Tuesday, August 19, 2008

How do gay guys recognise each other?

A couple of weeks ago I received the following email from a straight teenager:

Dear GB,

I am a 17 years old heterosexual boy who grew up in the countryside. I came to Paris this summer and often when I go to the swimming pool there are gay men who try to chat me up. Before coming to Paris I had never met gay people, and now so many men come all of a sudden, I am a little scared to tell you the truth.

Is there something gay people do to recognise each other? Are gay men attracted to men the same way the girls are? (from a physical stand point)

Thank you very much.

I replied to him immediately to tell him that it would take me a couple of weeks to get round to writing this post for him. I then when on to say:

If a gay guy starts chatting you up, just think of it as a compliment. It's nothing to be scared about, however take the first opportunity to say that you're not interested. I've never heard of any gay guys getting abusive or violent if someone they try to chat up isn't interested, so just don't worry about it.

But the email raises a couple of interesting questions, namely how do gay guys recognise each other, and do gay men look for the same physical attributes in another man that girls look for.

Regarding the first question, I have in fact written about this subject before, in a posting last year with the title Is he or isn't he? As that post says, the most important aspect is definitely eye contact. A cruisey gay guy can look another guy in the eyes and the look on its own can say "I want to get naked with you". As a blatant example, if the cruisey guy looks the guy in the eyes, then looks at the guy's body and packet before looking the guy in the eyes again, then any guy whether gay or straight will understand!

In fact, when I was at university, a "straight" friend of mine made a pass at me in exactly that way. It was one evening, we were alone together, and having had a few drinks I was about to go back to my room to go to bed. We were saying goodnight to each other when he stopped talking to me for a second, looked me knowingly in the eyes, then looked at my crotch, and then looked me back in the eyes again. He then did it again with a more serious look in his eyes. Back then I was too scared to be gay so I ran away! It was quite a surprise coming from this particular friend, because he was the kind of guy who always had a girlfriend, and indeed he's now been married for years. I guess it proves that sexuality isn't always as clear cut as one might suppose.

To try and guess whether a guy is gay without eye contact, I'd try to work out who he looks at. If he's in the gym, is he looking at the women or the other guys? Straight guys instinctively don't want to be caught checking out other guys so they'll tend to keep their eyes to themselves if they're not checking out a woman. Even closeted gay guys can give themselves away like this, and in extreme circumstances it's possible to work out that a guy is gay before he knows it himself. I know that when I'm in a gym, I can't help myself looking at the other guys, especially in the changing room and showers!

If the person whose sexuality you're trying to determine is a friend, there are other things that can help. For example, if a guy has an unambiguous and keen interest in women, although he could just be hiding the fact that he's gay, almost certainly it's because he's straight. But of course, a lack of girlfriends could mean that the guy is gay.

All this talk about working out whether someone is gay or not reminds me of something that happened about ten years ago on the trading floor of a bank that I used to work for. Although I'd been working for the bank for a year or so, there was a London based colleague who had been working in one of the bank's offices abroad so I hadn't met him yet. But soon after he returned to the London office we began working on a deal together, and I recall being amazed by feeling an almost electric, telepathic connection when we were close to each other, such as when we were looking at a spreadsheet together on one of our workstations. It was quite intense and completely distracting, and I've never experienced anything like it, before or afterwards. I certainly had no idea what caused it. However, a few months later, that was the 'straight' colleague that I spotted in pleasuredome sauna. So if there really is such a thing as gaydar being like radar, then that was definitely it!

Regarding the other question my experience is that everyone, whether male or female, has their different favourite attributes that they look for in their partners. However I reckon that the menu of possible attributes is the same! I also reckon that a gay guy is more likely to be interested in the other guy's equipment than a women is. In connection with this, it's worth remembering that "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder", so for any particular guy there are likely to be some gay men and some women who find him attractive and others who don't.

Do any other readers have any thoughts on these subjects?


Anonymous said...

As usual, GB gets it spot-on.

I hate to say it but this sort of thing really is something that you develop as you get older. Saying that, I still get it wrong sometimes.

People say they genuinely had no idea that I was gay until I told them though. This is why I always make a point in telling people when I meet them or shortly after at least - just to get it out of the way...

