Learning platform

Learning platform


Estimated reading: 11 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: my child comes out of the closet. For some families the news may be difficult to deal with, while for others it is just another part of being with their child. In the best practices section, we describe some general suggestions that will help you to act as a support and reference person for your child if this situation ever arises.


It is recommended that all parents inform themselves adequately in order to be prepared and to know how best to proceed when one of their children comes out. Below are some general recommendations to keep in mind:

  1. Get informed: Try to look for answers your questions about sexual/gender/identity diversity, so you can better understand your family members.
  2. Be careful to the language you use: Try to use language that includes LGBTQ+ people. Often, we use words that are commonly used, and we may be hurting our family member without realising it. For example, the word gay should be used instead of faggot.
  3. Empathise: For a moment, put yourself in your family member’s shoes and try to understand what they have gone through and are going through. If you cannot imagine it, you can also ask them directly when the time comes.
  4. Send positive messages: Try to create a pleasant and trusting atmosphere in the home, which will help your family member to trust you and to feel supported and more at ease within the family environment. For example, they can show support by discussing topics related to the LGBTQ+ community/events.
  5. Be prepared for the conversation: One of the most important days for LGBTQ+ people are when they are finally visible within their family, i.e., when they talk about their sexual/gender/identity diversity. Try to be prepared to make them feel that what they are telling you is not wrong, and that you understand and support them.
  6. Support them in whatever they need: Everyone is different; some people may need a hug; others may need you to accompany them to an association because they need counselling. Let them know that you will be there for whatever they need.
  7. Find support for yourself. When our child comes out of the closet, it is important to seek support for yourself, because you too are about to begin a journey.


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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