It’s impossible to figure out if someone’s gay

The recent brouhaha over questions surrounding anti-gay GOP Cong. Aaron Schock’s sexual orientation have caused some to question the very notion of gaydar – namely, the idea that it’s possible to look at someone and, by reading a series of sometimes subtle tea leaves, discern if they are gay.


I want to say right now that I join those who are outraged over the stereotypical notion that you can look at someone’s clothing, or the way they speak, or the manner in which they decorate their home, and magically figure out if that person is gay.


Who has ever heard of such a thing?


Short of someone telling you they’re gay, or catching them in the act, it is impossible to read any cultural or behavioral tea leaves and figure out that that person is gay.


By the way, love the cape.

(I’m told that in order to better see my Facebook posts in your feed, you need to “follow” me.)

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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99 Responses to “It’s impossible to figure out if someone’s gay”

  1. Jim Olson says:

    I have stories to tell about the 90’s. ;)

  2. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    Yes, that would be the place. I have lived here less than twenty years, but they have attempted to update the place.

  3. Jim Olson says:

    Minneapolis? I know that place. I went to graduate school in the Twin Cities.

  4. Stev84 says:

    Always shoving it into people’s faces.

  5. Glenn I says:

    I think I have a kind of “gay” voice … but I’m sometimes mistaken for my straight brother on the phone (maybe he’s really bi?) … and now I have a coworker (also straight – but with a gay brother!) who I’m frequently mistaken for on the phone. I’m sure if they could only see me, my flamboyant gestures would give me away!

  6. karmanot says:

    Two snaps and bobble head—well done!

  7. karmanot says:

    Ben Cohen

  8. karmanot says:

    rotfl Cat doing wheelies

  9. karmanot says:

    I had the same problem, so I retired and opened up a leather charm school.

  10. Julian Battle says:


  11. Your comment made me think of my favorite Onion story, going all the way back to 1998 (you probably shouldn’t click through if you’re at the office):,10861/

  12. 2patricius2 says:

    Thanks. I will check out the book.

  13. Naja pallida says:

    Care to share your apparent first-hand knowledge?

  14. Yes I’m often much gayer than I am friendly :-)

  15. dcinsider says:

    By the way, your opinion on when its appropriate to out is certainly yours to have and express, but your criticisms of an obviously satiric article about the mouth-breathing morons who try to tell us, your elders and the people who gave you your rights through our sacrifice and hard work — you’re welcome by the way — about how we are to behave within the community we created is what is disgraceful, childish, and stereotypical.

    Now off with you before someone drops a house on you!

  16. dcinsider says:

    I think John is more gay than gay friendly :)

  17. Cody Reed says:

    Jason Manford mentioned the same thing in his latest concert DVD, when he was also discussing Brokeback Mountain ^_^

  18. Strepsi says:

    Subliminal body language: instead of moving your hips forward, so you lead with the pelvis, try rotating your hips backward, so your rear lifts into the air. Instead of dancing with a thrusting motion, learn to twerk. And if all else fails, do a splits on the floor and pull your body forward by your arms, dragging your ass across the carpet like a bitch in heat.

  19. Strepsi says:

    ‘Liberace is an over-the-top example and not representative of how all or most gay men behave” Oh Jeez, I know your type: you stand beside the Pride Parade tut-tutting about how the media only ever focus on “those” gays, and how come they can’t portray “normal” ones…

    You are right on about sexuality, and I do believe sexuality is far more fluid and complicated than gay/straight. Politically, it was useful, necessary even, to have a gay identity to establish our community, but I suspect we may be entering a post-gay-identity era with a fluid spectrum beyond gay OR straight. But that crazy spectrum does include flaming queens!

    But no, by outing a closeted politician who has directly harmed the lives of thousands of gay people, John is not part of the problem,

  20. kingstonbears says:

    Liberace, a top? LOLOLOL

  21. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    Works both ways. A friend and I have developed a “skit” about two tops on a date. Neither one will turn his back on the other. It finally evolves into negotiations that aren’t going to work.

  22. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    That’s easy. They do it to impress some other woman or women.