A, London

Ken Skinner said...

Definitely the eye-contact thing. Also, when you hang around enough gay people, eg at bars/clubs, then you tend to take on some 'group mannerisms'. That's not necessarily a negative thing but it means that you become more 'visible' to other gay men who might subconsciously pick up on these signs.

Gay guys are also easy to spot if they're travelling in a faggle, which is quite typical for social groups. It's not just the fact that 4 or 5 hot guys are running down the street together but there tends to be some obvious inter-group flirting going on.

I've often thought that gay people 'shine' (as in the movie: The Shining). There's just something different about many of us that you simply can't hide. Walk down Old Compton Street and it's blatantly obvious who's gay and who isn't.

On the subject of Pleasuredome, my husband works in the Waterloo area and had a draft for a new employee orientation leaflet come across his desk which read something like 'if you want to know how the quickest way to get from A to B, where the best local cafes are or if you want to know what Pleasuredome is, come see XXX'. XXX was straight and didn't know what Pleasuredome was himself, but had seen the sign and thought it sounded cool... he was rather embarassed to be told what it was. The final draft of the orientation leaflet changed somewhat :-)

Sir Wobin said...

Another closet tactic is to show no sexual interest at all in either gender. That is always suspicious and should indicate that something is out of the ordinary, like that they feel their attractions aren't something that can be shown, shared or talked about.

As regards your 17 year old reader, I'd guess that his suitors are hoping his sexuality is still quite fluid and that he may be available for experimentation. Early university years are notoriously amoral since one is away from home for the first time and no one is looking over one's shoulder, private accommodation etc.

Be a devil and flirt outrageously but refuse to go further. :-D

Unknown said...

Why is the "is he gay or isn't he" debate also a bit juvenile? Who cares? If you're interested, make a move. If you're not, who cares.

As for your friend at university, have you ever asked him about it? It might have been that he just wanted to out you. Not in any sinister way. Besides, lots of people experiment at university.

PS I've decided to become a male escort.

Darwin said...

Interesting topic - Definitely eye contact, but I think there's more to it than that. I always describe it as animals of the same species, different to straight guys - the same way similar looking but not identical species of birds would show no interest in one another. There's something about endorphines, the smell of the guy, and the mannerisms and body language do play a big role. As stereotypical as it may sound a vague to absent interest in "guy talk" i.e. sport, cars, etc is also a big indicator (although I stress, this is the stereotype).

The 17 year old shouldn't be scared, but I remember that feeling only too well. Rather just smile and say no thanks...

Anonymous said...

Eye contact followed by a look at the package - cmon guys this could happen if one is sure the other guy is gay (or in pleasuredrome). Let us in on the secret of knowing who to hit on and not get punched in the nose for doing so in a non gay venue. I expected more from this post but as all things in life I guess, its practice and endorphines...sigh

Anonymous said...

GB, your posts now do seem to get rather more interesting now your near boy-friendless:-)

GB you have it spot on all the way. The spark you speak of was very interesting to read indeed. I know what you mean.

I would be interested in knowing GB if you have ever flirted on the tube? Do you catch the tube to work? ;-)

Anonymous said...

Well I guess, you just know, I have a college who is Mr. Porn Star himself, and every meeting one look in his eyes and you just know, to be alone with him in the elevator is quite exiting...... but alas nothing every will happen - what a pity

GB said...

Fascinating comments guys :-)).

However, I think you're being a bit selfish glhairyfxxker because not everyone is as confident as you. For example, having seen the title of this post in the 'Dear GB' queue, two readers emailed me in advance asking when it was going to be ready. That had never happened before. Both readers are new to the gay world, and are naturally keen to avoid making mistakes. Anyway, good luck with the male escort thing, I think you'll need it because my recollection is that you're not particularly versatile!

Sorry to disappoint St. There is no secret, just common sense and experience. But you don't have to be sure that another guy is gay to make a pass at him by making sure that he knows you're looking at his package. The advantage of that method is that there's no physical contact, no lasting evidence, and guys who're not gay might just be confused ("I'm sure that guy looked at my crotch but did I dream it?"). But if the guy does clock it and feels that his straight image has been offended, with no tangible evidence he'll look unreasonable if he wants to react badly.

