Gaydar is your ability to spot other gay people in places that are crawling with non-gays… so pretty much everywhere.

But how does it work exactly? Do we discern the “gayness” of other women going based on appearance (alternative haircuts, flannel, any and all Tegan and Sara merchandise, length of fingernails, and so on) or is it something that we just feel? “Gay vibes” if you will. And given the fact that we don’t always assume other people’s sexual orientations correctly, is the concept of gaydar even legitimate?

In my quest for answers, I conducted a series of highly scientific studies over a two year period. I didn’t eat or sleep until I uncovered the truth about gaydar once and for all. Just kidding. I asked a few lesbians to share their thoughts on the matter with me, and this is what they had to say:

  1. “I don’t think gaydar is perfect, but there have been a few times when I’ve looked at someone and thought “you must be gay” and it turned out she was. I always check fingernails of course, but more than appearance I think watching the way she interacts with other women is a big hint. Even when we’re not flirting or checking a woman out, I’ve noticed that lesbians treat other women differently than straight women do. I’m not sure exactly what the difference is, but it’s definitely there.” – Tia, 27
  2.  “Mine is awful. I can never tell if a woman is gay or not. I wonder sometimes but I can never tell by “feel” or appearance. Appearance is too subjective to be a sign anymore.” – Gabi, 21
  3. I don’t think gaydar is a thing in the sense that we can look at someone and immediately know, but I think it’s very likely true that we learn to subconsciously pick up mannerisms and clues to detect each other. Like Tia (above) said, it’s more than just appearance, it’s almost like a different vibe? Obviously sometimes appearance factors into it, especially for butches, but in general I feel like [lesbians] just talk and carry ourselves differently.” – Journey, 28
  4. Usually if I interact with a woman for at least five minutes, I think I get a fairly good read of it. Eye contact is key. A good majority of lesbians make very direct eye contact. I’m not sure if it’s intentional or not, but it’s there. Posture can say a lot too. Like others have said, lesbians seem to carry [ourselves] differently. I think it has to do with not caring about or catering to the male gaze. During the fall, it can be harder to tell because just about everybody’s dressing in flannel anyway, but even then, gay girls have a different way of styling it. I’ve definitely gotten better with gaydar over the years.” – Juliette, 26
  5. Gaydar is a glance held a little longer than necessary, a silent nod of recognition, styles we have cultivated to help us see one another, seeing a woman who unapologetically takes up physical and vocal space, noticing women who focus their energy on other women in all capacities.” – Olivia, 24
  6. I’ve yet to understand if my gaydar senses are accurate or just wishful thinking. Any woman whose coolness makes me blush .. gay.” – Emily, 25
  7. “I have zero gaydar, like I can’t even tell which guys are gay anymore, let alone who’s a lesbian. I also don’t get read as a lesbian. I’ve asked friends and dates why they’ve thought this and me being femme is probably the number one indicator, but it’s also mostly about mannerisms. In my experience I think gaydar is largely based on stereotypical looks and activities that just aren’t me. I find it a crutch honestly and would rather hit on who I like and then deal with the orientation issue.” – Jules, 25
  8. “I definitely believe in it. It’s a lot to do with clothing and speech and body language and also possibly something more spiritual. It has gotten a bit harder though, more hipsters and art students are starting to look like lesbians from a distance.” – Brenna 

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