The other day, the boys and I stopped off at Starbucks for a quick coffee. On the way back to the car, I commented on something funny the barista had said, and Gus informed me that the guy was probably gay.
What made him think that? Gaydar.
Yes, my 15-year old son thinks he has gaydar. Honestly, he wouldn’t be the first straight guy I’ve known that has good instincts about these matters — our friend John has impressive skills in determining who plays on which team.
The funny twist is that my gaydar isn’t always what you’d expect from me. I remember when my friend Catherine informed me that our cute new coworker was gay. I had gotten no vibe whatsoever from him — nothing at all. Her thought process grew curiosity.
She said that the previous evening they ran into each other and he was with his boyfriend. I was unconvinced. What in the world made her assume the guy was his boyfriend? She looked baffled and, in her charming Irish brogue, replied, “I dunno, Christopher. Maybe when he said, ‘This is my boyfriend.’”
Not recognizing a “fellow traveler” pales in comparison to assuming the reverse. Once, when the boys were little, we were at the zoo. As I hung out in the shade waiting for them to finish riding the merry-go-round, I noticed this gay couple with a baby in a stroller. They were adorable. I watched them interact, looking at the map to determine their next zoological destination.
I decided they might want to know about the Gay and Lesbian Parents of Utah, a group of… well, gay parents, who share resources and experiences and get together for different activities. As I conjured the courage to head toward them, their lovely wives came out of the restroom and joined them.
Yup, my gaydar had steered me wrong!
Honestly, gaydar isn’t nearly as important to gay kids today as when I was young. Back then, having a “hunch” about who was gay was significant; it helped determine with whom you might share private information, and with whom you might share private parts.
Thanks to an impressive evolution in our society, it’s far easier for people to be out and proud than when I was Gus’s age, and they’re publically expressing their sexual orientation earlier than ever before.
Gus has a couple of friends at school who are openly gay. That would never have been the case when I was a high school freshman.
Now, I’ve said a million times before that these young people, who have the luxury of being out and carefree today, owe a lot of that freedom to the hard-fighting generations who came of age before them. But I also think it’s reciprocal. Their open attitude has reinforced our comfort levels by positively impacting the views of their peers and parents alike.
A few weeks ago I was at a conference, and during a sizeable break-out session, I mentioned this column. Then, waiting at the airport for my flight home, a woman looked at me and said, “Hey, you were at the conference. You’re the gay dad.” I’m not sure that everyone else at the gate needed to know that, but I had to laugh when she added, “Well, you were the one that put it out there!”
She was right; I had publicly come out to 200 strangers — none of whom had to use gaydar to figure that out.