My Son Sees Gay People

IMG_1543It started about six months ago, right around his ninth birthday, that’s when my son starting seeing gay people.

We were driving through West Hollywood on our way to Uncle Michael’s. Stopped at a red light on Santa Monica Boulevard, a very fit, shirtless, short-short-wearing, glistening, not-hard-to-look-at man jogged past our car.

“I see a gay guy,” C.J. said and pointed.

“What?!” Matt and I said, turning simultaneously to look at C.J.

“That guy, right there, running, he’s gay,” C.J. pointed again, nonchalantly.

“Okay, well, you don’t know if he’s gay or not…” I said, even though, if I were a betting woman, I’d put money on the runner being gay.

“He’s gay. I know it,” C.J. said surely.

“It’s not nice to point and say that,” I said. It wasn’t my best use of a teachable moment, but we were almost to Shake Shack and I was hungry.

IMG_2848A week or two later, C.J. and I were walking through the mall holding hands (I’m already sad for the day when he stops reaching for me with his painted nails and rubber band bracelets).

“That guy is gay,” he said to me and pointed, like he was pointing out a cute top in the window of Forever 21.

I stopped him and explained that:

  1. It’s not nice to point at people.
  2. It’s not cool to assume something about someone you don’t know.
  3. We see gay people – and straight people — all the time but we don’t announce it.
  4. Someone else’s sexuality is none of our business.

“I know, but I don’t know that gay person like I know all the other gay people. That’s a new gay person,” C.J. explained.

C.J. knows and loves a lot of gay people; it seemed odd to him that he didn’t know the man at the mall or the man running in WeHo.

I told my brother that C.J. had pointed out a gay person again. Uncle Michael wasn’t happy with this new habit.

“You have to get him to stop doing that,” he said firmly. “My whole life I felt like people were pointing out that I was gay. It’s not cool.”

Days later, C.J. and I were watching a choir of high school students sing on America’s Got Talent.

“I see a gay person,” C.J. said again, forgetting the lesson I taught him at the mall.

“Which one?” I asked. It was a big group.

C.J. paused the television, approached it, stood on his tippy toes and pointed to a boy in the middle of the very back row.

“You have no idea if he’s gay. You can barely see him,” I argued.

“I was watching him. He’s gay, trust me.”

“What if someone pointed at you and said you were gay?”

“I could work with that,” he replied with a sassy nod of his head.

“How do you feel when people point at you and say that you like girl stuff?” I asked.

“I don’t like that.”

IMG_2745I explained that when a stranger points at you and says something, sometimes it’s hard to tell if they are being nice, mean or inquisitive. If you don’t like it when people do it to you, don’t do it to other people. But, this was in the privacy of our own home. The singing boy on America’s Got Talent had no clue that my son thought he was gay.

I texted my friend Jeff.

“Can you see gay people? Like is gaydar real?” I wrote before explaining the situation to him.

Jeff thinks C.J. is just looking for himself, for people who are like him. As a child, Jeff did the same thing — he just didn’t announce it to his parents. Some of my brother’s friends had the same reaction. That explanation seemed the most likely. C.J. points out gay people like he does fellow redheads.

I absolutely want C.J. to know and feel that there are other people like him out there, that he’s not an oddity. But, I also want him to have manners and be respectful. So, I explained that when he sees someone whom he thinks is gay, he can always tell me privately, but it’s not okay to point and say it publicly. (As you can tell, I have none of the parenting answers; I just make things up as I go along.)

The third time was the charm. C.J.’s much more discreet about seeing gay people and I remind him that it’s not cool to assume something about someone you don’t know.

“I see gay people,” he’ll whisper to me with a smile. It’s like a way-less creepy version of the kid in The Sixth Sense who saw dead people. I look around and sometimes I see gay people too and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes only C.J. can.

Question: If you are gay or lesbian, can you instinctively identify gay and lesbian people? Does gaydar really exist? How would you handle this parenting situation?


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85 Responses to My Son Sees Gay People

  1. I am gay and LOVE the post … and so far what I gather you’re great parents

  2. Marco Luxenberg says:

    How do you respond when CJ whispers that phrase? You whisper back that you see someone wearing the same color clothes you have on, or with a cool haircut, or with fab shoes, etc. It’s OK to notice interesting things about the wonderful kaleidoscope out there, and it would be kind of sad not to notice things. The lesson is it’s OK to notice nice or interesting things about the world, but it’s not OK to be mean to people. CJ just is not mean, so you’re in the clear. Notice away!

  3. Claire says:

    It’s definitely real. In my experience, some people are just more socially perceptive about other people, so they tend to pick up on cues in appearance and behavior. As a femme lesbian I don’t stand out as much as my more butch friends, but I also don’t consciously try to hide the fact that I like girls. Perceptive friends usually come to their own (correct) conclusions. Other less perceptive friends are surprised when I come out to them.

    I’m not very perceptive but my girlfriend is, so a lot of times when we go out, she’d be saying “hey there was 3 gays in the queue with us just now!” and I’d be totally lost and oblivious…

  4. Makenzie says:

    Gaydar is so,so real. As kid I knew the lesbians that came to meetings my mom was chair of and by 12 my way of making new friends was to walk up to gay boys and say “Hey mo’ we should be friends.”. Even as an adult I can suss out the queer folks in class, on the bus etc.

    i have no tips on how to deal with it in a 9 year old. But I tell my middle school students that they can think it, but not say it.

