Common LGBTQ+ Myths, Debunked

By Dr. Justin LGBTQ Community June has historical significance to the LGBTQ+ community

In the year 2000, June was officially designated as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month by President Bill Clinton. In subsequent years, the name has expanded to LGBTQ+ Pride Month to encompass the broader community. June has historical significance to the LGBTQ+ community. The Stonewall riots took place in June 1969, and what is recognized as the country’s first gay pride parade took place in June of the following year. In the last half-century, LGBTQ+ rights have taken great leaps, from the overturning of sodomy laws to the federal recognition of same-sex marriage. At the same time, public acceptance of LGBTQ+ persons has grown substantially. Despite this, many myths about LGBTQ+ individuals persist, so in this post, we’re going to debunk six common misconceptions about sexual orientation. So, buckle up, and let’s dive into some sex science!

Myth #1: You Can Always Tell Someone’s Sexual Orientation Just By Looking At Them

Many people think they can intuit someone else’s sexuality from looks alone. In popular slang, this is known as “gaydar.” Multiple studies have been conducted to determine whether there’s anything to this idea. Research suggests that there is a kernel of truth to the concept of gaydar in the sense that people can guess someone’s sexual orientation at a rate greater than chance. However, the accuracy of these judgments is much lower than you might think. Most studies are set up in such a way that people can only choose one of two response options—gay versus straight—meaning they’d be correct 50% of the time with chance guessing alone. The average accuracy rate in gaydar studies is 62-64%, meaning that people are able to guess correctly more often than not; however, they clearly get it wrong a very large percentage of the time!

These studies may actually be overestimating the accuracy of gaydar, given that they limit people’s responses to just two choices. In reality, there are more than just two possible sexual orientations, which means that gaydar isn’t as simple as making an either/or assessment. These studies also create a highly unrealistic scenario in which the base rates of heterosexuality and homosexuality are the same (50% each), which bears no resemblance to everyday life where LGBTQ+ people make up about 7% of the population. The truth of the matter is that sexual orientation isn’t as apparent as the gaydar concept leads us to believe. Gaydar judgments are often based more on appearance-based stereotypes than anything (e.g., clothing, grooming, perceived masculinity/femininity), which represent broad overgeneralizations. LGBTQ+ people (and cisgender, heterosexual people for that matter, too) are incredibly diverse, and the only way to know someone’s sexuality for sure is if they tell you.

Myth #2: In Same-Sex Relationships, There’s Always A “Husband” And A “Wife”

A pervasive belief about same-sex relationships is that each partner adheres to a traditional gender role, with one person being the “husband” and the other being the “wife.” Popular media depictions of same-sex couples have long propagated this idea, from popular movies like The Birdcage to television shows such as Modern Family. When we look at the research, however, what we see is that same-sex couples are much less likely to adhere to traditional relationship roles than their heterosexual counterparts. In fact, same-sex couples are far more likely to divide household chores equally and to share power and responsibility. When two people of the same sex or gender enter into a relationship, there isn’t the same kind of pressure or expectation to adopt specific roles, which provides more freedom to chart your own course and to find an equitable balance of responsibilities.

Myth #3: There’s A “Gay Gene”

When it comes to the origins of sexual orientation, there’s still a lot we don’t know! While certain genes have been implicated in the development of gay, lesbian, and bisexual orientations, the research is very murky. The genetics of sexual orientation is a big and complicated research area, and one of the problems with the search for a so-called “gay gene” is that two people can carry the same gene. Still, that gene might express itself differently in each person. This is where the concept of epigenetics comes into play: genes interact with their environment, and environmental factors can turn genes off or on.

Scientists have not found any single factor—genetic or otherwise—that successfully accounts for all instances of a given sexuality. Odds are that there are multiple routes to any specific sexuality. Those routes could be genetic or epigenetic, but they could also be related to things like hormone exposure at critical stages of development.While we do have pretty compelling evidence that sexual orientation has biological components, we’re a long way off from isolating those components and declaring any definitive cause of a given sexuality.

Myth #4: Gay Men Are Hypersexual, Lesbians Are Hyposexual

A common misconception about gay men is that they’re all perpetually horny and having tons of sex, whereas lesbians can’t seem to maintain a sexual connection because there isn’t a man around to initiate sex (the so-called “lesbian bed death”). Neither of these stereotypes is true.

For example, suppose you look at data comparing the sex drives of people who identify as heterosexual, gay, or bisexual. What we see is that, within a given gender category, sex drives are pretty similar across sexual orientations. In other words, gay men aren’t necessarily hornier than straight men. Likewise, studies comparing the sex lives of gay and straight men find that they’re actually far more similar than different, including with regard to their sexual frequency. As for the concept of “lesbian bed death,” research does find that lesbians have sex at a lower frequency compared to heterosexual women; however, when lesbians have sex, they spend substantially more time on it than anyone else! Furthermore, research shows that lesbian couples have similar levels of sexual satisfaction to other couples.

Myth #5: Bisexuality Is Just A Phase

One of the most common false beliefs about bisexuality is that being bisexual is just a phase—that it’s a temporary stopover on the way to embracing a gay identity. The truth, however, is that bisexuality is a distinct sexual orientation that involves a unique pattern of sexual arousal compared to both heterosexuality and homosexuality. For example, sexual arousal studies show that bisexual people demonstrate high levels of arousal in response to erotic imagery of both men and women, whereas gay and heterosexual adults only show high levels of arousal in response to one sex/gender. However, it is important to note that bisexual people do not necessarily show equally strong arousal to men and women, although some do. This gets at another common misconception about bisexuality, which is that it inherently involves equal attraction to persons of each sex/gender. Bisexuality can look different for different people. Some people may be more attracted to one sex or gender, some may be more sexually interested in one and more romantically interested in another, and some may only be attracted to cisgender partners. In contrast, others are also attracted to transgender partners. Bisexuality doesn’t mean just one thing!

Myth #6: Asexuality Is A Sexual Dysfunction

Finally, a pervasive myth about asexual people is that they have a sexual dysfunction. However, research finds that asexual persons do not demonstrate impaired sexual arousal or function, and, further, they do not feel distressed by a lack of desire for partnered sex. Asexuality is instead best thought of as another unique sexual orientation that is characterized by a lack of sexual attraction. That said, asexuality (just like bisexuality) can mean different things to different people. For example, someone who is completely asexual may never experience sexual attraction, whereas someone who is graysexual or demisexual may experience sexual attraction rarely or only under very specific circumstances.


While much progress has been made in terms of advancing LGBTQ+ rights and freedoms, various myths about the LGBTQ+ community abound. Research shows that a lot of common beliefs about sexual minorities that are often perpetuated in the popular media just don’t hold up when we look at the data. For more LGBTQ+ myth versus fact information, check out our other articles on the ASTROGLIDE blog!


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