Something straight men should know about "gaydar"

An experience I had, with the understanding that it’s just an anecdote: I grew up with a guy from first grade all the way through high school. We were in club activities and so forth at our small school, so though we weren’t close friends, we knew each other relatively well. He didn’t really date but I never thought much of it. I saw him at our 10 year reunion and by golly, he had the gay speech (not a lisp so much as what someone compared earlier to Jack on “W&G”), the mannnerisms, the whole bit. Honestly, it was all I could do not to blurt out, “Joe! I didn’t know you were gay!” I promise there wasn’t a trace of this in his behavior when I knew him before. So was it learned, or is there a tiny possibility this comes out, as it were, by itself in adulthood? I’ve assumed it was learned (consciously or not) ever since. I’m still mystified as to where it comes from. If it’s cultural, how widespread is it? Do gay men in, say, Asia or Europe do this?

And if the sibillant ‘s’ (which, as has been pointed out, is not a lisp) and the effeminant mannerisms are culturally created (or, at least, culturally exaggerated), then what’s to become of the modern gay man, whose culture is more and more into being butch and built and uber-masculine.

You all do know that there are gay sports bars, no?

It’ll get to the point that gay men will be so masculine that any effeminate man will be assumed to be straight.

And speaking of straight men…

Today’s modern straight man cries, hugs, talks about feelings, wants to be a tender and loving father, and grooms himself as diligently as a woman (hair stylists, hair dyeing, waxing, plucking, tatooing, clothes horsing…).

The gay men are getting butcher and the straight men are getting gayer.


Liberace? Sure, we all knew. Rock Hudson? Who would’ve known?

Dammit dammit dammit, I made a very long post that didn’t go through. Here goes again:

Which is a good example of how badly stereotyping, i.e. ‘butcher’ and ‘gayer,’ have muddled this issue. Note that I’m not accusing Moriah of this, so please don’t get mad at me. Just illustrating. Modern men being more sensitive used to be a good thing and a better way of fleshing out masculinity, now it’s just gay again.:smack:

My point, sorry if it was unclear, is that rating how “effeminate” people are is subjective and totally unscientific. At this juncture, gay men are effeminate and effeminate men are gay. A blind study like yours might find that the effeminate men are generally gay, but I think it’d usually be a self-fulfilling-prophecy-type deal.

To make matters worse, please let me illustrate with an example from my life.
There were two teachers in my high school who were, at times, judged to be gay.
Number One was the youngish choir teacher (strike one). What was the evidence? He taught choir, was rather prissy and effeminate, skinny, spoke in what most people would consider a gay manner, and did the limp-wrist stuff fairly often. “A slam-dunk,” many would say, “he’s queer.” Pretty much everybody with a brain was convinced of it. The problem? He married a woman my junior year, and most of the choir was there.
Some determined folk insisted he was gay anyway, which is where we get to something that I think makes matters worse that I’ll touch on in a minute.

Teacher Number Two was in his 50s and unmarried. As far as we knew, he never had been. There was nothing effeminate about him, unless you count that he was a theatre patron (which is pushing it). He taugh English, and I had him junior and senior year. What was the evidence against him? Just that he was 50-something and single. (He wasn’t seeing anyone either, although it’s worth noting that he was of the older school of teachers who didn’t get into their personal lives.)
“No problem,” said the crowd, “he must be one of those old-fashioned gay men, like a Sir John Gielgud, who just didn’t make it public.” So there was never any evidence against it, other than a rumor allegedly traced to a teacher who’d known him a long time that he was left at the altar as a young man. In short, there was no reason in the world to think he was gay, but because he was a middle-aged bachelor, people figured he might be and there was no way to prove them wrong.

So, what am I getting at? To get back to the experiment idea: let’s say the study is conducted. Regardless of the result, but especially if the experts decide they can’t tell who’s straight and who’s gay, people who are convinced you can judge sexuality based on these surface criteria start bringing out arguments about repression and ‘covering up.’
The ‘effeminate’ men who are judged gay but are (they insist) straight, by this line of argument, are ‘really’ gay anyway. They could have lied about their preference, for one. Even worse, the ‘proof’ the accused men provide that they’re straight is obviously fake. If they’re married, they’ve just married against their orientation. If they have kids, that’s just to provide evidence. If they in fact sleep with every woman they meet, that’s just compensating. And if they do all this and act straight, they’re repressed - maybe, even jucier, the repression is so deep it’s unconscious! They act straight in every way, and even believe it, but “REALLY,” they’re gay!

