Last week was National Coming Out Day. Did any closet doors swing out on you?
I was caught off guard by a couple, which is new, because my gaydar has been rather accurate in past years.
I rely on several signs, but I think everyone to varying degrees of consciousness picks up on the same signals.
In 2009, a group of MIT students asked how people know someone is gay? Their research focused on voice. The study’s participants heard gay and straight males speak for a few minutes, then guessed the voice’s orientation. On average, they guessed correctly 75 percent of the time.
The other signs are quite obvious: clothes, gestures, enjoying Glee.
Something not so obvious is: how do you know when other people know you’re gay?
My gaydar is decent, but I am absolutely horrible at recognizing when others know I’m gay. It’s not like you can ask the barista at Starbucks, “Can I have a triple tall mocha….and, are you thinking I’m gay?”
I wasn’t raised to see myself as gay, so when others do, I’m surprised. This is another part of gaydar that’s not examined too often.
Gaydar isn’t just about recognizing when others are gay. It’s also about knowing when others perceive you as gay. Hence the term that I shall now invent: meta-gaydar.
Put simply, meta-gaydar is knowing when others think you’re gay. Everyone has thought about this. If you aren’t gay you may do things to let everyone know that really, you’re not gay. Hence if a bro compliments a fellow bro’s pink t-shirt, he may feel compelled to follow the compliment with a “no homo.”
Gay people may feel the same urge to assert the fact that they are indeed gay. When a doctor asks Do you have a girlfriend, I say no, I have a boyfriend. As you may imagine, these kinds of assumptions are applied much more often to gay people, so gay people have to assert themselves a lot more often.
Would a doctor ever ask a female, Do you have a girlfriend? Unless she wore a t-shirt that says, “I AM OBVIOUSLY A LESBIAN” then the doctor most likely will assume she’s straight.
So I have a poor meta-gaydar, and unless I paint “gay” upon my face in red paint, I can be sure that I will never be sure whether people know I’m gay.
That’s why coming out is important. It’s not that gay people want to flaunt their sexual orientation, they just want people to know. They’re tired of people constantly getting it wrong.
So if someone came out to you last week, just know that they want to feel comfortable about themselves and those around them. That requires speaking. However awkward it may be for you, know it’s thrice as awkward for them.