Glad that you think my posts are interesting at the moment Aneesh. However I can't tell whether that guy you fancy on the tube is me or not!

GB xxx

Unknown said...

Ha! Actually, I've been amused by the interest I've received. A decent amount of it actually!

As it happens, this was a social experiment on my part, and I don't actually intend to go through with the deed. I convinced myself that it would be easy, but I don't think that's the reality.

The reason, in short, was that I recently fell for an escort. And wanted to understand the whole process/lifestyle a bit more.

I've only had my profile a few days, and I have been so stunned by the number of kind words and compliments I have received. It really is very satisfying to have people tripping over themselves to hand you cash to sleep with you. I don't know if you have ever read the work of the existential feminists, but to put yourself in this position is really to understand what the likes of Simone D-B meant!

On my earlier post, I believe in being hard to be kind. I was the eldest child in my family, and I always had find out about things the hard way. I believe that makes you more robust as a person.

I don't discount the question "how do I know if he's gay". But I have come to the point that life's far too short to sit around spending mindless hours guessing, when you can put yourself out of the misery by simply asking.

Anyway. Until another time.

Anonymous said...

I am enjoying your blog but have to ask why on earth you think a gay guy is going to be more interested in a guys equipment when checking him out than a woman is?

What do you think women find attractive when checking out blokes? I can assure you that when meeting a hot guy most women are not rating a phd in Menstruation and a shared love of crochet high on their list of requirements

GB said...

Interesting glhairyfxxker, I assume that's the escort that you've mentioned to me when you've emailed me in the past. Anyway, I think you're probably wise not to proceed, I don't think that job is at all easy.

In the past, Kex, I've seen lists of what physical attributes women look for in a man. Top of the list always seem to be cute butt, and bulging equipment always seems to score badly. But I don't for one minute think that women aren't interested in what goes on between the sheets!

GB xxx

Anonymous said...

Choice of underwear seems a pretty good indicator and normally quite easy to at least catch sight of the wasitband when a guy is bending over or stretching for something if not the whole lot in the changing rooms at the gym.

Boxer shorts/ voluminous Y-Fronts / anything a bit tatty / department store (M&S etc) = Straight.

2(x)ist/aussiebum/multicoloured or patterned/seriously expensive 'designer' pants/ anything really skimpy or tight = Gay

Calvin Klein is alwasya bit tricky as lots of straight guys wear them too.

Anonymous said...

Hi! I'm new on this discussion, about recognising other gay guys. Some days ago I went to see a girl friend on a public swimming pool. Meanwhile the teacher looked at me and blinked an eye, this openly!
Also, today i caught his eyes looking at me for several times. I would like to reciprocate his eye blinking, but as you know, i'm afraid to do it and having him asking what was that all about... Or worse!!!

Does this mean anything, or am I putting horns on horses heads?
I admit I got confused, as I'm very inexperient on detecting other gay guys.

Anonymous said...

since i was about 12 or 13 i was always attracted to guys. i have no idea why, but now i'm 17 and i like guys. every time i went to the gym, if there was a cute guy working out i had to watch him all the time. but if i was around my friends i pretend that i was looking at a girl in which i wasn't. right now i'm still in the closet because my family hates homosexuals but my brother is gay and came out of the closet, he now regrets coming out, why don't know. i really don't understand why i'm like this. i'm not gay but bisexual. i feel relieve that i'm writing this to everyone so they can see how i really feel right now. thanks for your patience and for reading this.

Anonymous said...

GB is absolutely right about the 'electricity' that simply cannot be mistaken. It's so powerful it's almost overwhelming and I suspect my pulse rate increases to the same it does at the gym during a hard workout. There's a young guy in my local motor spares shop in Oxfordshire with which I enjoy this tantalising electric interchange, and clearly he does, too. I find myself doing all kinds of unnecessary work on my car and regretting the shop doesn't sell anything actually mechanically useful. Jaysus, I might even get one of those gross boy-racer 6" tailpipes if this goes on much longer. . .