I’m intentionally carrying this to ludicrous extremes, and not intending it as a personal attack, but nonetheless that’s pretty much the way the whole argument goes. All the people who say they’re straight have going for them is their word, appearances, and the evidence, taken at face value (in other words, nothing significant. :p) When it comes to such personal and private matters, that’s pretty much what we have to go with.

…and never look a man in the eye!

lazybumcus said:

So now I’m gay? That’s news to me.

Not dating any women could be a sign of being gay, or it could be other things, like being shy/insecure, or having non-compatible religious views with the bulk of society.

Dunno elsewhere, but in The Netherlands there is a kind of ‘gay’ way of speaking. I can’t describe it very well, but one thing is that the tone of sentences moves down, then up, more than with the usual speech.

A college friend of mine who was openly gay picked it up in a number of years: when he started college he didn’t speak different from others, but at the end of his studies there was a noticeable ‘gay’ tone. Not every gay man speaks in this way, though.

I wonder: is there a thread devoted to gay ‘stereotypes’? At one time, after seeing a lot of Will & Grace, I began to wonder about my own image. I do like some musicals, do not really like sports, have enjoyed for a while watching Buffy and Dawson’s creek, just like Jack in W&G. Still I know from experience that I’m not really attracted to men (count me into one of those for whom the female frontal aspect holds a definite attraction). Why are certain preferences associated with being gay?

I think that a study like this would probably be able to show a correlation between effeminity and sexual orientation, but the problem is that it’s only a correlation. It tells us nothing about the cause. Maybe there’s something genetic that makes someone both effeminate and gay. Or, maybe gay people pick up effeminate behavior culturally. Or maybe both causes exist, or there is a third cause or some complex interaction between these possibilities. We just don’t know.

How could we try to figure out the cause (if there is a correlation)? We could test correlations in different cultures, including cultures where the gay=effeminate stereotype does not exist. We could rate children for effeminity, and see if that correlates to sexual orientation in adulthood. These studies have their limitations. As PinkyDVM mentioned, maybe effeminity is a genetic trait that is not expressed until adulthood. But at least they’d tell us something about the relationship between homosexuality, effeminity, and culture.

Correct; the study wasn’t intended to ascertain a cause, just a correlation. The question was “Are gay men effeminate?”, not “Why are gay men effeminate?”. I don’t even want to ask the latter question until I’ve got an affirmative answer on the former.

There is also the problem, of course, that we assign some traits as “masculine” (toughness, aggression, materialistic) and other traits as “feminine” (tenderness, passivity, caring/maternal). Sociologists testing these traits have found that men and women do tend to test differently in every society – but you’re talking about a normal curve type of distribution. That is, there are plenty of women who are tough, aggressive, and materialistic, and there are plenty of men who are tender, passive, and caring.

However, for a large group, men tend to test at one side of the continuum and women at the other, regardless of nationality or cultural/ethnic background.

Of considerable interest, though, is that the most masculine males in Sweden still test as more “feminine” than the most feminine females in Japan, if you follow me. That is, the most tender, passive, maternal woman in Japan still comes out as more tough, aggressive, and materialistic than the males tested in Sweden.

Hey! You callin’ me a fag?

All joking aside, this has simply got to be wrong. For one thing, if everyone in Japan were more tough and aggressive than everyone in Sweden, there wouldn’t be anyone left in Japan by now; they’d all be lying in back alleys with gaping holes in the backs of their heads. For another, I’ve met Japanese women who would look to their husbands for permission to speak before they spoke, stuff like that. No-one does that in Sweden, man or woman.

To sum up: cite?

Japanese culture is very sexist in some ways, Priceguy, but I don’t think that was Dex’s point. Furthermore, I think the comment was also intended to show the problems with such testing.