  5. Gianluca says:

    Nice article 🙂 really enjoyed reading it! X

  6. I loved your article. Thank goodness CJ has family that support him. Isn’t it nice that he can express himself truly! I just blogged about the new “CoverBoy” James Charles. I am trying to get dialogue on this t see how people feel about a gay teen being The new CoverBoy for Covergirl. Please let me know your thoughts!

  7. This made me laugh. Kid’s lucky to have a mother like you who handled this maturely.

    As a bi woman who surprised almost no one when she came out, yeah, gay dar is totally a thing but its a very, very imprecise science. I think that we are often more commonly wrong than right (we forget the times we were wrong when our suspisions are confirmed about someone else), and that we forget that gender is a spectrum for straight people too, and there are plenty of straight men who aren’t macho wonders of the world. Though I’m pretty sure none of them are wandering around santa monica in short shorts.

  8. This is so precious to me! Of course you did the right thing, but I completely understand where he’s coming from. Any time I’m out and about and see queer folks, I usually jokingly whisper “ma people” to whomever I’m with.

    Of course it is a murky line between stereotypes and identifying with someone, but in my opinion gaydar is very real!

  9. I have bi-dar. One time years ago I was at a club and this girl walks in and I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. I later was looking for her, spotted her by herself on the dance floor, I just walked up and kissed her. She said “I’m not gay.” I said, “Neither am I.” So she grabbed my hand and she brought me to meet her friends. We ended up having a brief relationship. Another time I was at a work function and again, could not stop staring at this girl. We ended up staying the night together. How do I know? I don’t know. It’s an energy thing.

  10. I’m super gay and believe 100% in the gaydar. I’ve had tons of friends that come out to me, and for each of them I’ve had at least a suspicion that the were gay(ish).

  11. Joanna Brailsford says:

    There is actually a study of this phenomenon although I can’t remember where I saw the data. I feel that I can usually see others. Also is CJ allowed to watch some of the male make up tutorials on YouTube? A lot aren’t age appropriate but there are some that show a man that identifies as a man that enjoys the more feminine look?

  12. gaychatline says:

    I think it is quite normal and not a problem. The issue is not about seeting gay, it’s about we still have not fully accepted gay people. If he says, look there is a man, then we think it’s ok. Only one day when gay is accepted as men or women, young or old, then we would not even discuss this.

  13. Lilac says:

    Recognizing people who are in a particular way different from other people happens when you’re already consciously and/or subconsciously hyperaware of the affective and social norm differences that those people present. People who are generally stronger at social cues and people who are part of the population in question tend to be better at picking up on who fits in that group than others. Gaydar isn’t magic. It’s an internalized understanding of what “gay” looks like and the ability to generalize that appearance onto others. It’s just a schema system; the stronger and more generalizable your schema of “gay” is, the stronger your ability will be to actually pick up on who’s what. It doesn’t just happen with gaydar either. I know people with BPD and Bipolar Disorder who can accurately guesstimate whether someone is presenting as borderline or bipolar, because they are hyper-attuned to what that looks like. It typically also comes from having been around large numbers of people who are confirmed to fit the category alongside people who are not in the category. In C.J.’s case, he probably is good at picking it up because he is pretty immersed in media that displays “what gay looks like.” My guess would be that he would be not so great at picking up on who he thinks is a lesbian; he takes personal interest in being a boy who like “girl” things, and thus notices and watches mainly people who fit that category as well. As you mentioned, he was particularly watching that boy on the TV. That said, C.J. is a male-bodied person who likes “girl” things, and most people who fit that tend to be gay men, meaning that who C.J. notices when he is creating the schema that gives him this gaydar is gay men. However, not everyone who fits into C.J.’s schema (i.e. the people he points out) fits into the gay man category. Maybe C.J. himself (who probably fits into his own schema in many ways) isn’t a gay man. Who knows? So I guess it’s important to make sure he knows that not only do we not know if those people who he points out are gay, there is also a significant likelihood that they are something other than gay that is just as validly not straight or not cisgender. Not sure how much about other orientations he knows or you want him to know right now, but definitely something to keep in mind when mentioning that they might not be gay. Might be something else! Rock on 🙂

  14. eliwoodbine says:

    Firstly, this story is adorable and your son is very lucky to have an open minded family like yours. As humans, we inexplicably gravitate to people who are like us. Perhaps it’s simple pack mentality?

    To that end, gaydar most certainly is a thing. It’s not full proof, but it is a tool that can be used to identify other gay people, assuming you are also gay.

  15. Max says:

    Well I’m AroAce but have a Queer Platonic Partner (basically a girlfriend) and 95% of my friends are LGBTQ+ like me. And I can usually tell, so Yes?

    From M
    The Ace Agender Archer (Pun)

  16. It’s funny you mention it, because before I actually KNEW what gay/lesbian was, seemed to be attracted to/drawn to adults who were either gay or lesbian. I can remember as I got a little older and came out (at 14) that it was easier for me to say (usually to myself) “oh he’s definitely gay!” or “she’s definitely a lesbian!” and once I started hanging out with more LGBTQ identified youth, we would do it when we got together. I wasn’t as young as CJ and didn;t have such a grasp on what gay/lesbian really was! It wasn’t until i got older that my “obsession” with friends and teachers were generally categorized as crushes or connecting with other LGBT people. So it’s fair to say that I could “see gay people” since i was young…

  17. Ally says:

    I remember being in first grade having a huge crush on a boy named Chancellor, who hung out with all of us girls and understanding even then at some level, he was never going to feel the same way, not just about me but about any girl. I don’t know how I knew, I just sensed it. I used to think my gaydar was infallible but in my younger days I worked at a salon with 23 gay men and 3 m-f tans and while they could set off even the dullest of gaydars from miles away, I was often caught by surprise at the men they were dating. Many times they were burly, hyper-masculine guys into sports, cars, they would be mechanics, truck drivers, etc. Another time I found myself surprised by a friend of mine who had many stereotypical qualities that I assumed to mean he was gay (voice, hand gestures) and then I realized not only was he straight, he thought we were dating. I’ve come to believe in the sliding scale theory and I think most of us can spot someone on the high end of the Kinsey scale and we assume someone’s on the low end if they don’t have the stereotypical qualities but I think as society becomes more open and accepting, we are going to discover there are many more people that fall somewhere in between on that scale.

