Questions and Answers

Frequently Asked Questions

The Positive Space Alliance acknowledges that there are a variety of equity issues that merit public discussion and widespread institutional support. However, sexual orientation and gender identity issues are frequently omitted from public policy and educational strategies. Often, issues of sexual orientation and gender identity are spoken of solely in a negative manner, or are avoided as a result of fear or embarrassment. Many 2SLGBTQ+ people frequently encounter a hostile environment, and can assume negative views of their sexuality and gender identity as a result.

There is still widespread reluctance to speak of sexual and gender diversity. In contrast, talk of emotional and sexual bonds between heterosexuals is routine (e.g. ‘My wife and I are going to the party.’ or ‘My boyfriend and I had a great time on the weekend.’) It is not the same for 2SLGBTQ+ individuals. They often cannot talk openly about the person or people they care most about, with whom they are intimate, or even with whom they spend time. Doing so may mean a threatened job, a lost friendship, ridicule, even violence. The goal of VIU’s Positive Space Alliance is to break this pattern. Through the use of educational tools such as information sheets, seminars, brochures, stickers, magnets, pins, the Alliance aims to make issues of sexual orientation and gender diversity more visible.

The Positive Space Alliance takes an affirmative, positive approach to creating a campus that is free of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It is also aimed at encouraging a widespread and visible commitment to welcoming sexual and gender diversity on campus, and at making talk of diversity more open and less unusual.

The Positive Space Alliance is not intended to establish a counselling network on campus beyond that which is already in place. It does not aim to embarrass people into asserting that they are open about sexual orientation and gender diversity issues. The Alliance is not intended to encourage finger pointing at those who do not become part of it or to suggest that all those who are part of the Alliance are 2SLGBTQ+.

Many of society’s attitudes and behaviours towards sexual and gender diversity have changed over the past few years; however, stereotypes and prejudices remain widespread. Members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community continue to be marginalized and silenced. The Alliance recognizes that much still has to be done.  It gives members of the Vancouver Island University community an opportunity to take a visible stand and to show their support.

Although some may assume that anyone who takes a stand in support of equality for 2SLGBTQ+ people must be a member of that community, this Alliance is intended to challenge that assumption.  A number of the Alliance committee members and many employees and students who show their support by putting up posters and stickers are heterosexual.  This Alliance welcomes people of all sexual orientations and genders working together for equality.

This is not a safe assumption. There may be those within the university community who have not yet heard of the Alliance. Others may feel positively about the Alliance but may not have control over the type of literature and stickers they post in their area. Some people may be supportive but not yet comfortable speaking openly about diversity. Still others may not be in the habit of displaying materials on their door.

You can participate in the Alliance by letting us know, at, that you are interested in joining the Alliance. The Alliance will also include workshops and special events that may be of interest to you. Support the Positive Space Alliance and assist us to identify other initiatives by joining the Positive Space Alliance.

Myth Busting

For lesbians, gay men and bisexual people, it is natural to have sexual attractions and relations with members of one ’ s own gender. Bisexuals can also be attracted to members of the opposite gender. Some transgender people consider themselves homosexual or bisexual and others consider themselves heterosexual. To act on these feelings is natural. Not to act on these feelings would be unnatural, forcing people to hide who they are and causing them great pain. It is the quality of the relationship one is in that is significant, not the gender of one’s partner.

This myth also comes from the belief that sexual relationships are formed for the procreation of children only. In all relationships the decision to have children is complex and needs great consideration. Although many heterosexuals decide to have children, many do not make the same decision or are unable to have children. On the other hand, many 2SLGBTQ+ people choose to have children or raise children with their partner. Children raised in these families comment that what is most important in a family is being loved and cared for.

Dr. John P. Spiegel, past president of the American Psychiatric Association, says, “Some have feared that homosexual teachers might affect the sexual orientation of their students. There is no evidence to support this thesis.” One does not learn to be 2SLGBTQ+ one is 2SLGBTQ+ . Most students who are 2SLGBTQ+ were raised by heterosexual parents and live in a predominantly heterosexual society.

2SLGBTQ+ people want to be positive role models and are often unable to do so. According to the Human Rights Code in each province, Canadian teachers cannot be fired from their positions for being 2SLGBTQ+ . However, many teachers do not feel that they can reveal their sexual orientation because doing so may cause them to suffer consequences such as disciplinary action, lack of support from administrators, or lack of awareness and/or support from parent groups. Transgender persons are not yet protected by law in any jurisdiction in Canada, although there is pressure to change this in BC.

