Tuesday, November 21, 2006

YOUR 15 MINUTES: The Reality of Gaydar

Most people never saw it coming. How could Ted Haggard — founder of New Life Church, champion of honesty, family values and "the protection of marriage" — be linked to a gay prostitute? When allegations of gay sex — which Haggard has denied — surfaced recently, many people, including some of Haggard's closest friends, reacted with disbelief. Others claimed they weren't surprised at all. Their "gaydar" had tipped them off.

"One look at his pic on his Web site and my gaydar went off the scale," wrote one reader in the comment section of Gazette.com. "I actually heard Ted Haggard preach ... my gaydar was bleeping off the charts," wrote a blogger commenting on the news story. At best, "gaydar" sounds like a joke, a snarky combination of the words "gay" and "radar" that people use to explain a self-proclaimed power to detect sexual orientation. At worst it sounds like a knee-jerk way to perpetuate stereotypes about homosexuals. But, for better or worse, there might really be some accuracy in it.

"Gaydar absolutely exists," said Northwestern University psychology professor Michael Bailey. "It's not a perfect indicator. A lot of gay men don't give off the right signs, but a substantial percentage do." In experiments, Bailey has shown videos of men talking and walking, then asked people to rate whether the subjects are gay. The viewers were right about 70 percent of the time, he said. His research tries to isolate what people intuitively spot.

The giveaways, he said, include a narrower, more feminine gait and distinct, lispy pronunciation of words. Not exactly subtle. You might as well say the giveaways include singing old show tunes and taking the time to pick out especially thoughtful greeting cards. His findings have been widely criticized. Lynn Conway, a transsexual retired electrical engineering professor who is one of Bailey's most vocal critics, calls his research "outlandish and unscientific." Bailey agrees that many gaydar signals are much-parodied stereotypes, "but there is some basis behind it." In a gay spectrum that includes people from Liberace to Rock Hudson, gaydar is by no means foolproof, he said. Many openly gay men exhibit none of the traits he has documented. "You can watch football, hook worms and fish, spit on the sidewalk, shoot Bambi's mother, scratch your ass in public, and still be gay as the month of May," gay author Donald F. Reuter wrote in his book "Gaydar." (great quote)

Reuter noted that gay men are known to gravitate toward such professions as hairstyling and fashion design, but straight-seeming institutions such as churches and the military are as attractive to gays as they are to heterosexuals. Bailey agrees. "The church is a more feminine pursuit," he said. "It may attract a disproportionate number of gay men." Bailey said he watched the TV footage of Ted Haggard saying he got a massage from a gay prostitute. "I didn't see him as a flaming gay man at all," he said. The one blip on his Ph.D.-caliber gaydar was the broad grin. "This is total speculation, we haven't done studies yet, but I think gay men tend to have much more expressive smiles. That's one thing that struck me about Haggard." [source]

My gaydar's been bleeping off the charts since I learned the meaning of the word gay. I pride myself on both the existence and precise accuracy of my gaydar. It's scientifically proven...by me. That tranny professor can suck it. (I mean Dino’s ‘it’ because I don’t have an ‘it’.)

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