Late Nite FDL: How’s Your Gaydar?
We used the word "faggot" all the time where I grew up. When our dog would hump someone's leg, my father called it "faggotry." He once told me a story of when he was in Korea and his unit beat up a "faggot" with a broom stick, though he didn't take part. Dad always hated violence, and never talks about the war itself. At the same time, he never questioned his assumptions about "faggotry" until I came out.
Now, maybe we were hypersensitive, hyperdefensive little preadolescent boys in my 'hood, but even we had some rudimentary gaydar. Disco, to us, was "gay," so we went the other route and got into Southern rock, in suburban Long Island of all places (compensation, much?). We had George Michael pegged with the first Wham! hit, too.
The all-boys Catholic high school I attended for two years was in fact a wayward home for the sexually confused and questioning, with only a rare few courageous enough to be fabulous. I was never much the fabulous type, so the combined effects of my basic style, my ability to deceive myself and my ignorant understanding of all gay men as swishy girly wannabes helped me run "successfully" from my identity for a couple of decades. Took a while, but I finally grew up in my thirties.
Denial is not a mix a man can sustain indefinitely; something's eventually got to give. There are men who make a full compartmentalized, double life of this sort of thing, and others who ultimately decide integrity and authenticity are the better option. Once I came out and got to know many more gay men of all types, my gaydar became rather acute.
When my partner and I go out, we notify each other when we spot other gay folks, but we do it in code. Ever play "Marco Polo" when you were a kid? My partner and I play "Marco Homo." When one of us spots a likely member of the "family," he says sotto voce, "Marco!," causing the other to scan the vicinity for the suspect. Once spotted, and if the other concurs with the assessment, the proper response is "Homo." Practically speaking, we've begun to leave off the last part, just in case anyone can hear us. We still say "Marco!" though.
I'm not sure why we do this. Maybe we do it to amuse ourselves, or maybe we do it to assess how gay friendly an environment might be. I've never been gay bashed or attacked, but I have friends who have, so it's still good to be a bit wary.
Here's the thing, though: my gaydar for the generation of men now under thirty is not very damn good, and I don't trust it much. Sure, I can still spot some "family" members, but guys of that generation are much less uptight about their sexuality than we were growing up, and so they don't do as much to ghettoize themselves along the coded landscape of mannerism, dress, grooming, eye contact and je ne sais quoi that collectively used to signal "gay" or "straight."
Some of these young fussy straight bois groom themselves meticulously nowadays, the way gay guys did exclusively a short time ago. Also, now that I'm not as young and pretty as I used to be, I don't catch many telltale looks in my direction that used to tip me off to other gay men. The quick, furtive flash of desire in the eyes is as unmistakable as it is infallible, but I don't get much mileage out of that anymore. Eh, that's okay. I'm happily
married partnered. Bagged my limit, as the hunters say (and boy, was I a hunter. . . lots of catching up to do when you get started in your thirties).
So, how's your gaydar? Do you have any? Do you notice any trends or changes in the ways men and women relate to their bodies, their identities or their public personas? Do you notice anything in the people you know, especially the generation coming up, that might suggest a loosening of strict adherence to constricted norms of masculinity or femininity? What does it mean to be a man or woman, and how are men and women alike or different, in your view? Let's take it up in the comments.
And oh, there's really no reason I selected the video clip above of Lindsay Graham talking about sausage. Why do you ask?