  23. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    I’ve been there. We have a complex called the 90s. There is a restaurant on the bottom floor. I was there one evening with a couple of friends, when a beautiful vision walked in. I normally do not pay much attention to men under thirty, but this guy was stunning. I couldn’t stop looking at him. Eventually it sunk in that he was a she. I felt like crying in my salad.

  24. Anon Y Mouse says:

    Gaydar…I don’t care about. I just wish other gay men would stop assuming I’m a Top. Went to a lavish party where the birthday boy froze up on me when he learned I wasn’t the kind that’s gonna give him the gift he’d hoped I’d give him ; this was not the first time this kind of thing has happend. I do keys and hankies and, now, a friend gave me a tee shirt with one word printed on it—white letters on black. Maybe it’s the crowd I circulate in but, oh god, maybe Phyllis Schlafly is right and I’m sending out subliminal signals or something…

  25. Jim Olson says:


  26. Jim Olson says:

    Oh, one of them broke my heart once.

  27. karmanot says:

    OMG! Please get informed as soon as possible.

  28. karmanot says:

    I found that to be true in the middle East as well.

  29. karmanot says:

    I still have a thirty year old collection of size 31, button fly black levies. Maybe the Smithsonian will take them.

  30. devlzadvocate says:

    Tumbler, I’m sure.

  31. devlzadvocate says:


  32. Thanks, will look at it in the morning

  33. devlzadvocate says:

    Agreed. Those are the gays that taste bad.

  34. Of course, we all know there are bad gays, and most of them vote republican, but not all.

  35. I’ve known lots of guys who open their mouth and you immediately know they’re gay. So I’m not understanding your point. You mean you haven’t? Really? As for your second point about humans sexuality being complicated, yes it is. Though I’m at pains to understand what that has to d with anything I wrote.

  36. devlzadvocate says:

    There are no bad gays. Just gays with bad taste.

  37. devlzadvocate says:

    So, if there are 20 guys together in a room and and Kate Upton walks in ala Sports Illustrated cover and 19 turn and stare, I guess the only one who doesn’t look is just blind? Cuz I gotta say, I just had my eye exam and I have 20/20 and I wouldn’t do a turn cuz I am a big queer. And if I did happen to see her, I might comment that her BF is hot.

  38. Hue-Man says:

    Male African truck drivers getting HIV infections from unprotected sex with female sex workers is the ONLY reason that circumcision of male infants is being touted as an HIV prevention strategy. The research claimed that circumcised men were less likely to get HIV. Unstated but assumed was that circumcision did not affect HIV transmission to the women (or to a male sex partner).

  39. You mean Liberace is a bad gay?

  40. Houndentenor says:

    It’s easily the gayest show on tv in the 60s. Even the premise of the show can be read as gay subtext. (Samantha tries to appear to be something other than what she is.) And then there’s Paul Lynde. I mean really.

  41. Houndentenor says:

    Alison Arngrim (who played Nellie Olsen on Little House on the Prairie) has some funny observations on this. Her father was Liberace’s manager and she admits that even as a child she thought it was hilarious that everyone pretended they didn’t like that Lee was gay. (The book is called Confessions of a Prairie Bitch. It’s hilarious and a great read. It definitely references gay topics since her father was gay and her TV husband and best friend was too.)

  42. wildwildwest says:

    And I was almost killed by the cutest lesbian ever, at a lesbian bar. I thought she was the cutest (boy) thang playing pool; she didn’t appreciate it. I still don’t get it: why some women go to such great lengths trying to look like the cutest boy ever and then…

  43. hatedar says:

    I think if you are an elected official legislating how others can live their lives, then being outed (in only this case) is fair game. However this article is disgraceful, childish, and stereotypical (Liberace is an over-the-top example and not representative of how all or most gay men behave.) It’s also completely dismissing the idea that human sexuality might be a bit more complicated than everyone falling into gay or straight camps. In short, you are part of the problem, no matter how gay friendly you consider yourself.

  44. 4th Turning says:

    My West Virginia born grandma watched every week and I think thought he was winking at her
    and no one else.
    A odd memory but all this silliness aside, John, please steer us back to planet Earth and help get
    Terry’s interview with Masha Gessen into increased circulation and public consciousness…
    My heart be hurtin’ for our brothers and sisters over there.