On the other hand there's a work colleague whom I rather fancied once and I have no doubt at all that he's gay or bi, but he's chosen to suppress his 'other sexuality' in a marriage, as have I for 20 years. Sometimes I feel the same electricity with him, and he all but acknowledges it openly, but he kindly declined and I know it ain't gonna go nowhere until he's out of denial, by which time I'll be slurping my broth in some retirement village. It's our secret. So knowing that a guy is gay or bi is not the same as knowing that he's available. So I would say to all young guys who know they are at least somewhat gay - and I knew at 15 - go for it and don't waste your life away. As Neil Young says, 'Don't be Denied'.

I've been wrong half a dozen times in 20 years and in all cases the guys have discouraged me with a polite and sincere 'Sorry, you're reading me wrong there, mate. Even in the army. Some of them are still my friends today. It's my belief that unless you are seriously far off the mark, or make the mistake in front of other people and so embarrass the guy in front of his jock buddies or girlfriends, you're not that likely to be punched in the gob. So if you're in private, give it a go. . .

Anonymous said...

Gays like to stereotype themselves and everyone & everything around them,....gives them a feeling of acceptance justification of their lifestyle.

Anonymous said...

I'm gay and had the experience of a guy about my age (mid thirties) staring at me repeatedly when he saw me. He would not look away if our eyes met. He was always friendly and said "hi" with a big smile. I was attracted to him. One time, when he was staring at me, I decided to stare back deeply into his eyes (this was from some distance). It did not turn out well as he was offended and made a threatening stance later in the hall. I looked downward feeling some regret to have caused him such stress , but looked back up to deal with him if need be. He had turned but was still looking at me, not threatening now, and asked me some random question. He proceeded to tell family members about me and one was slightly hostile saying "that's him!" in an angry voice pointing me out to a stranger on a return visit. I noticed the next time I saw the guy, he had cut his longer hair drastically short (almost military style). I suspect it was to try to reinforce a "macho" appearance. I never perceived his hair to be a "gay" sign. At any rate, since then, I have been cautious about trusting the "eye contact" approach to gaydar. While it may be valid some of the time, I guess people will stare for various reasons that we don't know; maybe nothing better to do. Gay people have all kinds of interests and mannerisms. Some view "traditional" feminine characteristics as gay ie. higher pitched voices or longer hair. This is false and a big mistake. I dated a guy who was heavily into playing and watching soccar for ten years. He also had a deep voice and was not interested in fashion or things that some may assume about gays. "Feminine" men you think must be gay may well not be. They are not directly co-related. All said and done, I too would like to know the answer as to who is gay and who isn't in public. I need to find a husband. ;-)

Anonymous said...


You know nothing of life as a gay person. Gay people do not generally stereotype everything as they have been so stereotyped themselves by those who are ignorant of gay life. More importantly, being gay is a fact, not a choice. Did you decide to be heterosexual? No. Just like you did not decide on the color of your eyes. As for the acceptance of gays, yes they should be accepted everywhere and granted full rights. Discrimination is not acceptable or justifiable ever; amazingly, it still exists against gays (ie. marriage rights/adoption/immigration) and is supported by laws in some so called advanced countries such as the United States.

Anonymous said...

Just with a look it is impossible to tell if someone is gay. There are variables involved. Fantasy is not quite like reality.

Anonymous said...

Well, here here and jolly good show, indeed. I simply must digress.

Anonymous said...

I have one thing to say about the whole "if he doesn't show any interest in either sex" I am a man who does not find men or women attractive i do not find any pleasure in having sex with men or women. Its just how I've been since my early teens.

Anonymous said...

Of course there are differences between what straight women and gay men find attractive in a member of the male sex. It's not clear cut and across-the-board, but there's generally a reason why gay men gravitate toward very physical images of muscular men in clothes that compliment his definition while straight women seem to prefer soft, sensitive-looking, youthful men wearing clothes that accent his personality or emotional capacity. Of course, there are many women who appreciate a hot body and many men who like a romantic man in a dapper suit, but how many gay men care about Robert Pattinson? Not many. Who watches more porn percentage-wise, straight women or gay men? Definitely gay men.

GB said...