    I remember Lori’s comments after the Orlando shooting about sensing that her brother needed to find his people and I think that is exactly what CJ is doing, looking for his people. I think that is really healthy for him, he’ll learn to be more subtle. I had to smile at the comment above where someone said they would just look at each other and say “family”. That is exactly what me and my salon friends would do. It felt the opposite of mean or rude. It felt like people recognizing that they had found their people.

  18. Robérto says:

    Hey I’ve been following you’re Email blog for atleast a year and a half but this ones my favorite! I totally agree with Cj lol I can see gay people from a mile away what’s funny is 99% of the time I’m right! Even the “gang member” looking guys I can tell… I’ve actually had a few guys approach me on it before! I’ll tell you a story about one of my coworkers I was telling another one of my coworkers about that I thought was obviously gay but he was so straight looking she didn’t believe me. she just kept telling me “you think everyone is gay” (we are like bestfriends btw) her name is… We’ll call her Tina and we’ll call him Brad. Now I was almost convinced Brad wasn’t gay too cause he would stare at me sometimes in the locker room but his stares didn’t look like stares of curiosity they looked like stares of disgust, so I started to avoid him a bit. Until one day Brad came to me, when the locker room was empty and told me how much he actually really liked me and wanted to date me and I was like “I knew I was right” out loud and he was like “what” and I had to play it off and giggle to myself a bit… Long story short is gaydars are normal and you’re raising CJ as best you can!!! I actually commend you and I’m ready to raise my child one day with the same ideas and values as you do ( hoping my kid is gay or just gay friendly)

  19. Gaydar is very real. We are not always right, especially today with gender fluidity vs. sexuality. Most straight people do not have gaydar, or anything close to that – short of sterotypes and bigotry.
    Your son is on to something – cultivate that and allow him to keep it private with you, so as not to offend others. As long as you let him know that it is okay, he will hopefully feel okay about who he is, will be.

  20. reynardo says:

    I’d say there are ways to see tendencies in some people, and yes, a lot of them will have come out as gay. But a lot will not be out, some won’t even think of themselves as “gay”, or they’re bisexual, or they have thought over who they are and consider themselves straight. It’s impossible to tell unless they actually say so, and thus it’s rude to point them out (and could even be dangerous, depending on the person, their feelings, and the surroundings).

    I have a 5 year old nephew whose dad the other day asked him “How can you tell if someone’s a boy or someone’s a girl?” I’m afraid I didn’t let the kid answer, as my response was “you ask them.” Knowing my brother in law, I hate to think what the kid’s been taught…

  21. Fairy JerBear says:

    I have been part of the LGBTQ community for several decades first identifying as a gay man and now identifying as agender/trans and a queer person. I have a fairly trusty gaydar although queerdar is probably more accurate. There are many subtle cues that can be picked up on if you have been part of the community. In the past this skill was useful because it was dangerous to assume someone was gay when they weren’t. It is also a way to mutually acknowledge your part of a community much like people from different cultures have ways of greeting each other. It is not surprising that CJ is beginning to use his fledgling gay car given that he has so many gay acquaintances. Usually if I’m with a friend and our queerdar goes off we’ll just look at each other, smile and say “family.”

  22. Ari says:

    I’m quite straight, but I do id as trans so I guess I’ll chime in. It’s not cool to point out that someone’s gay/lesbian in public (and even more so if they’re trans), and assumptions of who’s gay and who’s not tend to be based in stereotypes, which are harmful. But at the same time, members of the lgbt+ community tend to have their own culture and mannerisms as a result in part of spending a lot of time together, so it’s not uncommon to be able to tell who’s gay and who’s not just by looking. I also know a lot of people (myself included) whose childhood friends all turned out to be lgbt+ (there’s a theory it’s linked to pheromones, but no one has been able to give a conclusive explanation). So yeah, it’s not nice to point it out, but at the same time gaydar isn’t a complete myth.

    • The childhood friends thing is so wild!!! I had three main childhood friends back in my rural hometown, and two of them (and myself) all ended up coming out by the time we hit university!

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  24. Underground Dude says:

    I think there are some tell-tale signs that someone is gay, but I try not to assume based on appearance alone. I usually can’t 100% tell unless I’m interacting with someone. Appearance alone isn’t a sure fire way, and especially nowadays, it’s not safe nor polite to just assume based on appearance alone.

    I think it’s a great lesson to teach and learn, but that is tough to distinguish that your child is just trying to identify others like him in the world. I’m with you that it’s hard to figure out how to explain that to a child without completely diminishing why they are pointing people out. You did a great job handling the situation.

  25. Lexi says:

    Gaydar is absolutely real. Mine tends to be better than most people, because I didn’t have a lot of straight adults in my life when I was a kid, but all my LGBTQetc friends have it to some extent. My straight cis friends are far less accurate…they tend to be overly reliant on stereotypes.

