There are many generalizations and inaccurate / false information about people who happen to be LGBT. In the Arab world, there is very limited exposure to people who happen to be LGBT which contributes to the widespread misconceptions and homophobia / transphobia. 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. We address some of the most common myths here:
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: Gay men are only concerned with sex.
Reality: Often people associate gay men with sexual addiction. However, the majority of men who happen to be gay are no more sexually active that heterosexuals. People who happen to be LGBT do not need to have sex in order to be LGBT. Some LGBT folks never have sex. Often in the Arab world, gay men have relationships with women, have children and never have sex with other men. Still others marry women, have children with them and maintain emotional and sexual relationships with other men. Although less common, some gay men only maintain a monogamous emotional and sexual relationship with another man. Same applies to people who happen to be lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
Myth: You are only gay if you engage in anal sex.
Reality: Again, some gay men never have sex with another man, including anal sex. Some gay men have sex with other men that does not include anal sex at all. Some gay men only have emotional relationships with other men that do not include sex of any kind. Being gay is NOT only about sex.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?
Myth: Homosexuality is a disease; a disorder.
Reality: The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of official mental illnesses in 1973. The American Psychological Association followed suit in 1974. And so have most psychiatric and psychological associations around the world. Homosexuality is NOT a disease or disorder. http://www.healthyminds.org/More-Info-For/GayLesbianBisexuals.aspx
Myth: Gay men are pedophiles (persons sexually aroused by and attracted to children) / child molesters (persons who sexually harass, violate or assault children).
Reality: Scientific research does not in any way support this. Studies have actually shown that 90% of child molesters are adult heterosexual men. Molesting children has nothing to do with whether a man is a heterosexual or homosexual. Also, although far less common, some child molesters are heterosexual women. http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/rainbow/html/facts_molestation.html
Myth: LGBT orientations are a direct result of modern “Western” influences, access to “Western” satellite channels, Israel and the internet.
Reality: Historical fact clearly indicates that LGBT orientations are not "modern" and are not "imported" from the West and/or Israel. It is well documented that homosexuality and bisexuality existed in ancient Greece, ancient Rome, ancient Persia, and ancient Egypt. Thousand and thousand of years before the United States, European countries and Israel were formed. Thus, homosexual and bisexual orientations existed way before all the modern technological inventions we have today (e.g., satellite TV, the internet, etc.) Modern research shows that homosexuality and bisexuality exist in all cultures and at all times in history. Furthermore, today, the distinction between Western and Arab societies is in the degree to which LGBT folks are tolerated and have equal rights and protection under the law just like heterosexual men and women.