Positive role models are important for all youth. 2SLGBTQ+ role models enable 2SLGBTQ+ youth to see that they can be productive members of our society, living healthy, safe lives, realizing their potential. Heterosexual youth also need 2SLGBTQ+ role models so that they can learn about differences, about being inclusive, and helping to prevent discrimination and bigotry.

Most adults have deep feelings, attractions and/or fantasies about both sexes. Over time, studies have consistently confirmed that both homosexual and heterosexual people have had a variety of sexual experiences with same gender and opposite gender people.

In addition, a great deal of preadolescent sex play is with others of the same sex, as a part of natural exploration of one’s body and sexuality. Homosexuality is not learned. If it were, the percentage of 2SLGBTQ+ people in the population would be far greater. It is impossible to “make someone homosexual.” Homosexual or heterosexual experiences as an adolescent do not determine a person’s sexual orientation later in life.

Most 2SLGBTQ+ people feel that they did not choose to be 2SLGBTQ+ . Rather, they were aware of having same-sex feelings at an early age or else these feelings evolved and solidified in their adolescent or adult years. The choice seems to be whether to live a full and well-balanced life with a same-sex partner, or to suppress their feelings.    

There is as much variety in 2SLGBTQ+ lifestyles as there is in heterosexual lifestyles. 2SLGBTQ+ people can be single, dating or involved in long-term relationships or married. They can be promiscuous, monogamous or celibate. The can have children. They live alone, with their lovers, with their parents and siblings or with friends. They live in cities, suburbs and in the country. They can be rich, middle-class or poor. They can have a variety of occupations. Some are doctors, priests, prostitutes, truck drivers, writers, football players, loggers, politicians, teachers or unemployed. Some are drag queens and some are jocks. There is no such thing as a distinct homosexual lifestyle, just as there is no such thing as a heterosexual lifestyle. Within all communities, individuals create their own lifestyles.

This is a stereotype propagated by the fact that those individuals who are promiscuous are the most visible. As more and more gays and lesbians “come out”, the promiscuous stereotype diminishes. 2SLGBTQ+ people are just as capable of stable, monogamous, committed relationships as anyone else. Queer couples often disappear from the urban 2SLGBTQ+ communities to live and raise their families in the suburbs or the country where they may be less visible.

Another issue around this myth is that being 2SLGBTQ+ is only about sex. 2SLGBTQ+ people live full lives, which includes shopping for groceries, doing the laundry, raising children, planting a garden and going to work everyday. Being 2SLGBTQ+ is about who you love emotionally, intellectually and sexually and how you identify yourself.

2SLGBTQ+ people come in as many different shapes, sizes and colours as do heterosexuals. Some 2SLGBTQ+ people can be identified by stereotypical mannerisms and characteristics. However, many heterosexuals also display these same mannerisms and characteristics, such as that of the “tomboy” or the “effeminate” male. Today, fewer 2SLGBTQ+ people feel they must dress to pass in the mainstream community and some 2SLGBTQ+ people choose to make a political statement through their appearance.

Some members of different gay and lesbian subcultures or peer groups may mimic and exaggerate specific behaviours. Because of the lack of open 2SLGBTQ+ role models, queer youth sometimes do not know how to “fit in” to the gay community and therefore adopt stereotypical mannerisms thinking that this is the only way to express themselves. Without a wide general knowledge, queer youth can be powerfully influenced by negative stereotypes.

Within the heterosexual community, there are all types of relationships and this is true in same-sex relationships. Most same-sex couples work to develop relationships based on the principles of equality and mutuality, where they are loved and appreciated for “who they are”. Roles are usually based on who likes to do a certain thing and/or who has a talent for doing certain things. It is important that each person’s skills are valued. If there is a power imbalance, based on economics, social status, or education, roles may become entrenched.