    When I was 13-14, I spent a lot of time people-watching and mentally picking out folks I thought were gay; it always made me feel like I wasn’t alone. There were so many people like me, and they all seemed to be doing just fine, so eventually I would too. That’s probably all CJ’s doing; he just needs to work a bit on keeping his internal monologue from becoming an external one 🙂

  26. Miriam Joy says:

    I have great gaydar when it comes to books. Okay, I think this is mainly because I read so many that I can see through all the ambiguity of blurbs when they’re trying not to give away that this is a Gay Book and also I’ve worked in a library, but there’s more to it than that. I regularly pick up books without even reading the blurbs and then bam, surprise lesbians. It’s delightful, really.

  27. Bex says:

    Gaydar is forreal. Mine got approximately 3,000x better when I came out and became open & comfortable about my sexuality.

  28. Emily says:

    I think it’s very important to teach CJ that not all people who are gay or lesbian or bisexual or pansexual look the same or fit stereotypes. You could say something “People think all gay men like to dress more feminine or use hand gestures or whatever but not all do. Some gay men like fashion while some like soccer(give examples). Just like some straight men. It’s not nice to assume someone’s sexuality based on what they like. Just like it’s not nice to assume that people who wear jewelry are girls. Because some boys like you, wear jewelry too.” And you could also say “Some people get upset if they hear someone say he’s gay. It could make them feel bad or even scared. Uncle Michael doesn’t like it because it makes him feel like people are pointing out his difference.” I went through a very similar phase with my now 10 year old daughter when she was 6. My wife and I are lesbians and we both have short hair. My daughter would point out every woman with short hair and loudly say “mommy, mama! That lady looks like you. Is she a lesbian?” I addressed it the same way I suggest you do above, just with different examples. Side note: no I don’t think I have “gaydar”. I didn’t even know I was a lesbian until I was 25 and engaged to a man!(we didn’t marry). My wife on the other hand- very much so but she doesn’t speculate out loud anymore to set a good example. 2nd side note: Does CJ identify as gay (if he wants to say so-respect his privacy!)? I know he’s 9 but my wife says she knew in 3rd grade. That might be why he is doing this behavior-an attempt to find his community.

  29. I’m a lesbian and think that gaydar is totally a thing but perhaps not in the over generalizing way people might think of it. It’s certainly not true to assume that any woman in a dress and heels is straight and cis. That said, there’s a certain something that you CAN see sometimes. Even if it’s just an “I know you” nod and eye contact. Have you seen/heard the musical Fun Home? There’s a great song called “Ring of Keys” and I always think of that when I think of kids and their gaydar. There’s something really affirming about seeing someone and getting that “I know you” feeling – a little reminder that you’re not as alone as it sometimes feels. A little blast of community and certainty in your identity.

    I’m with you on the “it’s rude to point” thing though. But I’m a 30 year old lesbian, I’ve been out since I was 19, I live in Boston, and I still get excited to whisper to my wife when I see another queer person.

  30. I think you handled this beautifully! It is so important to encourage children’s inquisitiveness – allowing them to see people who are like them while also learning about people who are different from them – and, at the same time, teaching them not to point and stare.

    I firmly believe gaydar is real, and I believe I have a fairly accurate one as a bisexual/queer woman. However, sometimes, people are either still in the closet or don’t even realize they might be queer. It’s not our job to point it out to them, which seems to be what you told CJ. You might, however, let CJ know that when he sees gay people, his presence is making the world a friendlier and more welcoming place for them, and giving a friendly smile is not the same as pointing/staring.

  31. snova332 says:

    I personally get a feeling about someone’s sexuality after I have been talking to them for awhile, but “gaydar” isn’t perfect sometimes someone can give off a “gay vibe” and be straight

  32. I’m pansexual, and I feel like I have a gaydar – and a fairly good one at that. I think of its more of a ‘queerdar’ though, because as someone who’s sexuality is often erased I don’t like thinking of it as a black and white “this person only likes their own gender and no others” thing. If I was in your shoes, I woud remind him that there are more sexualities than gay and straight, and that they very well may be gay, but they could also be any number of sexualities, including straight. I think you handled it well though!

  33. lsawyer713 says:

    I believe gaydar is real and we do it all the time. Instead, we say quietly “family” whether it is a single person or a couple. This is a little more subtle than “I see gay people”. Also, I agree that it is comforting to locate people like me, like us, they are like “family”. Maybe CJ can try that. 😎

  34. Absolutely I can see LGBTI people, I’m trans and my partner is bi and we both can. And when I try to explain how full society is of people from the rainbow community, others tell me I’m distorting the numbers. But it’s simply not true. It’s easiest with men and boys, or at least it is for me, perhaps that’s because as a trans woman, most of my youth was spent around boys as that’s just the way it was in the 70s. Unlike CJ however – who seems to just announce these people as gay, I don’t know whether they are or will turn out to be gay, bisexual, trans or non-binary of some description.
    I don’t really know what it is but it might be something about how the shoulders and back are held when walking, sometimes it’s with the way someone talks, but it seems really weird to actually write these things down, I wish I had a selection of queer and straight people to show someone.
    Also, as a trans woman who lives and works in the city, lots of people look at others all the time, but you can tell when a guy sees you and knows, keeps looking and is not disapproving – that’s another indication that he’s queer of some description if only secretly. Others will say that he’s only looking, but you get to know looks very, very well.

