Gaydar and stereotypes

Michael Bailey is quoted extensively in this article regarding his research on gaydar. Social psychologists study stereotypes and the “I knew it all along” feeling (e.g., I just knew he was gay). I suppose I have furthered a few stereotypes by my support of Daryl Bem’s Exotic Becomes Erotic theory.

I had to chuckle a bit at this aspect of the article where Dr. Bailey puts his gaydar square on Haggard: “The one blip on his Ph.D.-caliber gaydar was Haggard’s broad grin.”This is total speculation, we haven’t done studies yet, but I think gay men tend to have much more expressive smiles. That’s one thing that struck me about Haggard.'”

And here I thought it was because he was the pastor of a megachurch. Silly me.

20 thoughts on “Gaydar and stereotypes”

  1. Ted Haggard’s smile makes me think more of a used-car salesman than of someone who might be gay.

    I believe gaydar might exist, but not in the sense Bailey presents it. When gaydar was first explained to me, it was described as how a person inter-acts with his environment, not just how that person acts. For example, does he make more eye contact with men or women? In a museum does he spend more time looking at the Venus de Milo or David? If he talking to someone and his attention is distracted (even subtly by eye movements) of a good looking person walking by, is that person likely to be male or female? etc.

  2. I think it is fascinating that people want so desparately to know “who is” and “who isn’t.”

    It speaks volumes to homophobia in our culture…

  3. Timothy Kincaid posted this on the other blog:

    Varnell said it best:

    These and related difficulties lead to me wonder why Bailey continues to try to do sex research when he demonstrates so little understanding of the human psychology involved in sex and sexual arousal and seems so unself-critical about research designs that include sample bias, dubious testing procedures, built-in assumptions, unaccountable anomalies, etc. Whatever he is doing, it is not psychology and it is not science.

  4. Boo – Could you supply a quote/supporting information for your contention? That was a pretty strong statement.

    Warren, without knowing exactly what reference Boo intended, this statement might be relevent:

    As we learn more about the causes of sexual orientation, the likelihood increases that parents will one day be able to select the orientation of their children. … allowing parents to select their children’s sexual orientation would further parent’s freedom to raise the sort of children they wish to raise and because selection for heterosexuality may benefit parents and children and is unlikely to cause significant harm.

    It’s a bit of an unusual argument to make, to say the least, and does give some insight into the mind of the man.

    Getting beyond the initial shock of the quote (almost as jarring as selecting race… an idea lurking there unsaid), I’m not sure that removing all same-sex attracted persons from society would be without harm. I don’t think there are many of us who would without hesitation remove Aristotle, Alexander, Whitman, Turing, Micheangelo, or Da Vinci from history. The world would be a quite different place and probably not for the better.

  5. Didn’t Bailey do a study claiming that bisexuality in males doesn’t exist? I wonder how this fits into his twisted world view.

  6. Boo – Could you supply a quote/supporting information for your contention? That was a pretty strong statement.

    His book used to be available to read online at the National Academies Press website, but they’ve apparently taken it down. To be fair, he doesn’t explicitly call for wiping the gay population out, but around pp. 114-116 he talks about how it should be considered morally acceptable for parents to use selective abortion to ensure themselves straight children (in the name of “parental liberty” of course).

  7. Heck… I pushed “Login and Publish” instead of “Preview.” Sorry about the many typos that are probably in my previous comment.

    Also, I meant to provide the proper cites:

    Greenberg, A.S.; Bailey, J.M. “Parental selection of children’s sexual orientation.” Archives of Sexual Behavior (2001) 30(4):423-437.

    The abstract is available here.

  8. I cannot validate Boo’s quote where Bailey purportedly hopes to “wipe out” gays by selective abortions.

    But I do know that J. Michael Bailey co-wrote an article with Aaron S. Greenberg arguing that since “the likelihood increases that parents will one day be able to select the orientation of their children”, that parents should have the option of “selecting” for heterosexuality. In their conclusion, they write:

    “We believe that many people find parental selection for heterosexuality intuitively troubling or even abhorrent. We also believe, however, that this is one of those intuitions that does not stand up to rational analysis. The general enterprise of attempting to influence what a child will be like cannot be objected to. Raising a child consists exactly in attempting to dictate what that child will be like in a multitude of ways. Virtually everyone beleives, and rightly so, that it is, indeed, a primary duty of parents to take steps, bother pre- and postnatal, to assure that their children possess certain charactieristics and do not possess others.”

