have even started rejecting labels of gay, straight, and bisexual. Perhaps that's where humankind is headed, and, who knows, maybe society will be much happier then ... until we discover aliens, start having sex with them, and have to deal with all this again.
For more misconceptions you probably have, check out 6 Things Everyone Knows About Women (That Aren't True) and 5 Widely Believed Dating Myths (Science Says Aren't True).
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