  35. Silvara says:

    I think it does exist, but like any other kind of intuition/guesswork/visual clues/whatever you want to call it, it’s not always right. My best friend who is also a lesbian, and I always used to call people we thought were gay/lesbian/trans/etc. “Family.” Didn’t matter if we knew the person, or would ever see them again. They were “family”, and on the rare occasion when a stranger we were speaking of that way heard us, they were always supper nice and happy to have more “family” around even for a brief “hi!”.

    I identify as lesbian, but have always been open to the fact that if the perfect person for me were to appear as male, I wouldn’t turn them down just because they’re not my preferred gender. I just tend to prefer women on the whole. I’m not particularly shy or in the closet about it, so most of my coworkers at various jobs have known.

    This sometimes led to embarrassing scenes at work. The most memorable being when my ENTIRE store of coworkers in a retail job years ago, followed a group of 6 people around trying to figure out if one of them was male or female. Failing that, they dragged me off register (without explaining what was happening), dragged me to the back of the store (and pointing through a gap in product from another aisle) asked me if the poor person was male or female. They were trans. Fairly obviously male to female, and while I pretty much ripped my coworkers a new one for embarrassing the poor woman, it didn’t really stop them.

    All of which is a long babble to answer that I think you handled it much better with CJ than I did with my coworkers. Since he stopped the behavior, and they never did.

  36. whatyouwant says:

    Just as a general rule, I believe gaydar exists, but it’s still at times an over-generalization. I’m a straight female, but I’m not particularly “girly”. I don’t wear makeup, don’t fuss over my hair and have never had a manicure. When I was in college, I didn’t carry a purse (much), because I was afraid to lose it, and I carried a small wallet and keys in my back pocket. My style was kind of hippy/outdoorsy. Because of this, some people might have assumed I was lesbian, but there was really nothing other than my outward demeanor to base it on. I didn’t care if someone assumed this about me, either. These days, I do carry a purse, so I guess that means I’m straight now.

    I am someone who pays attention to others’ body language and I think that’s a large component of gaydar. Some folks are not going to get it regardless, because it’s not their thing to notice. Perhaps gay people are just a bit more in tune? It seems like a possibility, anyway.

  37. Chasity Rueby says:

    As a gay woman I started seeking out gay people when I was in middle school and at 38 years old I’m still doing it. When I was reading this post I thought “I still do this”. Its become so natural for me to search out gay people anywhere and everywhere I go that I didn’t realize that I was even doing this until now. I am a very confidant, successful Realtor. But I seek out my comfort zone every where I go. The grocery store, the mall, Starbucks, hardware store, in public I’m always looking to see if I’m “alone” or with “family”. And it doesn’t matter the age, gender, style, if I see another gay person I instantly feel home. It’s strange how I’ve never realized that I do this until now. My wife and I have very few gay friends and we rarely see them but about every 6 months we get together and say “Lets go be gay”. We will go to the gay bar, without our straight friends, and just completely relax. Our straight friends are very supportive but they are not gay and they will never quite get what it is like to be us. Thank you for this post.

    • mdaniels4 says:

      I have to ask a question. Is this gaydar thing a reaction from the outside world generating an internal feeling of the need to belong? I’m asking this as a straight guy. Sure I see folks that are very feminine or masculine, both in their gender, not Trans, and I don’t automatically say they are or they aren’t gay. I may wonder, to which I really don’t care, but I don’t automatically go to a place where I decide they must be or not. Women I have more problems with that as if she’s normally feminine I’ll assume she’s straight. So it becomes a kind of cultural norm thing rather than a seeking out in kind. So if we imagine that all of us were accepted as we are, would the gaydar thing really exist at all since there would be no reason to instinctively be on the lookout for those of us who were like us?

      Ill give you an example to ponder on that. I’m straight, but I like to have my toes polished. Outside of the cultural norm for an otherwise cis man. Although more guys do than you’d realize. They just don’t show it. I do. However, I feel oddly connected to another cis guy who I see who also has polished toes. Not in a sexuality way at all. Just in kind of a validation way that says, see I’m not that abnormal. I don’t, because I’m straight, wonder if he though might be gay because he paints his toes. Since I’m not, I don’t assume he is. I don’t know of any gay fellow, feminine or not, who does, and I know enough of both to make that a fair observation. So for those of you who are gay, is this a possibility for validation of self because it’s outside of stereotypical cultural norms, and therefore only exists as a way of seeking out self validation? Thank you.

  38. I have a male friend who is a bit effeminate, but totally straight, and who has a bit of a complex about his femininity because people keep asking him if he’s gay or assuming he is. So maybe gaydar does exist, but I think it’s only right about 70% of the time, and you should never assume someone’s gay just because they act a bit feminine (or butch in the case of a woman).

    • mdaniels4 says:

      Btw. Too me a funny story. I don’t mean to offend at all. By brother in law is very conservative and follows norms to a very high degree. Of course that he has his own quirks is humorous to me. But he was aghast that his niece announced she was lesbian. All sorts of hand wringing over that one. I tried to talk him down off the ceiling to no avail. Last year however, she decided that she was really ftm Trans and henceforth would live his life as the man he is. Well you can imagine that reaction. I listened to his consternations and his simply wrong viewpoints with some amusement. In the end though I just looked at him and said, well, the good news is he’s straight! (and I hope you know this was solely for him in this case as I put no value judgment for whomever you’re romantically attracted to.) I just thought the whole thing was funny. He never did say another word after that.

  39. pineas2 says:

    Definitely exists. I never understood how it works but, well, sometimes it makes “Ping”.

    Besides in the company’s marketing department. There it makes “pingpingping” all the time.

