Stereotypes prove nothing, but it’s interesting to think about where they come from. Without doubt, some originate as baseless memetic humor or malicious gossip, but others seem to stem from generalizations based on anecdotal or even proper statistical information. This latter category has some hint of truth within it, although in common discussion the careful treatment required to generalize a statistical findings are often misapplied.
One useful definition of stereotype is “an over-generalized belief about a particular category of people.” We can immediately see, however, that what even constitutes a stereotype is subjective. All statistical statements are generalizations to some degree, and all statistical models are useful simplifications. To call something a stereotype then, academically anyway, is simply to state that a generalization has been carried out improperly. In common parlance, however, a frequent straw-man occurs, intentionally or otherwise, in which a generalized statement is called a stereotype in order to discount the generalized statement, even when the generalized statement is properly interpreted.
For example, consider this article from 2014 entitled “NEGATIVE STEREOTYPES DRIVE OPPOSITION TO GAY RIGHTS.” The article gives a second-hand description of actual research. What did the actual research find?
People opposed to gay-rights laws aren’t as concerned with whether sexual orientation is ingrained or changeable as they are with “beliefs that gays and lesbians violate important social codes of conduct,” the researchers write in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology.
Where is the stereotype? The stereotype exists to the extent that people believe homosexuals necessarily engage in destructive behavior, but vanishingly few people actually believe that. That is not even what the researchers found. The researchers asked questions on a one-to-seven scale like “Typically, gay men and lesbians do not uphold the value of self-discipline (e.g., self-restraint, resistance to temptation).”
What this means is that the researchers asked the respondents to engage in statistical reasoning, and the respondents were not making absolute statements. If the respondents simply answered true/false, then the researchers could demonstrate stereotype by showing that, for example, 20% of gay men from central London gyms have tried meth, but a certain class of respondent indicates “true” for the question “gay men in London typically have used meth.” In that case the respondents would be over-generalizing, because “typically” indicates more than 50% of the time.
However, the researchers demonstrated no such thing. They merely demonstrated that people who tend to see homosexuality as bad for society also tend to think that homosexuals are more likely to have engaged in drug use than the average individual. That statement is not only non-stereotypical, it is factually true. Skip down two paragraphs for the source of this factual claim and some related discussion.
The problem is that virtually no one in academia nor the media want to ironman conservatives. It falls perfectly into place with a separate generalization that the government, academia, and media tend left and oppose Christians who tend to be on the right. Notice, again, this is a statistical trend or generalization based on fact, not a baseless stereotype, although I certainly believe the statistical trend or generalization is often improperly voiced in common conversation to the effect that it becomes an inaccurate stereotype of extrapolation. Eg thinking university professors are necessarily liberal, which is absurd, but again, vanishingly few people actually think that. It’s a straw-man.
Where is the source for my factual claim that homosexuals tend to engage in higher levels of drug use? The same source also shows that homosexuals tend to have higher levels of mental illness. The source comes from the government itself, the highest level of authority in the leftist mindset. Here are two links:
- Substance Use and SUDs in LGBT Populations
- Sexual Orientation and Estimates of Adult Substance Use and Mental Health: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health
The first link is a National Institute on Drug Abuse web page, and it refers to the second link for its own claims. Interestingly, the first source makes excuses on behalf of the LGBT population which are not found in reference paper’s data. It states:
People who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) often face social stigma, discrimination, and other challenges not encountered by people who identify as heterosexual. They also face a greater risk of harassment and violence. As a result of these and other stressors, sexual minorities are at increased risk for various behavioral health issues.
In other words, the government source causally blames heterosexuals for the drug use and mental issues suffered by LGBT individuals. This is problematic because it’s not what the researchers actually found, and it reinforces the story that the government, academy, and media are coordinating, whether or not they are doing so consciously. Here’s what the research actually found:
Sexual minorities were more likely than their sexual majority counterparts to have substance use and mental health issues. The greater likelihood of sexual minority adults to have substance use and mental health issues compared with their sexual majority counterparts was observed across subgroups of adults defined by sex and by age group.
The journalist, not the researchers, state:
Not surprisingly, the researchers found that “the more people perceived sexual orientation to be a choice, the more they opposed gay rights policies.” …In the minds of homophobes, if someone chooses to be gay, then he or she is also choosing to defy traditional values such as self-discipline and monogamy.
That’s quite nearly correct, except for the malignment of socially-minded folks as homophobes engaging in stereotype. Ironic that the left identifies itself as the socially-conscious group and slanders the right as the privately concerned group. In this article, those opposed to gay rights laws do so in a properly conservative fashion, out of concern for the preservation of important social institutions for the stability and well being of society.
As an aside, there’s no such thing as a right to marriage of any kind, whether heterosexual or homosexual, and in the conservative mind the notion of homosexual marriage is an oxymoron. I digress.
I’m also not sure why the journalist thinks self-discipline is traditionally qualified value instead of, you know, like a simple, timeless, currently-applicable value. In reality, many, though not all, of these accused homophobes are simply engaged in statistical reasoning, not stereotype.
In case you had any doubt that this was an isolated case, I conclude by leaving you with the Wikipedia page on LGBT stereotypes. Notice that only some of these so-called stereotypes are improper statistical generalizations, while others are perfectly proper statistical observations:
- Example bad generalizations, or stereotypes:
- In the US, gay men [always/necessarily] speak with a feminine-sounding gay lisp.
- Gay people [always/necessarily] suffer from mental illness.
- Non-heterosexual individuals [always/necessarily] engage in sexual abuse.
- Example good generalizations, not stereotypes:
- Homosexuality is associated with, and plausibly causally related to, irreligion or non-Christianity.
- In the US, gay men [have a statistical tendency to] speak with a feminine-sounding gay lisp.
- Heterosexual relationships are more stable.
- Gay people [have a statistical tendency to] suffer from mental illness.
- Gay people tend to use drugs more often than non-homosexuals.
- Non-heterosexual individuals [have a statistical tendency to] engage in sexual abuse. [Source 1, Source 2]