Sexuality and Culture

, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 60-86

First online:

Gaydar: Eye-gaze as identity recognition among gay men and lesbians

  • Cheryl L. NicholasAffiliated withUniversity of Oklahoma

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This paper examines eye-gaze associated with identity recognition among gay men and lesbians. Eye-gaze is argued to be crucial to forces that either trigger or reinforce one gay person’s perception of another person’s gay identity during social encounters. “Gaydar” is the folk concept used within the gay and lesbian culture to name this identity recognition device. An ethnography on Gaydar conducted over a period of three years reveals that eye-gaze in relation to Gaydar includes two different variations of visual contact, the direct and the broken stare. These types of gaze can be accentuated by the presence of other forms of nonverbal communication such as posture, gestures, and smiles. Consciousness in relation to eye-gaze is also discussed to be a distinct trigger and reinforcer of gay and lesbian identity recognition.