    I would like to work in marketing instead of sales.

  40. Tom says:

    It would be interesting to get C.J.’s take on this 14 year-old boy: Jake Warden. He’s amassed over 260,000 subscribers, and his video “ARE YOU GAY?? (Q&A #1)” has over 2 million views. He was 13 when he made this video last year. I think he gives a great answer to the question at around 4:35. (Note there is an expletive for the rear end at around 6:35, near the very end.) I think he’s just hilarious sometimes. C.J. for sure would be interested in his video “EVERYDAY MAKEUP ROUTINE FOR GUYS” Note that some of the comments to his videos may not be safe for C.J.’s viewing as people can post some mindless remarks.

  41. ravinj says:

    Gaydar was a survival strategy a few decades ago, when the GLBT community existed semi-underground with very limited safe spaces, when the only family too many of us could count on was our chosen family. I think your brother is spot on when it comes to CJ, he is looking for himself in others, those who are like him.

  42. Chrissy says:

    For the greatest song on gaydar ever, see Ring of Keys from FUN HOME

    • Tom says:

      After viewing this clip, I read up some about “Fun Home” and discovered it won the Tony for Best Musical for 2015. Then I found out its last Broadway performance is just a month away (Sept. 10). So my wife and I are headed to NYC over Labor Day. Oh, along with her girlfriend. After 35 years of marriage, my wife came out to me as gay a few months back.

      Not a complete surprise; I was pretty sure she had a year-long affair with another woman years ago while I was mostly working out of town. Another clue: I literally haven’t seen her in a dress since our wedding day. I asked our daughter a while back whether she had ever seen her mother in a dress, and after a bit of thought, replied “No, that’s odd, isn’t it?”. My wife is also more of a sports fan than I am.

      As far as myself, I’m bi. Fooled around with other boys in junior high and never “grew out of it” like my friends did. But also dated girls, found out I liked girl parts as well as boy parts and eventually married. (Honestly, I can’t understand why everyone isn’t bi. What’s not to like?) Had some trysts with other men myself behind the wifey’s back. Now I don’t have to feel guilty anymore.

      In the few cases where I’ve been able to rate my gaydar, it’s been 100% accurate; two boys in high school and another two in college which I were attracted to (but never approached, since I was deep in the closet) I found out later were indeed gay (one having died of AIDS).

  43. burfurtart says:

    i would just believe him. this isn’t about gaydar, really. but about sel-identification and confidence. you can ask him how he sees this or why. have him teach you the nuances. thats parrenting. allowing yourself to taught by your child. by all means, teach him discretion, but other than that, enjoy!!!

  44. bmommyx2 says:

    I am not either & to be honest I don’t know people who are (that I know of), but I think as a fellow parent you handled it well. I think your friend Jeff makes a good point. As someone who is Jewish I often fell like I notice if others are also Jewish. I guess we are all seeking our tribe, people who will understand us & we will feel safe to be around. Maybe it’s a natural instinct. I also have young children & I have noticed at school, on a playground or elsewhere when a few children who is in the minority will often hang out with a child like them, whether it’s age, gender, race or just common interests. They stick together as though they have invisible magnets. I think that all children at some point notice & sometimes vocalize things they notice that are different like a very tall, big or heavy person. I think most of us don’t know what we are doing & have to make it up as we go along. Thanks for you posts.

  45. Mom to mom, you’re doing great!

  46. TransKid says:

    Gaydar is real. So is transdar. Being gay and trans, I can definitely tell when someone else is. Pointing it out is rude, but a subtle nod lets them know they’re not alone (if they can see you). Otherwise, just let them be them.

  47. hlyle says:

    Lesbian with options here – My Gaydar works as follows: If it is a man that I am attracted to, he will be gay. If it is a woman, she will be straight. TBH though, I think a lot of the time queer people tend to have better ‘gaydar’ because I feel that many non-lgbtq people have a tendency to wear ‘straight lenses’ and see all people as straight, until proven gay. But to be REALLY honest, I’ve learned from being queer and trying to use my bestowed gaydar that it really sucks that sexuality is ever assumed. When I’m assumed to be straight because of my appearance, my girlfriend is automatically written out of my life narrative and I’m forced to “come out” to the person who has decided I’m straight, despite never having really been closeted (and then ask myself if they’re going to treat me differently). When I’ve assumed friends are gay, when they a.) Are, but aren’t ready to come out or B.) Have some deep insecurities (this… is another ball of wax) I’ve unintentionally done damage… And, also, getting sexuality policed from inside and outside of the lgbtq community for having the occasional attraction to men. Soooo…. Your parenting skills are pretty damn good, and if you’ve explained the ‘why’ part of why we can’t assume sexuality, then y’know, good to go.

  48. Deena Besson says:

    So, I am a lesbian. I really believe that I had “gaydar” from a very young age, well before I knew that I was gay. I mean like 4 years old. It felt like those were the people I wanted to be around and hang out with but I didn’t know why. Even now that I am almost 40, have been out and proud for my entire adult life, it still feels good to see other people like me out in public. Despite the amazing strides the world has made in the past few years, it is still nice to know you aren’t alone when you are the minority. Not sure about the boys, but a lot of lesbians will do the “head nod” thing when we see others.

    You are the most amazing parent ever, being so supportive of your son and striving to learn more for yourself. Just wonderful. My wife and I have a 4 year old little girl and newborn twins, and we hope we are half the parents you guys are!! Thank you for being a shining beacon in the world!!

