Understanding and acceptance of sexuality have become increasingly important in the Western world. Over the past few decades, society has made significant progress in welcoming inclusiveness and diversity, but traditional misconceptions surrounding sexuality remain and continue to block further progress.
"Homosexuality is a mental disorder"
Homosexuality has been as identified as a mental disorder in previous years; however, this is due to social discrimination as opposed to scientific research. Work began in 1950’s by Dr. Evelyn Hooker to debunk this myth on behalf of the American Psychological association who, in 1975, stated that homosexuality does not impact a person’s judgement, reliability or social and vocational abilities. Instead, LGBTQ individuals face higher rates of anxiety, depression or addiction like alcohol or drug abuse because of the stigmatization they face. In turn, it is important to recognize that there are various sexualities within human activity and The World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental health disorders in 1990.
"Sexuality is a choice"
The basis for the following stereotypes stems from the initial belief that homosexuality is simply a rational choice of a person even though this is not supported by scientific research. Sexual orientation is widely understood to be a natural and innate part of a person's personality because of genetic and environmental influences from when a person is born, in the same way, that these influences result in a person being heterosexual. The belief that sexuality is a choice can also lead to further discrimination and may be used to justify homophobic behavior through unequal treatment, and verbal or physical harassment.
"Sexuality is just a phase"
The belief that sexuality is a choice often leads to peers claiming that a person is simply going through a phase during a period of indecisiveness and struggle. This again, is incorrect as people are born with their sexuality, and even if a person gets into a heterosexual relationship, their attraction towards the same gender will still exist. The implications of this claim are harmful to the LGBTQ+ community, with people’s sexualities and experiences disregarded, and can lead to feelings of being misunderstood. This directly impacts non-heterosexual relationships as a person may become reluctant to pursue an emotional connection due to the fear of being judged.
"Sexuality can be cured"
The previous misconceptions suggest that a non-heterosexual person can change their sexuality through conversion efforts in the form of therapy despite the fact this argument does not align with scientific evidence. The beliefs have been rejected by significant health and mental health organizations for decades in attempts to halt the discrimination against non-heterosexual people, but the discrimination remains. The attempts can be detrimental to a person's well-being and mental health, with young people especially vulnerable. Individuals can face anxiety, depression, drug use, homelessness, or suicide.
To summarise, stereotypes surrounding sexuality continue to harm the LGBTQ+ community. Claims that sexuality is a choice, a phase, and can be cured can lead to individuals facing discrimination that is justified by the claims above. This can lead to people feeling misunderstood among other negative feelings, harming their mental health, or in worst case scenarios, suicide.