It is not known what causes either heterosexuality or homosexuality. Some believe they are predetermined genetically and research seems to indicate that sexual orientation is determined either before birth or very early in life. Others maintain that all humans are predisposed to all variations of sexual and affectional behaviours and that they learn a preference or orientation. 2SLGBTQ+ people are found in practically every culture throughout the world and have been a constant part of society throughout history. Anthropologists C.S. Ford and F.A. Beach studied 76 contemporary societies and showed that 64% of their sample societies considered homosexuality normal and socially acceptable in their culture. In a majority of cultures, heterosexuality and homosexuality coexist. Same-sex relations were, in fact, accepted and considered natural in many European societies until the 13th century, after which same-sex relations were increasingly proscribed by church and state.

It is not the cause that is important, but that people are treated with dignity and respect regardless of their sexual orientation.

There are no cures. There is no illness. Many 2SLGBTQ+ people have had heterosexual relationships or experiences. These experiences have not changed their orientation. Bisexuals continue to be attracted to both genders, although they may have had very satisfying relationships with the opposite gender. Some gays and lesbians will enter a heterosexual relationship, due to societal pressure and in complete denial of their actual sexual orientation. This can cause a great deal of pain and misery for both partners and for the children involved in these families.

Sexual abuse of children occurs primarily within the family. Over 95% of abuse that is reported has been perpetrated by a male relative. A child is over 100 times more likely to be sexually molested by a heterosexual relative than by a homosexual (Paediatrics, 1994). Most sexual abuse of children outside the family is committed by pedophiles. Pedophiles do not distinguish between male or female victims; however, girls are victimized twice as often as boys are. The perpetrators are motivated by power and control, not by sexual desire. 90% of all pedophiles self-identify as heterosexuals.

2SLGBTQ+ people are just as concerned as heterosexuals that children are protected from pedophiles. The pedophile myth is the basis of the most damaging charges leveled against queer teachers, to keep them in the closet and out of the classroom.

There are no cures. There is no illness. Psychologists, psychiatrists and mental health professionals agree that mental well being and emotional stability are defined as an individual’s ability to live a fully functioning life. They also agree that homosexuality is not an illness, mental disorder or emotional problem.

In 1990, the American Psychological Association stated that scientific evidence does not show that conversion therapy works. Changing one’s orientation does not correspond with changing one’s behaviour. To change one’s orientation would require altering one’s emotional, affectional and sexual feelings and reconstructing one’s self-concept and self-identity. Furthermore, the APA pointed out that therapists who undertake this kind of therapy usually come from organizations with an ideological perspective against homosexuality. The APA has specifically stated that “orientation reparative therapy” (conversion therapy) is not recognized as a valid form of therapy.

Research has shown that, except for the fact that the children of a homosexual couple are often concerned about being stigmatized by their peers, they show no higher incidence of emotional disturbance than do children of heterosexual couples. Nor are they confused about their own sexual identity. 2SLGBTQ+ people come from all kinds of families, as do heterosexuals, and there is no correlation between the sexual orientation of parents and that of their children. The chances of a child being 2SLGBTQ+ are the same whether they are raised by 2SLGBTQ+ parents or by heterosexual parents: 7 – 10%.

2SLGBTQ+ children may not identify themselves, but many 2SLGBTQ+ adults report having had a sense of difference from other children, from a very early age, as early as 5-12 years old. Both heterosexual and 2SLGBTQ+ teens are acutely aware of their sexuality during their secondary school years, but 2SLGBTQ+ teens are more likely to do so in fear and isolation.

2SLGBTQ+ people are everywhere. With as many as 10% of people in the population being 2SLGBTQ+ , we all know people who are 2SLGBTQ+ . This myth perpetuates the idea that 2SLGBTQ+ issues need not concern the heterosexual community, because 2SLGBTQ+'s are “other” or “somewhere else.” In fact, oppression in any form against any minority group is everyone’s business, because it exacts high social costs.

History shows that 2SLGBTQ+ people are found at all ages and in all cultures, ethnic groups and religions. What is significant is that an 2SLGBTQ+ person belonging to two or more groups that are considered minorities in our culture will suffer from two or more forms of oppression. Sometimes a 2SLGBTQ+ person may be forced to choose between their ethnic culture and their sexual orientation, for allegiance and identification, if the two seen incompatible.

As well, this myth is damaging for those who are outside the described myth. For example, a religious person may feel that they would have to give up their religion to be 2SLGBTQ+ . In fact, some religions reject people who are 2SLGBTQ+ , but there are many that are very supportive and even celebrate human diversity.