How to Recognize and Respond to Common Unfair Criticisms Made Against LGBT People

It's an exciting time for LGBT rights, with more people figuring out who they are and being able to be open about it. On the other hand, there's been a strong backlash lately against people who are LGBT from the conservative elements of society, and part of this backlash has been an intense smear campaign against the integrity and character of people who identify as LGBT. This might come from your peers, your parents, the pulpit or anyone else you run into in your daily life, and while you can't magically change people's minds, you can still put up a good defense and also keep these negative ideas from taking hold in your mind. If you are LGBT yourself, hopefully this article can help you recognize some of the hurtful negative messages you grew up with, and get you started on the path to deprogramming these ideas.


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    Recognize what your goals are in addressing these criticisms. It's a noble goal to want to rid the world of bigotry, but you can't actually change anyone's mind for them. Set the bar too high and you'll probably end up disappointed or burned out. An alternative option for a goal would be to let others know that not everyone agrees with messages about LGBT people and they have an ally out there. Another could be to at the very least get a bigoted person to begin to question their views.
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    Learn to recognize the common hateful beliefs towards LGBT people that are out there, and more importantly why these are incorrect or unfair. Many of these ideas have roots in antiquated social mores or religious beliefs, yet still more are the result of anti-LGBT focus groups and organizations who dedicate themselves to churning out poorly conducted research and propaganda against LGBT people. Here are some of the main talking points you'll run into:
    • "LGBT people are destroying the American family/traditional marriage/the country." Just step back for a second and let this one soak in. How would LGBT persons affect the marriages of straight people exactly? Beyond that, isn't it true that LGBT people are members of many peoples' families, and wouldn't these families benefit by having their LGBT members able to be in a relationship? Challenge someone who says this to think of one example of LGBT people splitting up a traditional marriage between two heterosexual people. Alternatively, look at the astronomically high divorce rate among straight couples and ask why "pro-family" organizations wouldn't be better served by trying to outlaw divorce instead?
    • "Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender people can't possibly be happy/don't lead happy lives/live lives of slavery." This is really not true at all. In fact, closeted people seem to lead much more unhappy life than those who are able to live openly. Perhaps more accurately, bigoted people can cause a lot of distress in the lives of LGBT people which is depressing. Perhaps most unfortunately, rhetoric of this kind can come from mental health professionals who overlook the self selection bias, essentially, all the LGBT people they know have mental health issues because those LGBT people are their patients and have sought them for treatment. The most rigorous studies on LGBT people have found that they have rates of mental health problems, no higher than the general population, and therapists or other professionals who insist otherwise are simply furthering the stigmatization of a targeted minority.
    • "LGB or T people are so much more promiscuous than the general population." There is a stereotype out there, especially for lesbian, gay or bisexual people that they are somehow more promiscuous than the general population. In fact, if you are LGB or T, it's often difficult to find other LGB or T people for dates or otherwise, which is perhaps part of the reason for LGBT social organizations and the like. Straight people, especially the promiscuous ones, don't usually have to deal with this difficulty. There certainly are some promiscuous members of any group, but it's not clear that promiscuous straight people are less promiscuous than promiscuous LGBT people.
    • "Lesbians, Gays or Bisexuals don't have lasting relationships." There's something fundamentally unfair about criticizing people for not having lasting relationships when most of the time the legal avenues for long term relationships are blocked. Even worse is in certain social milieus that are unwelcoming towards LGBT people, wherein such relationships have to remain hidden, which puts extra strain on those involved. Beyond that, it's not as if straight people are paragons of monogamy and lasting relationships themselves, look at the divorce rate, or the current extramarital lives of some top (heterosexual) politicians (including supposedly pro-family ones).
    • "Bisexual people don't exist/ are just looking to hook up with as many people as possible/ can't make up their minds." An entire article could be written about the flack that bisexual individuals get. There are a few sources of this, one being that it's difficult for some people to wrap their minds around the fact that a woman could be dating a woman at one point and a man at a later point and still be the same bisexual/pansexual person she was before, and not "a lesbian gone straight" or something similar. Also, because someone is bisexual does not necessarily mean they are dating both men and women at the same time (unless polyamory is their thing), rather, many by people wish to have one relationship at a time. A great deal of these sorts of ideas comes from the LGBT community itself, so it's important to be on the lookout for them.
    • "It's just a phase." If someone has come out as LGB or T, in all likelihood it's because they had to work for a long time to figure out who they are, against the messages from society that they were LGB or T. An LGBTQIAA identity isn't something someone just goes for because it's fashionable.
    • "Lesbian/Gay/Bi/Trans people are all masculine/feminine/'insert attempted label here' ." Anyone who's actually involved in the LGBT community would tell you that LGBTQ people come in all personalities, shapes, sizes, gendered and the like. The easiest one that comes to mind for me is the gay bear subgroup, definitely not a feminine group of men. Sometimes, people who are in high pressure traditional gender roles aren't comfortable being out (yet) and this can reinforce stereotypes like "gay men can't play sports" etc. For example, in the NCAA, there is an absolute dearth of openly LGB or T sports players, which is even more pronounced in professional leagues. This is slowly changing though, and many LGBT people can attest to having experiences with people in school or life who no one would have otherwise guessed were LGBT, if they weren't those people themselves though.
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    Learn to recognize hate groups commonly responsible for publishing misinformation about LGBT people. Unfortunately, there are still enough people who feel strongly against LGBTs that major news outlets like CNN still allow people from known hate groups to regularly commentate as expert guests without being adequately challenged or identified as such. The most prominent anti-LGBT groups are The American Family Association (AFA), the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), Concerned Women for America (CWA) among myriad others. For a more complete list, check the "Southern Poverty Law Center", a legal entity dedicated to keeping track of American hate groups. Any information coming from an anti-gay group can be summarily discarded as unscientific and biased.
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    If your religious group, region, or school is anti-gay, consider seeking out organizations that have resources for LGBT members of those communities. Most religious denominations have LGBT organizations than can provide helpful information for those who run into religious criticisms etc. Beyond that there are many worship options for religiously inclined LGBTs. For schools, if your school is public, consider starting a gay-straight alliance. If the school's administrators block this and it's a public school, the ACLU will help you challenge them and get your club established.
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    Remember that you can't change everyone's mind in regards to LGBT issues, but at the very least you can make it clear that you're an ally to the cause. It may not seem like there are many LGBT people out there, but there are, and it will probably be helpful for them to know that there are people sticking up for them.


  • If you're specifically dealing with parents who are anti-gay, consider putting them in touch with your local PFLAG chapter (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), but also realize you might not get them to change their minds.
  • If you do want to put effort into changing someone's mind, some LGBT groups advocate meeting them where they're at. Essentially this means seeing if you can get them to change at least some of their anti-light views.


  • Do be aware of your safety. It's not going to be productive to have a dialogue where you are physically in danger. However, if intimidation is something you're experiencing regular, consider legal action or reporting it to the police.
  • Be aware of your local police department's track record on LGBT issues. In some areas a legal resource group would be a better place to report threats or abuse, especially if it's from a member of the police. Consider moving to a safer community before following through on any legal complaint against police.

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Categories: LGBT | LGBT Marriage