Admit it. We all do it. You do it. I do it. My wife does it. You see someone. Maybe it’s the way he (or she) walks, the way she talks, how he dresses, what her tastes are in music or movies. And before you know it, you’ve decided that the person is dealing with homosexual inclinations. Original Mohomie even provided us with a hilarious quiz.
Now, I freely admit that I have horrible gaydar, but I always run across people who tell me theirs is unfailingly accurate. But I’m skeptical. Here’s why.
There is a well-known concept in social psychology known as confirmation bias. Briefly, it says that we only pay attention to information that confirms what we think we know, and disregard or never come across, information that invalidates it. This is especially bad with gaydar, because you only know when you’re right, you never know you’re wrong. Someone can’t really ever prove that they’re straight, they only prove that they’re gay. You suspect someone is gay, and you’ll never know you’re wrong. He could live his life in complete happy, satisfied heterosexuality and you’ll never realize you were wrong, because you can keep on suspecting him.
But run into him at the Pride Parade, and you slap yourself on the back and exclaim, “I knew it!”
Years ago in my single’s ward, there was a ward busybody who was certain she has impeccable gaydar. She would tell everyone in the ward who she suspected of being gay. (I think it was her way of consoling herself with not getting many dates. If all the eligible men in the ward were gay, then it didn’t reflect poorly on her that they weren’t asking her out! On the other hand, if some of those men were straight, but still weren’t interested in her… well, the thought was too terrifying to contemplate!)
She became convinced that I was gay. (Hey, remember that saying about stopped clocks!) She “confided” this with several other of her friends and acquaintances in the ward, inviting them to speculate on my sexual orientation as well. She went so far as to invite a gay friend of hers to Church, who also had perfect gaydar according to her, for the express purpose of meeting me and pronouncing a verdict on my sexual orientation.
I don’t remember meeting this fellow, but apparently we did. We shook hands and spoke to each other for a few moments. Afterwards, he told the ward busybody that she was wrong, that he was convinced I was actually straight.
Wherever you are, my unknown friend, I owe you one. Lunch is on me!
Since then, I’ve followed in his footsteps. Whenever anyone who doesn’t know about my own SSA speculates about someone’s sexual orientation, I always defend him. He could hum showtunes, arrange flowers obsessively, and have a shrine to Judy Garland, and I’ll defend him. Even closeted celebrities.
A few years ago at a ward party, a friend of mine said, “Ricky Martin is so gay! No straight man moves his hips like that.”
“Russ,” (not his real name) I replied, “it’s because he’s Latin. Lots of Latin Americans can move like that.”
“Oh yeah right, no way. Have you looked at him? He is as gay as the day is long.”
“Russ, wishing won’t make it so. It won’t save you from heartache. You can send him nude pictures of yourself all day long, he’s still not going to ask you out on a date!”
Then, at last, he was quiet.