Gaydar. You’ve probably heard of it before. Supposedly some people (mostly LGBTQ+, some straight) can intuitively tell if someone is queer.
I don’t believe it’s a real ability, though, for reasons that will be explained shortly. Mostly, I want to talk about other, better ways to tell whether or not someone is queer. Gaydar is too vague and quite often it’s just plain offensive. But I’m getting ahead of myself here…
If you’re queer and have an interest in dating the person and/or assuring them that they are not alone, that you too belong to the LGBTQ+ community, then YAY! Good for you! Go for it, [insert name here]!
If you’re straight, it’s a little different. In my experience ninety-five percent of straight people, even allies, don’t have very good intentions when they want to know if I’m gay. (Note: And they really always do say “gay,” as if the only sexualities were gay and straight. Sigh.) Based on what they do with that information once they have it, I can only assume that they wanted to know so they could A) make fun of someone or B) tell everyone about it.
It’s not like I don’t want people to know. I just want to be the one to tell someone, that’s all. There’s a big difference between coming out to certain people completely of your own will, and coming out via gossip (which usually results in plenty of misinformation).
So. If you’re straight, think long and hard about this. If you want to know someone’s sexual orientation because they’re a family member or close friend, just be patient. They’ll probably come out to you at some point anyway because, well, you’re family. Or a friend.
You can certainly try some of the things mentioned below – they all demonstrate positivity towards the LGBTQ+ community – to show support. That would probably make the possibly-queer person trust you more, which could result in them coming out. Whether it does or does not, have patience.
If you’re straight and just curious and don’t know the person very well, BACK OFF. Sexual orientation is a VERY personal thing to inquire about, so… don’t. Don’t be rude.
So, yeah. This post is written mostly for other LGBTQ+ people. Particularly those who are socially awkward, like myself, and have trouble just saying hello to new people, let alone discreetly inquiring about who someone likes.
Without further ado, here are some things you can do to tell if someone is LGBTQ+. I’ve used some of these. My friends have used others. Oh, and there are two that end disastrously, so I’ll talk about those first.
The thing about stereotypes is that they’re not often accurate. Sure, some people in [insert group] will fit the stereotypes of that group, but others won’t. And some who are not in [insert group] may fit the stereotypes.
I don’t fit the stereotypes of a lesbian. This confused some straight people. (“But you’re too pretty to be gay!”) It confused me a few years ago. (“I don’t dress like a guy, so I guess I’m straight.”)
Basically, I think you’re just as likely – if not even more so – to offend someone by making incorrect assumptions as you are to correctly identify their sexuality. The odds are not in your favor, as Katniss would say.
This is, incidentally, what gaydar relies on. People say it’s intuitive but… no way. Stereotypes aren’t intuitive; they’re learned, and they’re offensive.
This is less offensive than the use of stereotyping, but it’s still pretty weird. First of all, it’s rude, as I mentioned above. This is a situation in which I think it doesn’t really matter if you’re straight or queer – it’s rude all the same.
But more importantly, asking doesn’t even guarantee that you’ll receive an honest response! A few years ago, when other kids asked if I was gay, I said, “Ha ha ha ha! Me? Gay? Definitely not! Why would you even think that?” I was thirteen years old, terrified to come out, and there was no way I would trust even my friends with that information.
Therefore, the name of the game is to tactfully inquire about sexuality. There are plenty of roundabout ways to ask, to mention things that show LGBTQ+ positivity, to let people know that you’re queer too and that you won’t freak out if they come out to you. So read on!
+ Talk about LGBTQ+ news. This doesn’t even require a newspaper, although I suppose you could certainly have one if you want to seem more nonchalant. Anyway. Just be like, “Did you see that Wisconsin just legalized marriage equality?!” or “Obama’s a cool dude. Have you seen what he wrote about Pride month?”
Also, you’ll sound like a really smart person who actually follows the news. It’s a nice change from sounding like, well, a dork.
+ Carry an LGBTQ+ book or magazine. For all the bookworms who read my blog! Of course you don’t have to do this all the time or even most of the time but if you read a lot and are fond of LGBTQ+ stories anyway, it works perfectly.
People ask me what I’m reading all the time. Saying, “CINDERELLA. BUT PRINCES ARE OVERRATED SO SHE FALLS IN LOVE WITH A GIRL INSTEAD.” is a good way to find out whether they’re queer or maybe an ally.
If they’re jerks about it then I stick my nose back in the book (because there are too many books and too little time so I’m not wasting it on horrible people), but if they’re cool with it then we get to have a conversation about stories! Whee!
An example of mentioning a crush: When I geek out about Doctor Who with my friends, the conversation almost always turns from, “Who’s your favorite Doctor?” to “Which Doctor / companion do you think is cute?”
And if I’m talking to girls they’re usually all like, “David Tennant!” and I’m like “MARTHA JONES!”
Unfortunately, Martha is a fictional character. Sigh. Oh, well. Mentioning a real relationship works too: “Yeah, I went to the prom last night and my dress was awesome! And my girlfriend looked super-cute! Well, even cuter than usual, I mean. Obviously.”
+ Wear something to be visible. LGBTQ+ people are not, sadly, literally invisible. Darn. I’d love that superpower.
Anyway. When I talk about visibility, I mean visibility as queer people. Being recognized as queer. Not presumed to be straight. And sometimes what you wear can leave a clue. But I’m not talking about stereotypical styles. I’m talking about smaller things.
For example, I bought this shirt the other day. I got it because A) it’s cute, B) it’s funny, and C) maybe it will make people shut up and stop asking me if I have a boyfriend.
Other examples? Rainbow bracelets. (I want one! Because queer reasons and also I just like to WEAR ALL OF THE COLORFUL THINGS AT ONCE.) Or ace rings. Or… I don’t know, be as creative as you want. I like shiny things, hence the bracelet. But make whatever you want.
Well, I hope that helps. It’s always nice to find other queer people, so go forth and be a detective. The gay is on! I mean… the game is on!