Myths and Stereotypes

Social norms can influence our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours, and shape our understanding and assumptions about what is acceptable and what is not. There are a number of myths and stereotypes about LGBT2SQ communities that, when left unchallenged, have a harmful impact on LGBT2SQ children and youth.

Training and education can help dispel myths and build affirming and inclusive environments that recognize the realities of LGBT2SQ children and youth. Child protection workers and leaders, residential service providers, and caregivers can reinforce affirming practices by modelling appropriate behaviours, speaking out when they hear individuals supporting myths, and intervening when they witness behaviours that promote discrimination.

Here are some common myths and misconceptions about LGBT2SQ children, youth, and communities, and facts to counteract them. Child welfare service providers, leaders, and caregivers can consider how these myths have influenced their own thinking, the organizational culture for decision-making involving LGBT2SQ children and youth, and how services for LGBT2SQ children and youth have been shaped as a consequence:

Myth Fact
“I don't know any LGBT2SQ people.” It is estimated that around 10% of the population is LGBT2SQ and research indicates that approximately one in every four families has a member who identifies as LGBT2SQ.52 Some research suggests that LGBT2SQ children and youth may represent more than 10% of child welfare clients due to family rejection and other risk factors.53 Additionally, Egale’s First National Climate Survey on Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia in Canadian Schools54 found that over 14% of students self-identified as LGBT2SQ. It’s important to remember that not all LGBT2SQ individuals are open about their sexual and/or gender diversity for various reasons, including safety and lack of support.
“Sex and gender are the same thing.” While sex/assigned sex and gender are often connected concepts, they are not the same thing. Sex/assigned sex is the classification of a person as male, female, or intersex based on biological characteristics while gender is based on a person’s internal and individual experience.
“Adolescents are too young to know their sexual orientation and gender identity.” Research has consistently shown that the average age of awareness of a lesbian, gay or bisexual identity is 10 years of age. Research confirms that children become aware of their gender identity by the age of three to five years.55
“You can change an LGBT2SQ youth's identity.” Being LGBT2SQ is neither a choice, nor a phase. Medical and psychological experts agree that attempting to change someone’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity does not work and often causes harm.56
“Parents cause their children to become LGBT2SQ.” Just as we cannot explain what makes some people heterosexual or cisgender, we do not understand what makes other people LGBT2SQ.
“Transgender people are just confused about their gender. It's just a phase.” Individuals do not choose to be transgender, much like other individuals do not choose to be cisgender. Research indicates gender identity cannot be changed by therapies designed to make a person “match” their sex/assigned sex.57
“Gender identity and sexual orientation are the same thing.” Gender identity and sexual orientation are two completely separate aspects of a person’s identity. Gender identity is a person’s internal and individual experience of gender, while sexual orientation speaks to a person’s attraction.
“A person is either “straight” or “gay.” Many experts view sexual orientation as diverse and fluid, recognizing that many people are not exclusively homosexual or heterosexual.
“A bisexual person is just confused.” A person who identifies as bisexual experiences attraction to people of more than one sex/assigned sex or gender. It does not mean that they are confused about their sexual orientation.
“I can tell if an individual is LGBT2SQ.” This premise is based on the false assumption that all LGBT2SQ people exhibit what society has determined to be stereotypical behaviour of LGBT2SQ individuals. Many self-identified heterosexual (or “straight”) individuals exhibit mannerisms or behaviours that society considers as being “gay.”
“Coming out is a one-time event.” Coming out is a lifelong and daily process as LGBT2SQ individuals decide how to express their identity/orientation and to whom they wish to reveal their identity/orientation.
“All LGBT2SQ people have had some kind of negative experience to 'make them that way'.” There is no evidence linking child abuse with sexual orientation or gender identity later in life.
“Children raised by same-sex parents are more likely to be LGBT2SQ themselves.” Research has concluded that children raised by same-gender parents are no more or less likely to be LGBT2SQ than children raised by heterosexual parents.58
“There is no longer discrimination against LGBT2SQ individuals.” Many children and youth still regularly experience and/or witness anti-LGBT2SQ put downs and fight cissexist expectations of gender on a daily basis.
“LGBT2SQ is one community.” LGBT2SQ people are as diverse and intersectional as non-LGBT2SQ populations. People of any race, ethnicity, religious or spiritual affiliation, language, age, and ability can identify as LGBT2SQ. When referring to LGBT2SQ groups, it is more appropriate to say LGBT2SQ communities.