Whether you said it out loud or managed to respectfully keep it inside your head, we’ve all done it before: assuming we know someone’s sexuality just from looking at them. And many of us correlated this perceived ‘ability’ with having ‘a good gaydar’. Which, it turns out, isn’t true – and it can actually be really damaging.
“Most people think of stereotyping as inappropriate,” explains William Cox, the lead author.“But if you’re not calling it ‘stereotyping,’ if you’re giving it this other label and camouflaging it as ‘gaydar,’ it appears to be more socially and personally acceptable.”
“If you tell people they have gaydar, it legitimises the use of those stereotypes. There was a subset of people who were personally very prejudiced, but they didn’t want other people to think that they were prejudiced. They tended to express prejudice only when they could get away with it.”“Imagine that 100 per cent of gay men wear pink shirts all the time, and 10 per cent of straight men wear pink shirts all the time. Even though all gay men wear pink shirts, there would still be twice as many straight men wearing pink shirts. So, even in this extreme example, people who rely on pink shirts as a stereotypic cue to assume men are gay will be wrong two-thirds of the time.”