  49. David A Morse says:

    I think everyone here has a point. CJ is at the age where kids begin to look at others. To find someone they may like to date. Nine years old is about the average age.

  50. Micheal says:

    Yes, ‘Gaydar’ does exist. It is not perfect; you can get false positives, or miss it completely, but as with all humans, we all tend to be extra sensitive to others who are more like us in some way.
    My gaydar is seldom wrong 😀
    All that said, I agree, it is not polite to publicly point-out if you think someone is LGBT, even if you’re correct.
    I am not trying to Spam or anything. I wanted to share my book with you.
    If CJ like fantasy stories with Wizards, Mystics, Kings and so on, he may like this story. One big factor in the story, is the two main characters ( the heroes if you will) are gay.
    Now, this is written in a way that is NOT sexual, or smutty, and I believe safe for kids (perhaps 13 & up) But as always I encourage parents to review it first.

  51. mdaniels4 says:

    What I’d like to see is getting rid of sexuality orientation ideas in their entirety when you don’t know the person at all. You can suppose all you want but to act as if you know does them a horrible disservice. Mannerisms, fashion, whatever should be just a token of individual expression of what a human does. Not who they are attracted to.

  52. I think “gaydar” is as much a thing as being able to see someone is a republican or a libertarian or whatever. I have a daughter who was totally without gaydar in high school. We have relatives who are gay so we have always been very open about that. But she always ended up liking the boy who was gay. Then I had to have “the talk”, every single time. I am happy to report that college helped develop her gaydar. Thank goodness!

    • mdaniels4 says:

      So it would appear to me that in this case your daughter just happened to like the guys who were maybe more sensitive or fashionable or whatever. She perhaps resonated to this because it was part of her family experience. But then she didn’t get that they were gay until they told her. Not all sensitive guys are gay at all. They’re just human

      • Deb says:

        I used to tend to fall for the gay guy. I still like men who are a bit fem in some ways.. sometimes they turn out to be gay, but not always. I accept that there are fewer options for me, but other women prefer the uber – butch ones and they are welcome to them. And the fem guys who do like girls, often like girls like me.

  53. Michelle says:

    I’ve done so much “winging it” when it comes to parenting that I should be flying by now. Luckily that one’s not an issue I’ve had to face, mostly because Jeremy barely notices people as it is. I did, however, have to teach zir to actually learn zir friends’ names instead of assigning them easier to remember ones.

    Jeremy put zir foot down when it comes to labels on sexual orientation and said, “I’m a person and I like people. I don’t want another label.” I earned tact points by not pointing out that’s pan.

    Then there was a couple of days ago when zie was listening to a song and remarked… “That song is gay. Not gay in a bad way but, mmm, gay in a good way.”

    This kid is so not straight.

  54. When I first started working years ago at K-mart (I’m m-f trans and I don’t pass well) I was walking though the store and I saw this big guy in army fatigues coming towards me. I quickly ran into the backroom and came out at a different section of the store. He was there waiting for me. I thought for sure he was going to beat me up, but instead he told me he thought I was pretty. You see he was gay. So no, you can’t always tell.

  55. I’ve learned that most of the time my ‘gaydar’ is actually an ‘openly comfortable with his not-so-masculine side dar’. And for years the difference was miniscule as very few straight guys would be such. As Jeff said, looking for validation and reassurance.

  56. Jessica Britton says:

    I see Trans people. Not constantly, but usually when I least expect it, and it’s not always a case of seeing, it’s sometimes it’s more like knowing someone trans is nearby or that I’m going to meet them somewhere, and when I do meet them, I find I’m right. Yes, it even spooks me sometimes, but sometimes, it’s comein very handy. So far, I’m batting 1000

  57. jonathanmayo says:

    In a sense, yes, I do believe gaydar exists…but in this evolving world, it’s hard to assume things. I think you handled the situation very well. Kudos to you.

  58. Riley says:

    Ha ha. My gut reaction is no, of course gaydar isn’t real – if it were that would solve a lot of dating problems! You would never have someone you have a crush on ignore you because they assume you’re straight and don’t look your way twice! But like others have said, it is true that you can be attuned to mannerisms, way of dress, significant glances, use of words, etc. that can give you an educated guess. I think it’s important to remember that a lot of the signals are similar. It really hurts to have people constantly asking you if you’re a lesbian when you’re a trans man (boy). It’s frustrating to have people ask if you’re gay when you’re not ready to be out or even when you are but want to be the one to choose when you talk about it. I’m not an expert, but I think your friend Jeff is spot-on about CJ looking for himself in other people. As a parent, I think your role is to cultivate empathy for how other people might feel, how to behave in public (not pointing and declaring things about other people), but also creating a private space for CJ where he can be happy about seeing other people that he resonates with. That is a powerful and exciting thing for a kid (and adults too). I think you’re handling it well!

  59. Rick says:

    I am glad he is honing his defense mechanisms. When he get alittle older he will use it to identify “safe” people to open up to or ask on a date. Later on he will use his powers to identify potential mates. Even now as a 50+ year old gay man in a middle sized city in Florida I often come accross people like myself and acknowledge each other with a smile and a nod of the head.

  60. Larry Newman says:

    I’m 54 and I have always discreetly pointed out other gays to my friends and now to my husband. A long time ago my friends and i invented a code word for it: dut-duh-duh. We’ll use that in place of gay in conversations so no one knows what we are talking about. Also, if I see someone very gay and very attractive I will use the term “Dut-duh-duh boom-boom crash”.

