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Learning platform


Estimated reading: 14 minutes
  • LGBTQ+ people are still affected by certain prejudices and myths that persist in society.
  • The most common myths need to be deconstructed in order to achieve a normalisation of the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Acceptance and knowledge of the different LGBTQ+ groups, both in the family and in education, have a positive impact on the mental health of the people who belong to these groups (and of everyone else), so it is highly recommended to promote them.


Despite the fact that over the years the normalisation and acceptance of LGBTQ+ groups have become more and more common, mainly in more developed countries, the representation of identities that have traditionally been silenced, hidden, punished, or feigned due to society’s rejection of them, is still associated with various prejudices that have become established and hinder this normalisation.

The emergence and maintenance of these prejudices has been explained from different perspectives. One of the most researched is biological gender essentialism. Those who adopt this position argue that gender identities are based on a biological substrate and, therefore, are stable categories over time that cannot mutate or change (Smiler & Gelman, 2008), thus forming a series of fixed and natural attributes (Bastián & Haslam, 2006). According to this perspective, it is the person’s biological state that is decisive, not what they feel. Some theories argue that many heterosexual and cisgender people believe that if a person is not a man, they will be a woman, as they are influenced by pre-established beliefs in society and what is culturally learned. This leads them to assume gender binarism which, in turn, directly influences the stereotypes that are generated with respect to transgender people (Gallagher & Bodenhausen, 2021).

People who hold essentialist beliefs towards a group believe that the characteristics that define that group are difficult to change and, therefore, consider them to be universal (Glazier et al., 2021). Therefore, all people in that group would share the same essence that is inherent to their being (Rhodes et al., 2012). Previous research has found that the existence of this type of essentialist beliefs about a group is associated with more prejudice towards people who are part of that group (Glazier et al., 2021), also favouring the emergence of stereotypes (Rhodes et al., 2012). In this sense, research shows that the higher the level of gender essentialist beliefs, the greater the prejudice towards transgender people (Davidson & Czopp, 2014).

Transgender people do not conform to pre-established social norms about gender, which influences the perception of the rest of the population towards them (Gallagher & Bodenhausen, 2021). The same is true for other LGBTQ+ groups. This leads to phenomena such as transphobia, which is very characteristic of individuals who do not accept those who do not comply with conventional gender norms (Nagoshi et al., 2018), or the emergence of prejudice towards these groups (e.g., Axt et al., 2021; Prusaczyk & Hodson, 2020; Rad et al., 2019; Wilton et al., 2019).

9.5.2. DEVELOPMENT OF THE TOPIC Debunking myths about LGBTQ+ groups

The existence of prejudices towards LGBTQ+ groups has led to the establishment of various myths in society that need to be dispelled in order to facilitate the normalisation of these groups.

Myth 1. No one is born homosexual.

Facts: The American Psychological Association (APA) states that “most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.” In 1994, the APA wrote that “homosexuality is not a matter of individual choice” and that research “suggests that homosexual orientation happens very early in the life cycle, possibly even before birth.”

Myth 2: Homosexuals can choose to be heterosexual.

Facts: Conversion therapy has been rejected by established and reputable medical, psychological, psychiatric, and counselling organisations.

Myth 3: Transgender identity is a mental illness.

Facts: Although transgender identity is not itself an illness, transgender people may experience mental health problems due to discrimination and disapproval. But these illnesses do not cause, and are not caused by, their transgender identity. They are the result of the social exclusion and stigma that transgender people often experience.

Myth 4: Students are too young to know their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Facts: While a child’s self-concept may change over time, this is not because they change their mind. LGBTQ+ youth navigate many barriers and social norms to accept their queer identities. This does not mean that they do not recognise their identities at an early age. Children do not need to be pubescent or sexually active to “truly know” their gender identity or sexual orientation. This is an expectation we do not place on heterosexual and cisgender students. In reality, children usually know their gender from the age of 2 or 3. Furthermore, research suggests that allowing young children to align their gender identity with their gender expression is associated with better mental outcomes among transgender children.

Myth 5: A child can turn other children into homosexuals, either family members or friends.

Facts: Sexual orientation is not learned from peers. Although it is possible for children and adolescents to imitate or influence each other, sexual orientation is not something that is learned from anyone. If children who share the same environment also come out of the closet, it will be because they feel encouraged to do so, not because they have been influenced.

Myth 6: An LGBTQ+ person is a danger to children.