Actually, most recent Anonymous commentator, if you made me choose between Robert Pattinson and a "muscular man in clothes that compliment his definition", I'd choose Robert Pattinson every time! I think the world population of gay men have much more diverse tastes than you think they do, even if in your tiny little gay clique where you live, everyone has similar tastes.

GB xxx

Anonymous said...

Yes, a lot of men are not only seeking an attractive guy to sleep with but also seeking a special and deep rapport with a half decent man. As you get older you learn that whilst sex is super, a deep relationship is necessary to sustain you from day to day.

It's not always easy to meet a nice loving guy but sometimes when you don't try too hard, it happens.

Just be patient guys. It's a lot about love, less about scoring with handsome hunks , adding them to your list of conquests, but having a little respect for those different men you bed as one night stands.

Anonymous said...

I have a friend , we talk everyday like we date, we cut off once but became cool again,we never did nothin together but i spend the night alot and we think about each other and call at the same time, but ion kno how to handle this we're not gay but its a spark dere 

Anonymous said...


To be perfectly honest, there is no way(well at least in my experience) to tell for sure if a guy is gay. Everyone guesses and goes on a hunch

My method? And this only applies if you are looking for someone to have a relationship with.

1. Get to know the real person, discard the fantasy.

Start by saying hello and initiate a conversation. Nothing is less threatening than someone saying hi and introducing themselves to you. Do the same.

2.Genuinely smile

Smiling relaxes conversation and makes you less nervous(not to mention, more attractive).

3. Open with an icebreaker.

In conversation with other men, guys tend to have a protective layer than when they converse with women(ALL men).

So the best way to "disarm" this armour" is to prove that you are not a threat and very much on their side.

4. Show a sense of humour

Don't go into heavy or controversial topics but stick to light things that you both can relate to.

If you are at a bar, make a comment on something funny that happened there OR make yourself the butt of the joke. This gets any guy smiling.

5. Allow for reciprocation.

Since you initiated the conversation, don't dominate it. Allow for him to show up also as non-one likes to be a wall of reference for another.

6. Make a commitment.

Open an invitation to them to join you at a sport event, a party or anywhere public. The conversation alone should tell you two things; whether you are indeed interested and willing to take it further AND what the guy is into.

7. Be the first to jump ship.

If you can, be the first to exit the conversation when it is at its peak. Do so courteously as you were the first to initiate it.
(this always leaves them wanting more)

If the guy is not responsive in the last one by not accepting your invitation or asking you to stay, you did your best. Let it go.

9. Don't jump the gun

Also note that , if he does accept your invitation or asks you to stay, it doesn't necessarily mean that he is gay. But he may like your company a lot, so you may have gained a new friend.

10. Watch the hands.

Restraint is not only necessary in man-man initial conversations , but also very attracting.

Do not initiate physical contact. By initiating the conversation and "invading" his space, you have already made it clear that your attention is on him. Let him be the one who pats your knee, rubs your shoulder or reciprocate non-verbal cues of "I like that you came and talked to me".

Conclusively, just be open and friendly. Don't look at him like he is "the one" and obsess over him being straight(if that is the case). Let it go.

The good news is, you won't always hit a brick wall and it may be through him that you actually do get to meet someone you are interested in.

Expanding your social circle doesn't only make you a far more attractive/popular person, but it opens a huge array of possibilities.

Relax, have fun and enjoy focusing on a person's personality than their body. Coz maybe its the body that draws you, but its their soul that will keep ya.

DatingAvatar said...

I think as a gay person to go for eye contact to see if the other person is gay is one of the best ways to find it out, as a straight person would surely not respond to the contact and would turn away like mentioned in the article, also another way for males to take the test is to go to gay adult sites like MeetOutside and see if you are attracted to the gay men there, you will get your answer for sure I guess.

Anonymous said...

I agree eye contact is the one if u make eye contact and they don't look away smile if they r still looking u never know

Anonymous said...

Interesting topic! I would love to know if the guy I'm interested in is gay without asking him. Eye contact is a good start but it can be deceiving. I wonder if a handshake held for a lenghthy time plus eye contact is any indication? Oh, how I long for a boyfriend.