  45. olandp says:

    That is no where near true. You are either ignorant or shamelessly ill informed.

  46. David Campbell says:

    Such fol-de-rol and fiddle-dee-dee of course is, impossible.

  47. pappyvet says:

    Totally agree. So I will not be getting rid of my chaps anytime soon.

  48. UncleBucky says:

    Impossible. ;o)

  49. usagi says:

    I see what you did there…

  50. Vegas Dave says:

    If Liberace was a top, the chances of him getting HIV would have been slim to non-existant

  51. TampaZeke says:

    Like a White Christmas?

  52. jdeisenberg says:

    Research says male sexual orientation is accurately perceived at 50 ms:

  53. TampaZeke says:

    Your gay-dar probably isn’t as strong as you think either. You just don’t realize that some of the people that never ping your gay-dar are actually gay.

  54. TampaZeke says:

    Why did you have pictures of Marcus Bachmann peppered through your post?

  55. Tor says:

    I think mine is really getting rusty. I think everyone I meet these days is gay, until I am told they are not!

  56. Naja pallida says:

    If you believe Behind The Candelabra, which I’m sure had plenty of artistic license, Liberace was among those who believed you weren’t “gay” unless you were a bottom. As long as you were a top, there was no reason to even consider it.

  57. karmanot says:


  58. karmanot says:


  59. jm2 says:

    you are sooooo bad! i love it…

    “Who started this SHE sh*t,” he asked.
    “SHE did,” they all said in unison pointing at my friend Albert.

    don’t you wish they’d go back to the pocket handkerchiefs? made life so much easier…

  60. 2patricius2 says:

    Surely you’re not saying that Liberace was gay….He denied he was….

    My gaydar is not perfect, but some people are pretty obvious.

  61. Monoceros Forth says:

    Scott Thorson got them as part of the settlement.

  62. Monoceros Forth says:

    Blimey. Liberace playing a gangster? After watching it, though, I’d say his mob boss seems a bit more like Lee J. Cobb than Eddie G. Robinson.

  63. emjayay says:

    I read a book about this stuff recently by a guy who is now a prof somewhere in the Midwest including what he learned about attitudes and understanding of camp concepts of his straight as well as gay midwestern students today. It was interesting but disorganized. If the Brooklyn Public Library website “Reading History” function worked, I’d tell you what it was.

  64. Cletus says:

    I think my “gay-dar” is pretty strong. My “les-dar”, not so much. I’ve often fallen in love at first sight with women I eventually learned were gay. Very frustrating…

  65. cole3244 says:

    the only thing appearance tells you for sure is if someone is different and probably not in the mainstream of society, that alone opens them up to ridicule if not harassment from a culture that treats individuality with contempt and fear if it falls outside of the mainstream.
    gay men say they can tell but as a straight man i can’t i can only notice and some that do that will act negatively and attempt to show they’re macho by treating an innocent person with disrespect and contempt.
    as i have said before i get a negative feeling from someone in a three piece suit or bigoted displays before anything else, but that’s just my bias revealing itself, silent & non violent.

  66. BeccaM says:

    How very, very true. lol!

  67. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    With so many people being out, the need for gaydar may slowly slip away. It might slowly become an unused skill. I bet Schock wishes it had already disappeared by now.

  68. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    Well, that was interesting.

  69. Tor says:

    That’s a sweet story. I hope your mother did not go to bed and have nightmares that night.

  70. Tor says:

    In the old days we honed our gaydar to find sexual partners when we were not in reliably gay districts, not to out public figures. There are some that can be identified without gaydar at all.

  71. Aaron_000 says:

    I have been a huge Liberace fan since I was a little boy. I remember seeing a commercial for a concert special being broadcast on TV. I loved the sparkling chandeliers, the stunning outfits, the lights, the decked out piano, long fur coat, his car.. Everything about the commercial had me fascinated and so drawn to him. I was about 9 or 10 years old and I literally begged my mom to let me stay up and watch the show. Listening to him play piano that night, I fell in love with him and his music. He played Fantasie Impromptu by Chopin and it left me in tears. At some point during the show I told Mom that I loved him and wanted to be just like him.

