Photo credit: Baton Rouge Equality March, June 23, 2012
The simplest, most accurate answer is you usually can’t tell unless the person tells you, or is out and doesn’t hide it. If you have a good gaydar you may figure it out (but don’t assume you’re right unless you check it out with that person), or they may tell you by various other clear means.
One in 10 people on average is not straight. They are gay, lesbian or bisexual. It doesn’t mean they know they’re gay. Some people aren’t self-aware enough to pay attention to what’s going on with their feelings. Some may not have added all the feelings up and gotten the answer. These people (like me) are usually able to grow their way to the person they finally figured out they are. Some of us are a bit slow.
As a young adult or older teen, you probably haven’t done much to set your life on a particular sexuality course, so taking one path isn’t so different logistically than taking another. In mid-life, you are usually executing your plan, and may have a family, so changing paths takes a lot of work and some pain. But being true to yourself is the only way to be happy.
Some know they’re gay but choose to stay in the closet. Closeted people are usually living a lie because they’re afraid of what might happen if they come out. They’re likely doing what they are supposed to do according to their families, friends, churches, etc., rather than following their own hearts. Living a lie is a horrible way to exist. Or they may have a good reason to hide.
They may be hiding because being gay in some places in the world will get you life in prison or a death sentence. Even in progressive countries, like the USA, being known as gay could make you the victim of a hate crime. Assessing the safety of your situation is the first question everyone must evaluate before they come out.
People don’t ask if you’re straight, why should they ask if you’re gay? Asking someone you don’t know about their sexuality is like asking somebody you don’t know if they had sex last night. Most of us would consider that none of our business.
Those who are out and don’t hide it are the biggest asset to the community. If someone isn’t hiding it, you won’t have to guess. The more gay people around, the more normalized being gay becomes. That’s the most important reason to be out. I don’t hide it, I just don’t flaunt it. If someone asks me, I’ll tell them yes.
You may find out if a woman introduces you to her girlfriend or fiancé, who is also a woman, or to her partner or wife. A man may introduce you to his male fiancé or boyfriend, or to his partner or husband. You may be introduced to someone’s two moms or two dads.
There are places where you’re likely to find more gay people because it is much more gay friendly and supportive. More people are out, too. Big cities with diverse populations have larger gay populations, and states that have civil same-sex marriage rights. Those states usually have taken care of the rest of the equal rights gays and lesbians seek, like not being fired from your job because you’re gay. Blue states are generally more accepting than red states. But even in the most friendly areas, there are still prejudices.
One thing is certain. More people are coming out and making it safer and more acceptable for others to come out. If people are out, you don’t have to guess.
Stay tuned for my next post.