Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Telling it Straight to Straights


Dispelling gay myths is key to getting straight people to understand our issues

By Steve Charing

History has taught us that opponents of gay rights have combined two elements to try to thwart lgbt progress: selective inflammatory religious rhetoric and promulgating myths about the lgbt population. I’ll set aside the religious angle for another day.

But the myths advanced by our straight opponents have been every bit as dangerous, and they should be dispelled. If you get the chance to speak to straight folks about these myths, consider using the arguments contained in the following:

Myth #1—Gay people choose to be gay. In discussing this issue, I would raise these questions: Why would I choose a sexual orientation that would alienate myself from my peers at school and risk the violence and isolation that bullying produce? Why would I choose to misrepresent myself in front of my family, friends, co-workers and neighbors? Why would I choose a life where would be discriminated against? And why would I choose a sexual orientation that would not allow me to biologically have children and raise a family?

To put it simply, I did not have any more of a thought process in deciding the direction of my sexual orientation as straight people do.

Myth #2—There is a gay lifestyle. There is no more likely to be a gay lifestyle than a straight one. TV footage from gay pride parades depicting the lgbt community as drag queens and leather types is an over exaggeration and totally misleading. There are far more heterosexual cross dressers and straight people engaged in leather and S&M fetishes than you would ever find in the gay community. Except you never see them on the news.

Gay people work, pay taxes—much of it going to educate straight people’s kids, eat in or dine out, watch movies, listen to music, work out, enjoy their hobbies and pets, attend social functions, watch some TV and do virtually everything that straight people do. What is so gay about that lifestyle?

Myth #3—Gays in the military would hurt morale. Gays have been in the military since Alexander the Great, and wars have been won and lost irrespective of their presence. The idea that a gay person would overtly come on to a straight soldier or sailor is not beyond possibility, but it is unlikely that such risky behavior would be undertaken by most gay and lesbian troops.
Straight people react differently around gay people depending on their experiences. But the same warnings were heard about blacks integrating in the military and our armed services survived very nicely, thank you. While a number of western nations permit gay personnel in their military, the U.S. continues to lag primarily because of its southern-based culture, for which the top commanders are afraid to change the mindsets of their subordinates. And with M-F sexual harassment proliferating in the military academies and throughout the services, the military can’t claim that gays are hurting morale. Plus there’s also that other little morale problem called Iraq.


Myth #4—Gays can be "cured." Most legitimate mental health organizations discredit that theory and maintain that more harm than good comes from the dubious—sometimes tortuous—procedures used. Questionable organizations such as PFOX, a conservative propaganda tool set up by the religious right, argues that gays can be changed to heterosexuals. They can’t.

Myth #5—Same-sex marriage would ruin the institution. All we have to do is point to Massachusetts where marriages involving gays and lesbians have occurred since May 2004. The state continues to have the lowest divorce rate in the country. So when Lois and Susan got married, straight couples didn’t file for divorce. The institution is only threatened by heterosexuals—not gays.

Myth #6—Same-sex marriages require religious blessings. What lgbt people are seeking are civil marriages—not religious marriages. Clergy do not have to perform these services. In fact, as many couples in Maryland get civil marriages as those in a house of worship. They are validated by the state and confer the same rights as if religious marriage ceremonies took place.

Myth #7—The religious right hates the sin but loves the sinner. Not true. They hate the "sinner." They uniformly oppose marriage for same-sex couples on the basis that according to the Bible, homosexuality is a sin. But unless I am unaware that the Bible has been recently amended, murder is also a sin. But I never heard the fundamentalist Christians oppose the civil rights or marriages of murderers, or for that matter, armed robbers, child molesters, carjackers, rapists, etc. No, when we’re the sinners they hate US!

Myth #8—Children raised by same-sex parents are being hurt. Once again, multiple studies confirm that such children are no more likely to be psychologically hurt by having two moms or two dads than if there had been a mom and a dad in the household. It’s better to have two than one parent, but gender is not a factor.

Myth #9—Gays are asking for "special" rights. What lgbt folks want are the same rights as anyone else. We aren’t looking for any kind of special rights—just protections that we are treated equally and fairly under the principle "all men are created equal." It’s all about fairness. Members of gay couples should have the same rights as married couples when visiting a hospitalized partner or having the ability to make key medical decisions with respect to his or her care.

Many other unfair misrepresentations exist. I believe this covers the main ones. Dispelling these myths and telling our stories to straights will go a long way towards setting the record straight.

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