    …which is why I was never that keen on etiology arguments either way.

  9. Boo wrote, “In his most recent book he got a little more explicit and basically said he’s hoping one day the gay population can be wiped out by selective abortions.”

    So much for biological determinism being politically correct. I think rhetoric like Bailey’s will slowly erode support for the born that way theory of sexual orientation in the gay community. So perhaps will the eventual realization that it’s probably not true anyway.

  10. I would just like to say that I think it took a lot of courage for George Bush to go against stereotype and show up at the Asia-Pacific summit conference wearing a powder blue dress — or was it periwinkle?

  11. “The giveaways, he said, include a narrower, more feminine gait and distinct, lispy pronunciation of words.”

    Does this mean Rev. Lou Sheldon is gay? I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone with a prissier speech pattern.

  12. Hey. I’ve only been up an hour, and I already learned a new word: heuristic.

    “In psychology, heuristics are simple, efficient rules, hard-coded by evolutionary processes which have been proposed to explain how people make decisions, come to judgments, and solve problems, typically when facing complex problems or incomplete information. These rules work well under most circumstances, but in certain cases lead to systematic cognitive biases.” (wikipedia)

    A stereotype could be a very useful tool as long as it does not turn into a systematic cognitive bias, right Dr. T? You just have to keep in mind that the “map is not the territory”.

    Now that I’ve learned it, I have to try to use it in casual conversation today. Should be fun.

  13. I have found that the TRUE test of whether or not a man is gay is: How many different names he has for colors.

    I have found this little test to be remarkably accurate. Ask is this color BLUE? A straight man will say “yes or “no”. A gay guy will get a thoughtful look and reply, “Well, it’s more of an azure, no, maybe even lapis lazuli…”

    Beige is is ivory or sand or bone or…Yellow is lemon, or chrysantemum or…green is sage or emerald or…

    My friends and I sometimes play “quien es mas homo?” using the color/word test. The guy who can come up with the most names for a color gets the prize. It would be a fun ice-breaker at Thanksgiving with friends and family.

    Try it. I swear it’s better than gaydar.

  14. I don’t quite follow. What doed Bailey think that gender non coforming behaviour mus t be evidence of homosexuality being pre-natal? We know plenty of straight men who aren feminine, some of them quite so, but this didn’t lead them to homosexuality, and aside from that, aren’t you born as asexual, and you move into homo or heterosexuality, depending upon your life experiences, feelings and whatnot? I wonder Bailey dislikes about Bem so much.


  15. Ivan – Yes. I think the theory can reinforce existing stereotypes but this is not reason to ignore repeated findings over decades of research. I am not oblivious though to the possibility that stereotypes are reinforced by such research. I think this may be part of what Bailey is trying to get at – what basis is there for the stereotype? Stereotyping seems to be based on a natural human need to categorize and form cognitive heuristics. It appears to be a natural and built in means of bringing a perception of order to a chaotic array of perceptions. This is natural enough and it takes conscious effort to overcome the biasing effect of such stereoptypes.

  16. I think Bailey really wants homosexuality, at least some of it, to be determined pre-natally. This move into this research follows his meta-analyses of gender nonconforming behavior and the modest concordance of identical twins on homosexuality. I suspect he believes that gender nonconformity, rather than being a contributing cause of same sex attraction is instead evidence of an innate homosexual orientation being expressed in behavior. Effect not cause.

    I will be on a panel with him next month and I hope he will speak to the theoretical framework that supports this line of research.

  17. I’m not really sure what the point of this article is. People can often identify stereotypically gay behavior?

    Ok. In other news, scientists, using precise scientifical calculations, have been able to determine that the blue sky is not green. The full ramifications of this discovery are not expected to be clear for some time.

    I suppose it’s also worth pointing out that Bailey has gotten in ethics trouble in the past and has a history of claiming that anyone who doesn’t tell him what he wants to hear must be lying. But he still seems to be the go-to guy for gay stereotype “science.”

Comments are closed.