Gaydar: A Real Thing Scientists Studied - NBC Bay Area

Gaydar: A Real Thing Scientists Studied

Gaydar doesn't always work perfectly.



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    Gaydar -- that uncanny ability to determine someone's sexually in a split-second judgment -- is a real thing, according to a study on the subject released this week. And that's really offensive, some LGBT advocates said.

    The University of Washington study -- in which participants were shown a photo of a person for about 50 milliseconds, then asked to judge whether they were gay or straight (bisexuals took the day off) -- was published in the Public Library of Science. The results were a better than 50-50: Men's sexuality was  guessed accurately 57 percent of the time, and women's sexual leanings were correctly arrived at 64 percent of the time, according to the Bay Citizen.

    Exactly how or why these "snap judgments" were made is still unclear: Researchers aren't sure if it's the eyes, nose or mouth "are the telltale sign or if it’s how the features are configured on the face," the Bay Citizen reported. What is clear is that people are angry that the issue was studied at all.

    "There’s real harm that can happen when we allow people to make assumptions," said Cathy Renna, a gay-rights advocate. "The reality is it is very easy to stay in the closet and not have people know you are LGBT. There are thousands upon thousands of people who have done it for years and decades."

    And what does it mean, whether or not someone's impression is accurate? Less discrimination, more? Whatever it means, the snap judgments were sometimes wrong, meaning nobody's gaydar is perfect. Yet.