March 12, 2009

Is There Such A Thing As “Gayface”?

Samantha ponders a new study about sexual orientation and facial characteristics - is there such a thing as "gayface"?

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This semester I’m a discussion leader for a Human Sexuality class, and yesterday we had a GLBT panel discussion. One of the questions some of the students were curious about pertained to “gaydar”, or how to tell if a person is gay or straight just by looking at them. One student said that some people have “gayface”, meaning they appear gay.

It reminded me of this study that was conducted and published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The study documented a person’s ability to tell a straight man from a gay man by only looking at their faces. Researchers found that people correctly identified the gay faces. What’s interesting even more, is that subjects correctly identified gay men’s eyes, mouths, and hairstyles separately!

There is a great article written about the study at

We also have graduate student researchers at the Kinsey Institute working on similar research around issues of gender and facial features with respect to a transgender individual’s ability to “pass” for the opposite sex.