Many of us have heard the news that Malaysia has offered up to US$1,000 for best ‘gay prevention’ video. The news had left a bitter taste in my mouth and it showed just how much many Malaysian do not understand – and do not want to understand – the LGBT community.
And because there’s so many negative stereotypes out there, we need to debunk a couple of myths here. Right now.
1. The Myth: People choose their sexual orientations
The Facts: Anti-LGBT don’t want to believe that someone could be born gay because then they’d have to give them ‘special’ civil rights protections (as those given to minorities) and it would be more difficult to justify discrimination against the LGBT community.
Even though modern science cannot conclusively state what causes sexual orientation, a many research studies suggest that it is the result of both biological and environmental forces and not a ‘personal choice’. In 2008, a Swedish study of twins (the world’s largest twin study) concluded that homosexual behaviour is largely shaped by genetics and random environmental factors. Dr. Qazi Rahman, a study co-author and a pioneering scientist on human sexual orientation, has also stated that sexual orientation in general is a mixture of genetic and environmental factors.
The APA also concludes that most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation, and in 1994, they noted that homosexuality is not a matter of individual choice. The American Academy of Pediatrics has also stated that homosexuality has existed in most societies for as long as recorded descriptions of sexual beliefs and practices have been available.
2. The Myth: Gay people can choose to leave homosexuality.
The Facts: In relation to the last point, many anti-LGBT activists do not believe that people can’t be born gay hence, they can always ‘choose’ to ‘abandon homosexuality’. This is where “reparative” or sexual reorientation therapy comes in. It is a pseudo-scientific foundation of the ex-gay movement and has been rejected by all professional American medical, psychological, psychiatric and professional counselling organisations. The American Psychological Association had also embraced a resolution that rejected the therapy with the report stating that it was rare for people to turn straight and that many continued to feel attracted to the same sex even after therapy. It also stated that there is “insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation” and urge mental health professionals to avoid promoting the ‘therapy’.
Many professional medical, scientific and counselling organisations have also issued statements regarding the harm that the ‘therapy’ can cause. Since 1993, the American Academy of Pediatrics have stated that the ‘therapy’ are contraindicated as it can cause guilt and anxiety whilst having little or no effect. In 2012, the Pan-American Health Organisation (the world’s oldest international public health agency) had issued a statement that stated that these ‘therapies’ were a threat to the health and well-being of the effected people.
Evidence of the therapy’s ineffectiveness is the numerous failures of some of its strongest advocates. Founder of Exodus International, Michael Bussee, left the organisation because he fell in love with an ex-gay counsellor (who left with him). George Rekers, a former board member of NARTH, was found to be involved in a same-sex tryst in 2010. Other examples also include Alan Chambers – the director of Exodus International which shut down in 2013 – who acknowledged that he was still gay. At a 2012 conference, he had also stated 99% of those he met have did not change their sexual orientation, and had still felt a temptation to others of the same sex.
3. The Myth: Same-sex parents must be harmful for children.
The Facts: Most anti-gay activists only believe that the traditional nuclear family is the only way for the healthy upbringing of children. However, there are no legitimate research proving this. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in a 2002 policy statement declared that children with LGBT parents “fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social, and sexual functioning as do children whose parents are heterosexual”. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and The American Psychological Association (APA) have also stated the same thing.
The statement was reaffirmed in 2009 and in 2013, when the AAP stated its support for civil marriages for same-sex couples and full adoption and foster care rights for all parents. In 2005, the APA had also published a research on same-sex couples which stated that the negative stereotypes about LGBT parenting are not supported by any data.
LiveScience also found that in some cases, children in the same-sex household may also be better adjusted than in heterosexual homes. A 2013 Australian study also found that children of LGBT parents are not only thriving but also better in their overall health and have higher rates of family cohesion than heterosexual couples (the full study published in 2014).
However, the anti-LGBT community distorts legitimate research, and have even paid a study (by professor Mark Regnerus) almost $1 million in funding just to support the myth. The study has been completely discredited now but many in the community still cite it.
