That’s the short answer. Of course, it isn’t as simple as that. Being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community and living a thrilling, freeing gay life every day, you start to pick up some skills. One of those is picking out your fellow brothers and sisters before you’ve even met them. What I’m talking about is a “gaydar.” It’s a popular phrase, coined somewhere in the 1990s, but some say it was first heard in the show “Futurama.” I tried to do some research, but it was all very limited. So if you find out where it comes from, let me know. But back to this article! A gaydar is a tool one possesses in sensing someone else’s sexuality. I’m sure if you’re reading this blog, you know exactly what I’m talking about. But if you don’t – it might be time to get out of the house more often – but I’ll do you a favor this time and help you out a little bit.
A gaydar is one of the most pertinent tools a gay can have in their arsenal, right next to the movie soundtrack of the 2008 hit musical adaptation of Mamma Mia and a crop top hoodie. A gaydar can be the difference between a great night out and an embarrassing brush at the bar (if you’re 21 or older in the United States, and 19 or older in Canada. Don’t underage drink kids, I will find you and end you). Although a gaydar can be helpful in finding your fellow people, it is can also be dangerous. A gaydar could be the thin line between you and finding out one of your friends is in the closet.
It sounds kind of basic, but in one of these situations, you have to be careful. Coming out of the closet is a very delicate and intimate process and if the natural course is interrupted it could be quite detrimental to the other party. So while a gaydar is a useful tool we have in our queer belt, it must be used wisely. As excited as you might be to have a new friend in the community, it’s important to head a couple pieces of advice when lurking around in another person’s closet:
Number one: don’t acknowledge that you know. Right now what they need are space and time. The last thing they need is to be outed, that is not good. So even if it hurts you in your soul to see that they aren’t living their life the best way it could possibly be, that is ok. If it’s meant to happen, it will. It is their choice, not yours and it is important that you show them the respect to take their own personal journey. You just have to accept it. If they aren’t ready, that’s completely reasonable. So lay back, relax and don’t get your dance belt into a twist.
Number two: be their resident closet tour guide. I just coined that phrase, so first of all – you’re welcome. Second of all, a resident closet tour guide is – someone who inconspicuously leads your closeted friend into the rainbow light. That sounds a bit manipulative now that I’m reading this back. But I promise that is not my intention and it should, in no way, be yours. Now, when I say “be their resident closet tour guide,” I’m not saying drag your friend to a gay bar against their will. Take baby steps with them. If you take them out shopping, encourage them to go out of their comfort zone. Pick out some pastel shirts or patterned shirts for them. If they don’t like them, that’s fine, not their style, but you never know! You may help them find their true style and that is priceless. Another way of guiding them is by playing Tinder with them. If you’re both just chillin’ at a coffee shop, on the subway, or going for a walk, pull out your Tinder and let them help you swipe through eternity. It’s your Tinder and your life so it’s in no way putting any pressure on them, and at the same way maybe they’ll begin to see the beauty and the fun of being a part of the gay community. Also – be open and communicative about your own experiences. By opening up your own heart and being honest with them, it helps create the safe space they might need to feel comfortable enough to come out. You can’t be their resident closet tour guide if you don’t allow your friend to feel like they can connect to your own spirit.
Which leads us to Number three: On top of being a spirit guide, simply be the best friend that they need. If they open up and need to talk about something, be there for them! If they’re having a bad day, go to Starbucks/Tim Hortons/Dunkin Donuts/Wawa/Speedway/Sheetz/Sunoco and get them their favorite drink! Let them know that there is someone in their life who is 100% there for them. As we all know, being in the closet is scary and you feel like you are all alone in this battle. Prove to them that this isn’t true. We all have friends and family who love and care about us, so be there for them and let them know that they have a supportive, shining star looking out for their best interest and that they are a shining star as well.
Before I leave all you lovely humans, we’re gonna shift into a more serious tone and get real. These are all very helpful tips and I encourage you to use them. But I really need to stress the importance of NOT OUTING SOMEONE. There is nothing worse in the world than forcing someone into a situation where they feel completely vulnerable and scared. I cannot tell you how extremely important it is to let them figure it out for themselves. It will happen if it is meant to. But there is a reason they have not come out yet and you should respect that. I recently discovered that a few years ago while I was on a cruise, with most of my extended family, one of my cousins suspected I was gay. They started telling my other cousins her suspicions and apparently was going to confront me and the rest of the family about them. Luckily, my other cousins knew better and stopped her before she could do it. At that time I was still dating my old girlfriend and I had absolutely no intentions of coming out. I knew that I liked men at the time so she was one-hundred percent right. But I can only imagine the embarrassment and horror I would’ve had to face. The fear I felt when coming out was a cognisant decision was plenty enough for me. I can truly only imagine.
But unfortunately, not everyone has to imagine. Back in 2016, Shahmir Shanni was publicly outed by a former political aide, Stephen Parkinson. Stonewall, an LGBT rights charity, wrote an article about it on their website and put it quite elegantly in saying that, “telling someone about your sexuality or gender identity must always be a personal decision. No person has the right to take that decision away. Publicly outing someone robs that person of the chance to define who they are in their own terms if they even want to. In extreme cases – as in this one – it can also put the lives of that person and their loved ones in danger.” Shahmir’s family had to take urgent measures to ensure their safety. Outing someone does not just affect the single target it’s being directed towards, but can easily affect the lives of those around them. You never, ever, ever truly know what someone is going through. Although sometimes outing someone only leads to an embarrassing day or week. There can serious repercussions to a person’s mental and physical state. I’ve heard of people being disowned by family members, getting kicked out of houses, and even committing suicide. All because someone chose to take away their power and make a decision for them that was not theirs to make.
So moving forward from this article, I hope you enjoyed it and I hope it was a smidgen of a bit helpful. Whether you are gay, straight, bi, in the closet, out of the closet or walking through the closet. Remember to always be respectful and kind. Have a lovely day and go eat your favorite foods!
John (he/him/his) is a 22 year old recent graduate of SUNY Fredonia with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Arts. He is a current YouTuber and hopes to become a strong voice in the LGBTQIA+ community. Being a gay man, he wants to encourage the younger generations to love and accept themselves just as they are.