We don’t hear a lot of news from the Middle East about LGBT issues. We know there is rampant homophobia and transphobia from the few stories that make it to U.S. media. Gay men are being rounded up and thrown off buildings in front of gathered crowds. Trans women are arrested for “debauchery” in sting operations with police posing as interested suitors on dating websites. Where do people in the Arab world get their information about the LGBT community? Here’s a partial list of myths that are common on the Middle East (and most are common here, too!) published by Arabs4Tolerance.org.
Most people in the Arab world attain information about LGBT folks through word-of-mouth and the media (movies, TV series, newspapers, etc.). Unfortunately, the information communicated is generally inaccurate and extremely negative.
Myth: You can spot a person who happens to be LGBT by the way they act and dress.
Reality: Most people believe all gay men are effeminate, and all lesbians are butch or tomboys. While there are some people who happen to be LGBT who fit these stereotypes, they are not representative of all LGBT folks. People who happen to be LGBT generally look and act like everyone else, especially in the Arabic speaking world due to fear of ridicule, harassment and/or verbal / physical assault. Most LGBT folks in the Arab world learn early on to “hide” their sexual orientation. They certainly do not want to attract attention to themselves.
Myth: Men who act in a feminine manner must be gay. Masculine women with short haircuts and deeper voices must be lesbians
Reality: These stereotypes only apply to about 15% of men who happen to be gay and 5% of women who happen to be lesbians. These stereotypes confuse the concept of sexual orientation (whether you are sexually and emotionally attracted to the same or the opposite sex) with gender roles (exhibiting “masculine” or “feminine” behavior).There is no accurate way to judge someone’s sexual orientation.
Myth: Being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender – it’s just a “phase”.
Reality: Many people believe that being LGBT is just a phase that will eventually “go away”. This is a large misconception. Thousands of gay men have sought therapy, “reverse gay counseling” and even heterosexual relationships to suppress or attempt to “change” their sexual orientation. Most of these attempts at living as a heterosexual man or woman only further suppress homosexual feelings. These feelings can later surface, sometimes leading to divorce, custody battles or adultery.
Myth: All gay men have AIDS.
Reality: Needless to say, this is simply not true. Many rumors about AIDS still linger from the 1980’s. Those misconceptions were based on lack of understanding and fear. Though the source of the disease hasn’t been traced to it’s root, AIDS is not just a “gay disease”. Learning the facts about AIDS will help eliminate such an inaccurate statement: http://www.thebody.com/content/art32981.html
Myth: Someone made him gay or people “choose” to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Reality: Studies have shown that being gay is not directly related to one’s environment. For instance, many mothers in retrospect regret being too close to their sons, thinking that is what “made” them gay. However, their relationship with their child had little to do with them being gay. You are either homosexual, bisexual or transgender. Or heterosexual. LGBT folks are not “made”. They just are LGBT. Furthermore, heterosexual folks don’t “become” emotionally and sexually attracted to the opposite sex, they just are. They do not “choose” to be heterosexual, they just are. In the Arab world, LGBT folks face extreme hardship: shame, self-hate, rejection from family and friends, emotional, physical and in some cases sexual assault, discrimination, suicide, imprisonment in some countries, imprisonment and torture in police stations and prison in others and some countries execute LGBT folks by hanging. Some are even killed by their own family members to avoid public humiliation. Think about it, why would a person “choose” to be LGBT?
Reality: Your sexual orientation and/or gender identity has NOTHING to do with the content of a persons character – it does not determine whether someone is or will be a “good” person or a “bad” person. Being heterosexual or LGBT does not increase or decrease the likelihood that a person will do something “bad” or “good”. Furthermore, your sexual orientation and/or gender identity does not determine whether or not you believe or will believe in God and/or a particular religion. Think about it: Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Ariel Sharon, Idi Amin, Mubarak, Assad, Ayatollah Khomeini, Saddam Hussein, Taliban leaders, and many others – from what we know, were / are they homosexual and/or bisexual? In fact most if not all figures or perpetrators of the most heinous crimes are known or to be heterosexual. Think of somebody you know who you think or know is LGBT – famous or not – have they been accused of or have committed a crime? Ricky Martin, Ellen Degeneres, Sir Elton John, Oscar Wilde, Harvey Milk, Jane Lynch (Glee), Sir Ian McKellen, George Michael among many, many others are homosexual – are they “evil”, “bad” or “criminal”? Think about it.
Myth: Gay men are only concerned with sex.
Myth: You are only gay if you engage in anal sex.
Myth: Homosexuality is a disease; a disorder.
Myth:< Gay men are pedophiles (persons sexually aroused by and attracted to children) / child molesters (persons who sexually harass, violate or assault children).
Myth: LGBT orientations are a direct result of modern “Western” influences, access to “Western” satellite channels, Israel and the internet.