Gaydar 101

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I hate to say it, but if your gaydar is based on vibes, it's faulty.

Here's why. Gay guys are vibe masters in three ways. Gay men:
• Are very receptive to vibes other people give off
• Are adept at sending out vibes
• Are a wealth of information about sex toys

In other words, your vibe-centric gaydar is only going to work if the guy wants to give off a gay vibe. However, a closeted man, being the vibe expert he is, can give you any kind of vibe he wants, including a straight vibe.

I don't ever get vibes from people — I'm straight, after all. But I still wanted to develop gaydar, just for fun. So I bought a few books that ended up just being sweeping statements about stereotypes of gay guys instead of ways I could get a gaydar. It was only when I was reading an unrelated book, You Just Don't Understand by Deborah Tannen, about interactions between extremely straight women and extremely straight men, that I realized how to develop vibe-free gaydar — a scientific approach to gaydar, if you will.

Tannen aptly makes hundreds of generalizations about ultra-straight men and ultra-straight women, and I realized two of her observations about straight women also directly apply to gay men.

First, how two people face each other in conversation. Two straight guys conversing will face away from each other so they're almost parallel, and focus on an imaginary point on a wall about 20 feel in front of them. The guys slouch, maybe even to the point of recumbence. They do not make eye contact.

Two straight women do almost the opposite. They sit with very good posture directly facing each other, while maintaining very good eye contact.

Straight guys don't face each other because they see that kind of interaction as conflict, as sizing each other up for a possible fight. By having very relaxed, non-threatening conversation, a straight guy is saying, "I respect you, I don't want to fight you, so I'm standing down, reclining and focusing on this imaginary point on the wall."

Straight women face each other because they see interaction as building a relationship. By having a very equal, balanced interaction while looking each other in the eyes, a straight woman says, "I respect you. I consider you an equal, so I'm treating you as an equal by directly facing you instead of focusing on an imaginary point on the wall."

I often see this happening between a straight man and a straight woman in a restaurant. The man is on his seat, slouched, facing away from the woman. The woman is sitting upright, facing the man.

Generally speaking, gay dudes are lovers, not fighters. And almost every gay guy I've met is a genuinely nice person with a deep respect for everyone around him. I think it's because of this respect that gay men fit the model of straight women as far as having an equal, direct stance in conversation.

Note this only works when two people are talking to each other in a comfortable environment. When there are three or more people or if the environment isn’t comfortable, the model changes.

Second, let’s look at posture. Straight men can have good posture, but they really only show it when they're in a fight with someone, thinking they're superior to someone or trying to seduce someone. Never when staring at an imaginary point on the wall.

Straight women, on the other hand, have excellent posture all of the time.

This is the other thing straight women and gay men have in common. Take those bendy pipe cleaners and make stick figure models of everyone in the room. Chop the models' arms off at the elbows so you're not distracted by hand gestures. You'll notice your models of straight women and gay men are exactly the same, especially the spines.

These two methods strip away all of the clichéd gaydar signs, such as hand gestures, lisps, attention to skin care, product in the hair and a tendency to kiss every guy he meets.

Of course, I realize any attempt at quantifying gaydar is really generalizing. And generalizations are always wrong. But these two methods, here in 2007 in Utah, will make your gaydar about 90% effective.

As far as lesbian-dar, I can't help you much. The only generalities I've found true about lesbians are: lesbians tend to have short fingernails and walk very confidently.

Take that as you will.

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