4. The Myth: LGBT people were sexually abused as children and there was a lack of sex-role modelling by their parents.
The Facts: Sadly, a side effect of this myth is the demonization of parents of LGBT people, who will then think that they have failed to protect their child against sexual abuse or failed as role models. However, there is no scientifically sound study with definite links between sexual orientations and parental role-modelling or childhood sexual abuse. The American Psychiatric Association also noted that when dealing with LGBT issues, that sexual abuse does not appear any more or less prevalent among children who grow up and identify as LGBT than in children who grow up and identify as straight.
Moreover, the National Organisation on Male Sexual Victimisation notes that “experts in the human sexuality field do not believe that premature sexual experiences play a significant role in late adolescent or adult sexual orientation” and added that it’s unlikely that anyone can make another person gay or straight.
Dr. Warren Throckmorton, a psychologist at the Christian Grove City College has also stated in an analysis that “the research on sexual abuse among LGBT populations is often misused to make inferences about causation of homosexuality.”
5. The Myth: Gay people are more prone to be mentally ill and to abuse drugs and alcohol.
The Facts: The argument is that LGBT groups are inherently ‘unhealthy’, both mentally and physically, hence why anti-LGBT groups reject the 1973 decision by the APA to remove ‘homosexuality’ from its list of mental illnesses, with many claiming that homosexual activists managed to infiltrate the APA just to sway its decision.
Many professional health organisations are also on record of confirming that homosexuality is not a mental disorder. The American Psychological Association had also stated that homosexuality is neither a mental illness nor a mental depravity as many studies have already document the mental health of the LGBT community and proved that they function as well as heterosexuals. ‘Homosexuality’ has now been removed after extensive reviews of scientific literature and consultations with experts.
Even though it’s true that the LGBT community suffers higher rates of anxiety, depression (+related illnesses), along with behaviours like drug abuse, it’s due to the historical social stigmatisation of and violence on the LGBT community. Studies have shown that the stress of being in a minority group in a hostile society causes higher levels of mental illnesses and drug abuse. Richard J. Wolitski, an expert on minority status and public health issues at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, has also confirmed this in 2008.
With regards to ‘reparative therapy’, the Council on Scientific Affairs have reported that most emotional disturbances experienced by the LGBT community are not due to physiological issues but rather because they get “a sense of alienation in an unaccepting environment”. Dr. Mark Hatzenbuehler, a professor at Columbia University had said that with the data gathered, study suggests that “sexual minorities living in communities with high levels of anti-gay prejudice have increased risk of mortality, compared to low-prejudice communities”. In a nutshell, unlike what the haters say, the health disparity is not physiological but due to the stigmatisation and prejudice in their surroundings.
6. The Myth: Hate crime laws will lead to the legalization of practices like bestiality and necrophilia.
The Facts: Anti-LGBT activists claimed the hate crime laws will lead to the legalisation of psychosexual disorders (paraphilias) such as pedophilia and bestiality. However, these hate crime laws do not actually protect pedophiles but instead provide enhanced penalties when persons are victimized due to their ‘sexual orientations’ (amongst other things). According to the American Psychological Association, ‘sexual orientation’ refers to heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality, and do not cover paraphilias. Paraphilias defined by the organisation are characterised by sexual urges or behaviours directed at non-consenting persons or those unable to consent (such as children), or that involve another person’s psychological distress, injury, or death.
7. The Myth: LGBT people don’t live long lives.
The Facts: Anti-LGBT organisations seek to promote LGBT as an unhealthy ‘choice’, hence they have shorter life spans, poorer physical and mental health, and that’s why they shouldn’t be allowed to adopt or foster children. This falsehood can be traced directly to the discredited researcher Paul Cameron and a 1994 paper he co-wrote entitled “the Lifespan of Homosexuals”.
However, like many of his ‘research’, Cameron’s methodology was very much flawed – the most obvious being that the sample he selected was not remotely statistically representative of the LGBT population as a whole. Even Nicholas Eberstadt, a demographer at the conservative Merican Enterprise Institute, had called his methods “just ridiculous”. Anti-LGBT groups have also tried to support the ludicrous claim by distorting the works of other legitimate scholars, and when the authors of those studies became aware of this misrepresentation of their work, they issued this response.
There are more LGBT myths to debunk, but I’m just going to leave this here.