Word of the day: Gaydar – do you know how to use it?
How finely tuned is your Gaydar? Can you intuitively tell if someone that you meet is queer? Is having a Gaydar even a thing?
What is a Gaydar?
The Oxford Dictionary defines the term ‘Gaydar’ as: “The supposed ability of homosexuals to recognise one another by means of very slight indications.”
The origins of the word Gaydar aren’t particularly clear, but it’s a pretty ingenious mash-up of the words gay and radar that seems to have first appeared sometime in the late-80s and embedded itself into popular culture in the 90s. The use of the term went to the next level when Gaydar was adopted as the name of one of the first major online dating sites in 1999.
Is there any science to it?
But is there any truth to the concept of having a Gaydar? As queer people, do we have an inbuilt intuition? Are we able to interpret verbal and physical indicators in order to recognise what we have in common, even in the most closeted of situations?
Perhaps surprisingly, there’s been quite a bit of scientific study to try and assess whether you can tell if a person is LGBTQ just by what they outwardly present to the world. This type of research is generally categorised as Physiognomy.
Physiognomy was particularly popular in the 19th century, but then fell out of favour as it was frequently used for racist stereotyping. However, in recent years – with the rise of research into artificial intelligence – there’s been renewed interest in the field of Physiognomy and trying to determine what we can learn from the outward appearance of each other.
Are all queers the same?
Making lighthearted jokes about whether or not someone has set off your Gaydar might seem like harmless fun, but it’s often unintentionally reinforcing a lot of the stereotypes that have been used against LGBTQ people. We all know that the LGBTQ community is incredibly diverse – we come in all shapes and sizes. Sure, there’s lots of things that we have in common, but we definitely don’t all look the same.
Means Happy is part of the Gaydar family, so it’s a word that we love and that we’re proud to identify with. It feeds our X-Men fantasies that we’re somehow building a Cerebro machine to help connect and bring together LGBTQ people around the world. Having a Gaydar isn’t about thinking that you might somehow know more about a person than they’re comfortable revealing. Gaydar is about feeling part of something that’s bigger than yourself. As LGBTQ people, we may all be different but we’re never alone.