Behind Closed Doors: Gaydar gone too far

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September 29, 2009

12:47 AM

While Maya, The Flat Hat’s resident sex guru, is away, Behind Closed Doors falls into the hands of me — the gay blogger who’s here to remove the veil from your eyes and help you peer into the sordid, steamy underworld of the College of William and Mary. Today’s topic: gaydar. It’s a tool all homosexuals carry in their utility belts, and one that everyone deserves to understand. An analysis of gaydar reveals some fascinating truths about sexuality and how we think about the sexualities of others. My goal is to teach you a little something about gaydar: Use it boys and girls, but use it wisely.

First off, what exactly is gaydar? It’s that scanning sensor we rely on to show us the truth about a new acquaintance. More specifically, gaydar is the power you use to figure out someone’s sexuality based on a number of clues. Think of it like magic.

But seriously, when you employ gaydar you turn yourself into something like a queer-seeking submarine. You scrutinize an individual, and if they send off a signal — a blip on your radar — then boom, you think he or she is gay. Kind of scary when you think about it too long, isn’t it?

Let’s start with the specifics. What kind of signals and clues would make our gaydar’s sirens howl? Your first thought might be something pretty stereotypical: If a guy is gay, he’ll look and act feminine. If a girl is gay, she’ll look and act butch. This is totally understandable, since gaydar relies heavily on stereotypes. We all have concepts and images of gay individuals in our brains, and if we see someone who matches that image, our internal spell book cracks open, and we send out our magic to delve into them. We scan them, and if the scanning works — which is bound to happen with flamboyant gays and butch lesbians — we’ve succeeded. We’ve read them.

But what do you do if the person deviates from the stereotypical gay image? Simple: Fine-tune your gaydar. What does this person wear? How does he or she move? Speak? Smile? For the intuitive witch with her magic mirror, everything becomes a clue toward the individual’s true sexuality. Is he or she the gayest in the land? Maybe not — but with your subtle scanning eyes, you’ll be able to pick up on those hints, those puzzle pieces that will eventually form your conception of your target’s sexual preference. Just don’t forget, it is still just your conception, not necessarily final.

Gaydar is really just an offshoot of our normal methods of analyzing other people. When you meet a new person, you immediately and reflexively form opinions about them. That’s human nature. What’s interesting is that gaydar has a huge variety of different uses, and some of them are pretty troubling. Think about it: Gaydar is a technique for separating people into categories. When we use it, we ask ourselves: OK, is this person gay? If so, I’ll put them in this group. If not, I’ll put them in another. Generally, we’ve already assigned ourselves to one of these categories. In that way, we use gaydar to determine if someone’s like us or not like us.

And what if they are like us? If a lesbian or gay guy correctly reads someone as gay, they’ve found a possible partner. If a straight person reads someone as gay, they can cross that person off their to-do list and start looking elsewhere for someone who’ll stir their honey pot. When used for good, gaydar can result in people getting laid — and that’s something we should all support.

I’m sure you can already see how quickly this power could be used for the forces of evil — even unintentionally. Use gaydar too much and before you know it, you’ve turned everyone around you into a sexual mystery and decided you’re the one who’ll uncover their secrets. You’ve relgated everyone you’ve met into groupings based solely on sexuality. You’ve stopped thinking of people as individuals and started thinking of them only as sexual beings. Yeah, this might sound kind of hot, but think about it. Do you really want to question everything a person does? Do you really want to look for clues concerning something that probably isn’t even your business?

Remember, Your gaydar might be wrong. Just because a guy knows all the words to “Rent,” wears eyeliner or has a sway to his walk doesn’t make him gay. Just because a girl can tell you how to fix a carburetor, never shaves her armpits or listens to Tegan and Sara doesn’t make her a lesbian. I feel icky even writing these stereotypes. Don’t let your possibly incorrect assumptions about a person’s sexual orientation get in the way of your relationship with them. That’s just embarrassing. So what’s, today’s most important lesson about gaydar? Learn when to shut it off.

__Gregory Glazier is a Flat Hat guest sex columnist. He reminds you to please silence all cell phones and gaydars when at the movies or in class, it can go off at any moment.__

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