Slide 1 of 11
Gay people have been accused of being unfit parents, more likely to be pedophiles, unable to sustain lasting relationships, and worse. But research shows these and other myths just aren't based in fact.
Animals are all straightSlide 2 of 11
Animals are all straight
Despite a popular perception that male-female pairings are the only "natural" way, the animal kingdom is actually full of examples of same-sex couples. Penguins, dolphins, bison, swans, giraffes and chimpanzees are just a few of the many species that sometimes pair up with same-sex partners.
Researchers are still mulling over the evolutionary reason, if any, for gay animal sex, since it doesn't produce offspring. Some ideas are that it helps strengthen social bonds or encourages some individuals to focus their resources on nurturing their nieces and nephews, thus boosting their own genes indirectly.
Or, it may simply be fun. "Not every sexual act has a reproductive function," said Janet Mann, a biologist at Georgetown University.Slide 3 of 11
Gay relationships don't lastSlide 4 of 11
Gay relationships don't last
Another stereotype is that gay relationships aren't as real or long-lasting as heterosexual ones.
Research has found that to be untrue. Long-term studies of gay couples indicate that their relationships are just as stable as straight pairings.
"There is considerable evidence that both lesbians and gay men want to be in strong, committed relationships [and] are successful in creating these partnerships, despite difficulties created by social prejudice, stigma, and the lack of legal recognition for same-sex relationships in most parts of the U.S.," said UCLA psychologist Anne Peplau, co-author of a book chapter on the subject published in the 2007 Annual Review of Psychology.
For example, John Gottman, a University of Washington emeritus professor of psychology, and his colleagues collected data from homosexual couples across 12 years, and found that about 20 percent had broken up over that time. That rate projected over a 40-year period is slightly lower than the divorce rate for first marriages among heterosexual couples over the same time span, according to the study published in 2003 in the Journal of Homosexuality.
"The overall implication of this research is that we have to shake off all of the stereotypes of homosexual relationships and have more respect for them as committed relationships," Gottman said.
In fact, the same study found that gay couples tend to be better at resolving conflicts and encouraging positive emotions.Slide 5 of 11
Most pedophiles are gaySlide 6 of 11
Most pedophiles are gay
An especially pernicious myth is that most adults who sexually abuse children are gay. A number of researchers have looked at this question to determine if homosexuals are more likely to be pedophiles than heterosexuals, and the data indicate that's not the case.
For example, in a 1989 study led by Kurt Freund of the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry in Canada, scientists showed pictures of children to adult gay and straight males, and measured sexual arousal. Homosexual men reacted no more strongly to pictures of male children than heterosexual men reacted to pictures of female children.
A 1994 study, led by Carole Jenny of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, surveyed 269 cases of children who were sexually molested by adults. In 82 percent of cases, the alleged offender was a heterosexual partner of a close relative of the child, the researchers reported in the journal Pediatrics. In only two out of 269 cases, the offender was identified as being gay or lesbian.
"The empirical research does not show that gay or bisexual men are any more likely than heterosexual men to molest children," wrote Gregory M. Herek, a professor of psychology at the University of California at Davis, on his website. Herek, who was not involved in the 1989 or 1994 studies, compiled a review of research on the topic.Slide 7 of 11
Gay parents aren't as good as a father and a motherSlide 8 of 11