Facts: LGBTQ+ people are no more likely to sexually harass children than anyone else. Sexual attraction to children is not caused by homosexuality, but is a psychiatric disorder called paedophilia. This claim tends to affect homosexual men in particular, but studies show that homosexual men are no more likely to sexually abuse children than heterosexual men (Schlatter & Steinback, 2011). In fact, the Child Sexual Harassment Research and Prevention Institute finds that 90% of child sexual abusers target children of family and friends, and most are men married to women (Schlatter & Steinback, 2011).

Myth 7: All LGBTIQ+ people have HIV/AIDS.

Facts: This statement is false. HIV/AIDS affects everyone, including heterosexual, cisgender and LGBTIQ+ people, men, and women, to varying degrees depending on the characteristics of the epidemic. In some regions of the world, it is primarily a problem within the heterosexual population. However, it is true that stigma, discrimination, and exclusion of LGBTIQ+ people result in a lack of access to HIV information and safe sex practices, prevention, testing, treatment, care, and support. This puts LGBTQ+ people (and in particular transgender women) at increased risk of HIV infection. Reducing stigma, eliminating discrimination and exclusion, and consequently increasing access to services, is the right way to address the HIV epidemic for all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Myth 8: Association of transgender women with prostitution and marginalisation.

Facts: It means that their reality is stereotyped and simplified, it generates ignorance and can even lead to criminalisation. The lack of references in the media of trans women in other social and professional spheres feeds an image that is far from the real one.

Myth 9: It is appropriate to refer to a trans person by their birth name once they have chosen a new name.

Facts: This is called “dead-naming”. Referring to someone by their birth name can cause anxiety among trans people and invalidates a trans person’s identity and experience. Although accidents or oversights can occur, it is best to always acknowledge them, learn from them and address a trans person by both their chosen name and the pronouns with which they identify. If you do not know their name or pronouns, simply ask, “What is the name and pronoun by which you identify?”

Myth 10: Gender-neutral toilets are exclusively for LGBTQ+ people. Cis-straight people should only use the clearly marked men’s or women’s toilets.

Facts: Gender-neutral toilets are intended to be used by everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, expression, or ability.


Situation 1: a student comes out to you. It is natural to want to respond appropriately if an LGBTQ+ student comes out or discloses the orientation to a family member. Remember this guiding principle: Focus on the student, not yourself. Here are some general suggestions that can help you act as an affirming ally when the situation occurs.

What can you do?

  • Listen actively. Active listening is one of the most powerful and useful resources educators can offer; it is also simple and requires no prior effort. For many LGBTIQ+ students, the most damaging or painful part of living in the closet is not feeling respected, listened to, or understood. Having someone to talk to throughout the coming out process may be all the support a student needs to authentically thrive in school. Active listening is the practice where you are not just listening in order to respond but you are trying to understand the message the person is transmitting. Asking clarifying or open-ended questions, such as “Do you feel safe at school?”, will also reassure the student that they have your constant attention and concern.
  • Make yourself available without being a rescuer. The student is likely to benefit from knowing that they have your support, but they may not be in the midst of a crisis or want substantial help. Offer your support openly, without insisting or pushing them to take any specific action. Keep in mind that this is their experience and that you are there to support, not to make it all about yourself.
  • Respect confidentiality. Inform the student that you will not share the information with others unless their safety requires it. Allow the student to come out to others in their own way and in their own time.
  • Keep prejudice under control. Coming out is a critical time for young people who are still navigating their identities in the world. The student may remember your conversation for a long time. Avoid using the moment to “warn” them about how their identity will influence their life or to impose cultural norms around sexuality or gender.
  • Know the resources. Assess why the student is coming to you: if they trust you and want you to be involved in their coming out process, listening may be appropriate. But if the student is anxious or in a crisis, be prepared to refer them to the school counsellor or another resource you feel would be helpful, as long as the student is interested.

What should you try to avoid?

  • Telling the student that it could be a phase.
  • Telling them you “don’t care” about who they are and how they identify.
  • Asking if they have been sexually assaulted.
  • Inquiring about past heterosexual experiences.
  • Telling the student the information would best be kept to themselves.
  • Telling them to wait to come out until they are sure.
  • Informing the student they are choosing a difficult path.
  • Responding with silence, with blankness or by dismissing what the student has said.
  • Questioning their certainty.
  • Telling this information to their family, friends, or co-workers. Unless the student has told you something that requires you to act as a manda­tory reporter, always honour their privacy.

Situation 2: A transgender girl uses the girls’ toilet because toilets are not neutral, and a female student complains to the school management because for her, despite being a transgender person, she is still a boy. Recommended action: transgender people use toilets for the same purposes as non-binary people (i.e., to wash hands and relieve themselves). Schools should provide gender-neutral toilets to prevent conflicts based on discrimination like the one described in the situation. If they do not have them, the school management, through the counsellor, should inform people who show their discomfort of the importance of understanding that a transgender girl feels like a woman and, therefore, has the right to use the girls’ bathroom.