Marley23: If it is in fact true, as Dex said, that the most passive Japanese woman is more aggressive than the most aggressive Swedish man, then I cannot see how Japan gets through a day without everyone killing everyone else. Plenty of aggression over here, sadly.

He didn’t say it was true, he said one survey found this way. Besides, there are lots of ways for aggression to come through. And to my understanding, Japan’s homicide rates are low.

You’re right. I haven’t even seen the test. Hey, it’s early morning here; you can’t expect me to be in top shape.

Dex, I’d still appreciate a cite, if you’ve got one.

Sorry, I misquoted: assertive, not aggressive. (I’m not sure that there’s a signficant difference, but we might as well be precise.)

Remember that the trait (however you define it) is bound within societal norms. Japanese society is very polite, and there are lots of social rules that harness and control assertiveness – without such rules, the society would fall apart. And, as a reminder, assertiveness/aggressiveness is only one of the features that make up the “masculine” mindset – it’s also concerned with advancement, materialism, success, etc.

Source: Cultures and Organizations - Software of the Mind by Geert Hofstede (McGraw Hill, London, 1991). Hofstede was the first sociologist (back in the 70s, IIRC) to test various dimensions that measure national cultures, and his findings have been replicated many times by others (although often the others are competitor sociologists who put their own framework around it.)

Hofstede used the terms “masculinity” and “femininity” to refer to the extremes on this continuum. Modern approach (in line with our political notion of gender equality) is to use different terms, such as “tough” and “tender”… but Hofstede’s findings were that this trait is the only one tested that did show differently for males and females in all societies.

I don’t think the sample was large enough to include the other “genders” that we recognize today (in addition to biological genders, we have sexual-orientations, transsexuals, etc etc). I suppose someone will make a splash in sociological circles someday by testing various “other” gender groups.

Bah, the boards ate a post… It was too long, anyway.

My hunch is, based only on personal, anecdotal experience, that the gay ‘accent’ isn’t something particular to gays – it’s particular to women.

Go people-watching some time. Notice the different inflections used by men and women. Men speak in more of a monotone, in general; women are more likely to use emphasis and different tones of voice to convey emotion, which men are (again, in general) more prone to hiding. The other group known for unusually expressive speech? Gay men.

I don’t think the gay and/or effeminate men are getting this bit of gay culture from the media, or from each other (especially considering how many heavily-closeted men seem to acquire it). It’s just a side effect of tending to spend more time around female friends than your average dude. Personally, I have more male friends than the average girl, and my speaking voice is less, well, expressive than that of most women my age. It’s not hard to believe that it’s just something I picked up, unconsciously, as a way of fitting in better around my self-selected peer group.

I don’t have statistics backing me up, here, but it’s fairly safe to guess that gay men tend to seek out female friends more often than straight men. Effeminate men are somewhat alienated from most masculine men to begin with, so they’re more likely to find friendship among women. Some people are more likely to pick up the mannerisms of their particular group of friends than others, of course, but it seems to make a whole lot more sense than to blame genetics or some gay secret society.

I do think there’s something to your theory there, stoyel, and I’ve meant to propose something similar. Couldn’t quite figure out how. But the ‘limp wrist’ thing, for example, is generally a female thing.

Although in the interest of fairness, I’m straight, all of my closest friends are female, and I can’t say I’ve picked up any mannerisms from them.

I’ve known several guys who had “effeminate” mannerisms and were not homosexual. You’re merely projecting bigotry into pseudo-genetics.


Please read my post before you start slinging mud, I said:

<b>“I’m not saying this is true for all or even most gays or that it’s black and white.”</b>

I was making an observation based my experience which is also in line with what many gays themselves assert, that homosexuality is genetic and part of nature.

I completely agree with the following:

-Some straight men can be “effeminate”
-Some/Most gay men are “undetectable”
-Some gay men pick-up “effeminate” mannerisms culturally

That said, I still think there is an innate (genetic) behavior/speech/mannerism associated with being gay in some men and that it’s observable

You also said:


You claimed that these traits were a fact, which is a far cry from “I think” and that it’s observable. If it’s a fact it’s more then observable, it’s observed.

Then you asked a question why these traits were found in all countries, but failed to show that they are. We can’t tell you why something is the way it is until we know that it is that way.

To sum up: cite?