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Gaydar is a portmanteau of gay and radar and refers to the reportedly intuitive ability to assess someone's sexual orientation as gay, bisexual, or straight. The function of gaydar relies on usually non-verbal sensory information and intuitions. These include the sensitivity to social behaviours and mannerisms; for instance, acknowledging flamboyant mannerisms, overtly rejecting traditional gender roles, a person's occupation and grooming habits.

The idea of gaydar is complicated by gay people not acting in a stereotypically "gay" fashion; also by metrosexual men (regardless of sexuality) who seem to have heightened aesthetic senses and exhibit a lifestyle, spending habits and concern for personal appearance close enough to the stereotype of a fashionable urban gay man. ABC News' 20/20 reported that gaydar does exist but it may work better for gay people and those who pay attention to issues around sexual orientation because they have more invested in knowing if someone is gay.

Scientific research

A study by Philadelphia's Monell Chemical Senses Centermarker, published in the Journal of Psychological Science reported that "gay men were found to be particularly good at detecting the musk of other gay men".

William Lee Adams, an undergraduate at Harvardmarker, replicated earlier work by his advisor, Nalini Ambady (now at Tufts Universitymarker). Ambady's original study, published in 1999, showed that homosexuals were better at correctly identifying sexual orientation from silent videos and photographs than heterosexuals were. Adams' research, started in 2004, focused exclusively on the face; the focal point of most social interaction. This finding was elaborated by Ron Smyth and colleagues in 2003. A 2007 study under Ambady found that people could identify gay men better than random chance when shown only a photo of only the eye. Accuracy was closer to what participants thought their accuracy would be when hairstyle was included. A 2009 study found that determination of female sexual orientation by similar means was more accurate when a "snap" judgment was made, rather than conscious deliberation.

Usage in popular culture

Popular cultural references to having (or lacking) a gaydar skill:
  • In the Ellen episode "The Puppy Episode" (originally broadcast April 1997), Ellen Degeneres' character learns the concept of gaydar as part of her coming-out process. She then explains to her friends: "I must be giving off one of those vibes again. That's what we do...we give off vibrations and then we pick up the vibrations from our gaydar...so I've heard".
  • In the show Gay, Straight or Taken?, a single female contestant dates three guys: one is gay, one is straight and the third has a girlfriend. Her goal is to identify the straight guy who is single, in order to win a vacation with him. To do so, she must use her "gaydar".
  • In the Australian version of Playing It Straight, the dog on the ranch was named "Gaydar".
  • Saturday Night Live had a recurring sketch (1999–2002) about a woman without gaydar, played by Rachel Dratch, initially portrayed by Molly Shannon.
  • In the 2003 debut episode of Dead Like Me the protagonist describes the ability of detecting other grim reapers as "like gaydar only more creepy".
  • The Onion satirized gaydars in "I Can Instantly Tell Whether Someone Is African-American With My Amazing Blackdar".
  • In The L Word season one episode "Let's Do It", Dana acknowledges her lacking gaydar after admitting to Alice and Shane that she is unable to read the signals from people around her.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, after Kennedy asks her how long she's enjoyed sleeping with women, Willow responds "Hey! And what, you think you have some sort of special lesbidar or something?".
  • Absent gaydar occurred on a November 2008 episode of Top Gear, when Jeremy Clarkson used the word with regard to Will Young.
References to a purported gaydar device:
The "Gaydar" given to Dwight on The Office.
  • In the Futurama episode "Love's Labors Lost in Space", Bender has what he claims is a literal gaydar – that is, an electronic device that detects homosexuality. The device characterizes nearly every man (and alien) it evaluates as gay.
  • In The Office episode "Gay Witch Hunt", Jim tells Michael and Dwight that The Sharper Image sells a gaydar device. Jim later sends a modified metal detector to Dwight, who believes it to be a genuine gaydar device. He becomes concerned when his belt buckle sets it off, thinking it is indicating that he is gay.
  • A segment on The Daily Show shows a man from Britain named David Eliot, who created a gaydar pager device to send vibrations to others carrying the same device. Another episode focusing on gay marriage in Massachusetts uses a fictional gay detection device called a "homometer" which provides feedback by loudly emitting gay mannerisms.
  • In the 2006 Queer Duck: The Movie, gaydar is shown as a piece of military sonar detecting the influx of LGBT patrons to the fictitious "Happyland" theme park modelled on Disneylandmarker.
  • On an episode of Saturday Night Live in May 2008, then-presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain poked fun at his fiscal conservatism by satirically opposing federal funding for a "gaydar-jamming" device.


See also





References

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