Sunday, 30 May 2010

I see you baby...

Do you believe in Gaydar (and I don't mean the popular hook-up website or its affiliate digital radio station)? I mean the unspoken connection between two gay people that instantly allows them to recognise one another as 'like minded individuals'.

For years, people have struggled to explain what exactly gaydar is. Some people mistakenly mischaracterise it as the fleeting acknowledgment of mutual attraction, but they're missing the point.

The ability to recognise a kindred spirit involves much more than just blind luck or a vigorous libido. It's a heady combination of instantaneous signals and mirrors, almost invisible to the naked eye. Failing that, garish colours and a swishy walk can also be a dead giveaway.

Nonetheless, the unexplained mystery that is 'gaydar' has long perplexed some of our brightest minds. As a result, hundreds of hours that could have been spent getting waxed or crunching abs at the gym, have been frittered away in shapeless lab-coats, by boffins desperate to decipher a code that would even have Robert langdon scratching his head.

Over the years, scientists have looked at ambidextrous ability, finger length, spatial reasoning and even the clockwise swirl of our hair, to try and identify what make someone 'look gay'. It was so much easier back in the day, when all it took was a George Michael earring and a handlebar moustache that you could hide brunch in.

As time marched on the explanations started to get more and more ludicrous, rather like the Rocky sequels. So thank heavens for the Dutch scientists who have managed to reintroduce some logic to their somewhat intangible field of study. Examining how heterosexual and homosexual people focus their attention, they discovered "gays are much more detail-oriented."

In a study that involved pictures of squares and rectangles packed with smaller shapes, the gays answered questions about the shapes slower than their heterosexual counterparts, but with much greater accuracy. Apparently, we're much better at focusing on the minutiae.

OK, that's not, in itself, much of a revelation. After all, gay dating sites have such intensely detailed profile pages, you could apply (and be accepted) for a mortgage in less time than it takes to stick your picture in someone else's inbox. Whereas straight dating sites might ask whether you're old or young, thin or fat, the gay equivalents put applicants through the kind of rigorous profiling that makes the MI5 recruitment process look lackadaisical.

Apparently, gays gone-a-courting want to know everything - height, weight, girth, hair colour, original hair colour, piercings, tattoos, healed-over piercings that seemed like a good idea at the time, bitchy ex-boyfriends, star sign, earning potential and preference regarding Paris vs Nicole. It's a veritable minefield.

So what does this all mean? Well, if gays are able to hone in on the tiniest details, this "could help them to detect others' sexual preferences." According to the Dutch study's somewhat self-evident findings, "people who are naturally more perceptive and detail-oriented may have a greater chance of picking up on subtle clues in other people that they may be homosexual." What a shocker.

Still, it's a shame that these findings are coming to light just as they become utterly redundant. With digital apps like Grindr now installed on every gay iPhone and enabling people to track the movements of complete strangers, the concept of gaydar has become rendered little more than an evolutionary footnote.

Having said that, even with the most up-to-date technology at our disposal, it is possible to occasionally miss the signs. Damn those sneaky gays...

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