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Working with gays - demolishing stereotypes and myths - The Impact of Stereotypes

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What Is The Impact of Stereotypes And Misinformation On All Personnel - Gay, Straight And Bisexual?

The fears that some people hold regarding working and living with homo- and bisexual people are normally based not upon objective observation, but more often on myth, stereotype and lack of (known) personal contact with homo- or bisexual people.

For example, some pervasive stereotypes tell us that homosexuality is synonymous with sexual obsession, predatory sexual behaviour and an unhealthy attraction to children and youths.

less than 1% of all reported cases of paedophilia in the United Kingdom are committed by gay men

Stereotypes and misinformation undermine the morale of some heterosexual personnel because the stereotypes create fear about the consequences of living and working with openly gay, lesbian and bisexual personnel.

Stereotypes undermine the morale of homo- and bisexual personnel because the stereotypes make these personnel afraid to disclose.

Stereotype 1: "Gay males are women in men's bodies and gay females are men in women's bodies. Gay men are 'womanlike' and gay women are 'manlike'. Gay men want to be women, and gay women want to be men."

Impact on men: The perceived importance of masculinity in military organisations can create barriers to gay and bisexual men being accepted by heterosexual colleagues - particularly male colleagues.

Impact on women: As a result of the threat of being identified as lesbian, some heterosexual women performing traditionally masculine jobs will avoid important social interaction with female colleagues in order to avoid providing evidence that would seem to support the notion that they are lesbians.

Stereotype 2: "Homosexuals and bisexuals are sexual predators and voyeurs."

Many people argue that since we cannot allow heterosexual males and females to undress, shower and sleep in common quarters because to do so would invite sexual situations, then we cannot allow homosexuals to undress, shower and sleep in close proximity to same-gender personnel for the same reason.

But according to Lois Shawver, a clinical psychologist who is widely considered an expert on the issue of bodily modesty in military environments, this argument fails to take into account the following facts.

For most homosexual and bisexual people, situations of undress with the same gender is quite routine. They grow up in situations of nakedness in PE classes, sports clubs, camps, scouts, etc. By the time a young man or woman is in their late teens, they have probably been in innumerable situations of undress with those of their own gender, and find it quite unremarkable.

The 'Etiquette of Disregard' serves to minimise the erotic nature of nakedness and intimate situations. This is what most of us do when confronted by another person's nakedness - we tend to disregard it, and to act as if it is not happening at all. For example, if we were in a drawing class and a nude model were at the front of the room, we would not be making obvious reference to his/her nakedness - we would disregard the nakedness and act as if nothing were out of the ordinary. Men routinely exercise the etiquette of disregard when they stand at a public urinal, by staring straight down or at least not making it obvious if they are 'looking' at anyone else.

Homo- and bisexual people are keenly aware that it is socially unacceptable to ignore the etiquette of disregard and stare or otherwise react sexually toward heterosexual people in situations of nakedness. Evidence indicates that homo- and bisexual people are likely to exercise the same etiquette of disregard in situations of undress with their heterosexual colleagues.