Situation 3: Segregating activities according to the sex of the children. This segregation can be a problem with transgender/ non-binary / different gendered students. It does not make much sense to do this type of segregation because it encourages the assumption and permanence of stereotypes associated with the sexes. Groups can be made by sorting according to other criteria: affinity, knowledge, alphabetical order, order of arrival, random order, etc.


In addition to the recommendations made in the situations described earlier, other suggestions that may be useful for teachers include the following:

  • Be willing to learn essential terms. Today’s youth, more than ever, have a broad vocabulary with which to articulate their identities. That vocabulary may be unfamiliar but understanding these words can open doors for educators to become more effective allies to LGBTQ+ students. This means, for example, knowing the difference between biological sex, gender identity and gender expression; between cisgender and transgender; and between asexual and pansexual among others.
  • Facilitate conversations about identity with care. When issues of personal identity arise in the classroom, the conversation may be unpredictable. Properly facilitating those conversations means getting comfortable with discomfort; it means being aware of your own biases and conditioned beliefs; and it means relying on a consistent model of civilised classroom discussion to be able to manage emotional responses in a thoughtful way.
  • Challenge gender norms through classroom practices. To create a classroom that is inclusive of all genders, assess your concrete, everyday classroom practices. Here are some suggestions for assessing the gender inclusiveness in your classroom:
    • Conduct a visual check of your classroom to examine your wall posters and other visible materials. Do they depict people with diverse gender expressions? Are there portrayals of non-traditional families or families with LGBTQ+ members?
    • Refer to a group of kids as students, scholars, class, friends, or everybody. Avoid the binary term “boys and girls.”
    • Avoid separating students according to gender. Dividing students along binary lines only reinforces feelings of difference. When dividing students into teams, for pair work or to form a line, use rows, table groups or sides of the classroom.
    • In informal conversations with students, do not make assumptions based on gender. Never tease or joke with students in a way that presumes cisgender identity or heterosexual orientation.
    • Encourage all students to try different types of activities. Do not ask for a group of “strong boys” to help carry furniture or “artistic girls” to decorate a noticeboard. Include everyone in a wide range of classroom activities and offer equal opportunities for participation.


Axt, J. R., Conway, M. A., & Buttrick, N. R. (2021). Implicit Transgender Attitudes Independently Predict Beliefs About Gender and Transgender People. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 47 (2), 257-274.

Bastián, B., & Haslam, N. (2006). Psychological essentialism and stereotype endorsement. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 42(2), 228–235.

Davidson, M., & Czopp, A. (2014). Too close for comfort: The moderating role of essentialism in transprejudice. Poster presented at the 2014 Society for Personality and Social Psychology meeting, Austin, TX.

Gallagher, N., & Bodenhausen, G. (2021). Gender essentialism and the mental representation of transgender women and men: A multimethod investigation of stereotype content. Cognition, 217, 104887.

Glazier, J., Gomez, E., & Olson, K. (2021). The Association Between Prejudice Toward and Essentialist Beliefs About Transgender People. Collabra: Psychology, 7(1).

Nagoshi, C. T., Cloud, J. R., Lindley, L. M., Nagoshi, J. L., & Lothamer, L. J. (2018). A Test of the Three-Component Model of Gender-Based Prejudices: Homophobia and Transphobia Are Affected by Raters’ and Targets’ Assigned Sex at Birth. Sex Roles, 80, 137–146.

Prusaczyk, E., & Hodson, G. (2020). The Roles of Political Conservatism and Binary Gender Beliefs in Predicting Prejudices Toward Gay Men and People Who Are Transgender. Sex Roles, 82, 438–446.

Rad, M. S., Shackleford, C., Lee, K. A., Jassin, K., & Ginges, J. (2019) Folk theories of gender and anti-transgender attitudes: Gender differences and policy preferences. PLOS ONE 14(12): e0226967

Rhodes, M., Leslie, S., & Tworek, C. (2012). Cultural transmission of social essentialism. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(34), 13526–13531.

Schlatter, E., & Steinback, R. (2011). 10 anti-gays myths debunked. Intelligence report.

Smiler, A., & Gelman, S. (2008). Determinants of Gender Essentialism in College Students. Sex Roles, 58 (11–12), 864–874.

Wilton, L. S., Bell, A. N., Carpinella, C. M., Young, D. M., Meyers, C., & Clapham, R. (2019). Lay Theories of Gender Influence Support for Women and Transgender People’s Legal Rights. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 10(7), 883–894.

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