    I think that night I erased what little doubt my family had that I was anything other than gay. I like to tell people that Liberace made me gay but I knew years before. :)

  72. Strepsi says:

    LOL @ “if I weren’t able to peg Aaron Schock.”

  73. Strepsi says:

    I would absolutely love to see a REAL movie about “Bewitched” (not the Nora Ephron abomination) because its creation must have been fascinating.

    Very nearly every single person in it, from Dick Sargent to Paul Lynde to ALice Ghostley to the fabulous Agnes Moorehead, was gay!

  74. Strepsi says:

    “The one time the butler nearly messed up was when he was distracted for a second by the assistant/maid.” Those damn heteros ruining it for everybody. This is why we can’t have nice things.

  75. Strepsi says:

    @ jomicur +1000.
    Why just this Christmas the butcher and I instantly flirted and even eye-fucked right in front of my mother, who was later *shocked* to hear he was gay, with a resigned “These things always go over my head”.

  76. Rick Roberts says:

    That is an image I could have done without.

  77. Rick Roberts says:

    I have excellent gaydar, and I have always been able to tell, even if there were no stereotypical gay queues. They would take away my gay license if I weren’t able to peg Aaron Schock.

  78. That would be stereotypical of you;

  79. Strepsi says:

    lol. As does that this was the cover he made for his first book. A straight man just would not draw this picture. He just wouldn’t.

  80. karmanot says:

    If it can turn a double-wide into Versailles, it’s gay.

  81. jomicur says:


  82. jomicur says:

    Not only am I rarely surprised to learn someone’s gay, but I am CONSTANTLY surprised that other gay men can spot me a block away. I’m not at all stereotypically gay, more of a butch bear type (though I hate the term bear), to the point where I’ve had a good number of straight people refuse to believe I’m gay when I came out to them. Yet other gay men seem able to tell who and what I am with no trouble at all. They’re clearly picking up on something straight people miss completely. And if that isn’t gaydar, what on earth do we call it?

  83. On HBO

  84. karmanot says:

    Never look under a satin Mumu.

  85. karmanot says:

    The bronze eye shadow helps.

  86. BeccaM says:

    Must’ve practiced a ton. If you notice, Liberace stops at exactly the same mark every time, at the corner of the piano, to take off his cape, cloak, or overcoat, and with roughly the same number of beats from entrance, to stop, to removal. The one time the butler nearly messed up was when he was distracted for a second by the assistant/maid.

  87. PeteWa says:

    or bright and cheerful!

  88. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    If they find those photos, feel free to keep them to yourself.

  89. PeteWa says:

    what was the point of showing us all those photos of some random raging heterosexual in Aaron Schock’s clothes?

  90. Island In The Sky says:

    I can’t get over how perfectly timed each clip is of the gentleman opening the doors, taking Lib’s coat (who hands it to his assistant), then steps back and closes the doors…

  91. Strepsi says:

    LOL John.
    Never mind the rhinestones: even in a suit and shirt, even with a cigar, I can tell, always could.

  92. BeccaM says:

    Liberace, Paul Lynde, Charles Nelson Reilly, Billy Jean King… Even before I knew what ‘gay’ was, I knew those folks did not conform to the usual societal demands.

  93. Anonymous says:

    But where are the photos of Liberace having gay sex, the thing that makes you gay?

  94. worfington says:

    If there is no such thing as gaydar, why am I very rarely suprised to learn someone is gay?

  95. mirror says:

    Oh no! I just checked it out on youtube. It’s a two-parter! There’s a great season where the two characters are talking to eachother on a split screen.

  96. atalex says:

    I remember when Liberace was on Batman. He played two characters. One was a thinly disguised parody of himself with all his normal mannerisms. The other was the first character’s evil twin brother, a mobster who spent the whole episode doing an aggressively hetero Edward G. Robinson impression. It was a hoot (which is not a word I use lightly).

  97. OhCanadian says:

    Could mean that it’s “lighthearted and carefree.”.

  98. teddy partridge says:

    Thank you, AmericaBlogGAY. Can you weigh in about whether someone who puts the word “GAY” in his blog-name is gay, though? I can’t tell based on *that* can I? ;)

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