  61. May says:

    Yes, but also no. I think often queerness can be read, but what one person might see as evidence of a particular sexuality might actually be indications of gender identity, neurodiversity or some other kind of “otherness”. I agree that CJ is probably spotting these signs of “otherness” which map with his own identity, and that’s great. It wasn’t until I was out of my teens that I started seeing media depictions, and later real life examples, of the kind of woman I knew I wanted to be (I am often read as straight, as is my girlfriend, and we have life goals that would be fairly typical for a standard cis-het nuclear family). It was hugely affirming; until that point I’d only seen examples of butch lesbians or lesbians who didn’t want children and rejected anything that smacked of the patriarchy. It’s so important to know you’re not alone. I think you’re doing a great job winging this parenting jive 🙂

  62. chloealexa says:

    Much as Ken says, ” but as the subtle noticings and sense of mutual recognition that so often occur, and often proves accurate.” I accepted many in High School as friends that were gay, including my best buddy. That from a hidden Trans person.

  63. PibbityBibbity says:

    As a 51 year old gay man, out since I was 19, I can say that gaydar does exist, but it’s not some secret superpower like “Spidey-sense” or anything like that. It basically depends on how observant you are of human behavior. There are certain things that most heterosexual men do not do and prolonged eye contact with an unknown male in public–even just a few seconds too long–can be a dead giveaway. Men (straight & gay) tend to be visually attracted to people first (think about it ladies, how heterosexual men usually are pretty blatant about checking out women in public), but growing up in the closet teaches you to be discreet about it. I can spot a guy checking another guy out in public in a heartbeat, no matter how discreet they try to be.

    That being said, it’s not always accurate. Although human behavior is usually a good indicator, it can also lead to stereotyping, which I try to avoid. And let’s face it, “gaydar” can just be wishful thinking sometimes. No matter how much my gaydar tells me that Chris Pratt is gay, my brain knows that I am living in a delusional wonderland when it comes to him. Plus, I love his wife, Anna Faris, and they make an amazing couple!

    Worst defect of gaydar? I am one of those people who NEVER KNOWS when someone is attracted to me. They pretty much have to draw me a picture, hand it to me, and then explain it to me like I’m a somewhat unintelligent toddler. It’s maddening.

    • Mickey says:

      I was going to post a reply VERY similar to this (all the way down to the 51 year old gay man part)… so I won’t bother to repeat – just confirm. I would add that I know how I respond to someone whom I find attractive, even if it is only wistful admiration from afar. So I can usually spot that same response in others. And I concur on all of the stuff about how differently a gay man’s body language is with other men as compared to straight men. It’s sometimes subtle but it’s there.

      I look forward to the day when such distinctions are blurred to the point where we no longer notice them, nor care to.

    • j9tigger says:

      Me too, except that I am a 49 year old Bi woman… I can spot obvious gay and lesbian, femme is a little tougher for me, but anyone flirting with me? I miss it completely…

  64. Chrystal says:

    Gaydar totally does exist! For me, it is sometimes about mannerisms, but mostly when I see people interacting, it is about how they relate physically to people of the same gender – how close they stand, what their body language is… it’s hard to explain – it is truly just a sense I get. As for the parenting, I think you did just fine. Most 9 year olds need to be told something about behavior *at least* 3 times before it sinks in! 🙂

  65. Ken says:

    Yesterday, at the grocery store after church, we were buying some roasted corn salad at the deli to go with our sandwiches for lunch. We’re 60-ish. The 30-ish man who waited on us was very helpful, and looked us in the eye and responded to our questions in a way that was not the usual counter person manner. He was both patient, and a bit bemused as we dithered between options… clearly two “old married” men. It wasn’t any sort of flirtation. Just a nice openness. “Family?” I whispered to my husband as we walked away. “Probably.” he answered. I do believe in gaydar… not in some sixth sense way, but as the subtle noticings and sense of mutual recognition that so often occur, and often proves accurate.

    • jvoor says:

      The code “family” is one of my favorites. I will sometimes ask my fellow queer friends if they think someone we see in public is “family.”

      • bestpi says:

        That was going to be my suggestion as well. It’s discrete and does not take the chance in outing someone. And THAT should be your concern when pointing someone out in public. Suggest to him that it is taking away that person’s right and possibly their security.

    • “Family” is how my wife and I refer to people that we notice, as well. I agree with your explanation of gaydar; when one has spent a large amount of time around others in the community, you pick up on things that become tell-tale signs.

      I think that C.J. has begun to pick up on those very things, and it feels good to him to see himself in others, and to have representation. I think you’re doing a great job, Mama!

  66. Suz says:

    I’m 40. I’m always looking for gay people because yep I’m always looking for someone like me. Except I can’t tell anyone because I’m not out. And while I ‘think’ I see gay people I can’t actually be sure because I can’t ask them! CJ is lucky to have a mom like you.

  67. cmschoonover says:

    I’m pansexual. i just love and am attracted to people in general. men, women, neither, both…
    i don’t think I’ve ever been wrong with ‘Gaydar’, with some of my friends, guys who dated girls, girls who dated guys…I knew Yearssssssssss before they came out that they were gay or bi. I’ve only ever been surprised by one person

    • Deb C says:

      I remember how in early days of this blog you thought CH was “probably gay”. Then you began to explore the possibility that he could be trans, and you introduced him to kids like him, and some of them wanted to transition, and you gradually helped him to find his own language, aand for a long time that was ” I’m a boy who likes girl stuff” and that was enough. He didn’t seem to apply the word gay to himself but he did learn the concept. Perhaps he is now thinking about that concept more, and who it does and doesn’t apply to.

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