Follow TV Tropes


Flying Under the Gaydar

Go To

When a gay (or other queer), character, who is normally very flamboyant has to act in a less obviously "gay" manner, due to some sort of temporary circumstance. Results may vary. This is different from the standard Straight Gay character who isn't campy to begin with, or a character who is in the closet all the time. This trope only occurs when the character is normally very, very flamboyant, but is putting on an act.

This is often Played for Laughs, where the work derives hilarity from playing with stereotypes, and may lead to a "Fawlty Towers" Plot as the character struggles to maintain a lie and avoid another person's gaydar. The character may overdo it, annoying everyone with cries of Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?, and go overboard on the Testosterone Poisoning or other forms of extreme gender presentation. Less commonly, they may simply try to pass as Camp Straight.

However, it's just as often Played for Drama. Perhaps the character is traumatized by being temporarily forced back into the closet. If the reason is due to a specific character (as in stories where a closeted member of the gay couple forces their out partner to hide the relationship in front of family members), this can be a source of interpersonal conflict. Finally, sometimes a character must fly under the gaydar as part of some infiltration gambit.

Inverse of Faux Yay, where a straight character pretends to be gay. Compare/contrast Transparent Closet, where the character's gayness is obvious to everyone but themself, and Disguised in Drag and Sweet Polly Oliver, where a character must temporarily pretend to be a different gender. Not to be confused with Get Back in the Closet, where Moral Guardians treat gay works more harshly, and Hide Your Lesbians, where canon queer content is reduced to subtext. See also The Beard.


    open/close all folders 

    Fan Works 
  • In the Frozen (2013) fanfic Becoming Free, Freya has trouble hiding her more masculine mannerisms, such as bowing instead of curtsying. No one seems to notice her mishaps or her staring at women.
  • In Sotto Voce: The bisexual Ruto downplays her interest in women around Hylians because their culture is more homophobic than the Zora.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Nathan Lane's character in The Birdcage is trained by his partner to act more masculine, with very mixed results. He can't even manage a manly strut. His last-ditch attempt to remove all his rings, take off his makeup, wear a suit, and be "just a guy" elicits baffled stares from his partner and their son.
    Albert: You're thinking that, dressed this way, I'm even more obvious. Aren't you? You're right.
  • Tick attempts this in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert when he's trying to connect with his son Benji, wearing a plain khaki shirt and Akubra hat. Marion mocks him for it.
  • Happiest Season: Harper's Camp Gay friend John pretends to be straight as he's visiting her family. To do this, he acts over the top in the opposite direction.
  • But I'm a Cheerleader takes place at a gay conversion camp whose main objective is to make the kids straight by forcing them to conform to stereotypical gender roles. Hilarity Ensues as many of the male campers, who are all Camp Gay, try to act extremely manly and heterosexual, and largely fail.

  • Inverted in The Dresden Files. Thomas Raith, a White Court Vampire that feeds on lustful emotions, pretends to be a flamingly gay hairstylist in order to feed on the lustful emotions of his clients as he washes their hair. Normally this is done via the act of sex where a big bite of the subject's life force is taken. Instead, Thomas does it this way, taking tinier bites so as to try and prevent accidentally hurting someone. As he says it himself: feeding on a person's lustful emotions requires a sense of intimacy, styling her hair is the most intimate you can get with a girl short of sex, and no one would pay him anywhere near as much money to style their hair if they didn't think he was a gay Frenchman.
  • Variation from A Song of Ice and Fire: Varys, who is treated as asexual due to being castrated at a young age, typically acts in a manner that would be called Camp Gay if he had the equipment for it in order to come off as a non-threatening, perfumed dandy. When he must move about unseen, he sometimes drops the act and dresses as a common soldier. It is incredibly effective; even people who interact with him on a daily basis have trouble recognizing him.
  • Oddly Enough: In "Am I Blue?", this is discussed and defied by Melvin the Camp Gay fairy godfather. He can easily drop the mannerisms and look more masculine just by adjusting his posture. However, he's proud of himself and refuses to hide, not least since he lost his first life to a Homophobic Hate Crime.
    Melvin: Protective coloration. You learn to use it to get along in the world if you want. Only I got sick of living in the box the world prescribed; it was far too small to hold me.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Ugly Betty:
    • Inverted. A fashion designer is actually straight but plays up a flamboyant Camp Gay image so he can be taken seriously as a designer.
    • Played straight (no pun intended) in an earlier episode, when Marc tries to act straight for his mother. He is spectacularly awful at it, claiming that his favorite musical is High School Musical and that he tans at only a certain place.
      Betty: Are these really the questions that are going to make your mom think you're straight?
      Marc: Straight guys Mystic Tan. Hello, Tom Cruise.
  • A similar inversion happens in the Malcolm in the Middle episode "Lois vs. Evil," with Francis helping out at a beauty contest and realizing the perks acting Camp can bring him.
  • Done in the original Get Smart TV show after Max is punched out by a previously effeminate character who spoke in falsetto because no one would believe a deep bass voice could design windows.
  • In Glee, Kurt gets caught by his dad dancing in a unitard with two girls to Beyonce's "Single Ladies" video. He claims he is practicing for his new position on the football team, which he had totally just joined and not made up on the spot. Later, when he does join the football team, he helps the team perfect their coordination and timing (and some psychological warfare on the other team) through learning the dance. In a later episode, when he feels that quarterback Finn is "stealing" his dad away from him, Kurt begins dressing in flannel clothing and dating a woman in order to appear more manly and win back his father's affection.
  • Bisexual Cross Dresser Kris from British Soap Opera Hollyoaks did this at one point, stopping wearing make-up, skirts and hiding his bisexuality because his brother was visiting.
  • Also occurred in Degrassi: The Next Generation with transgender character Adam. When having a family dinner with his grandmother, his mother begged him to dress up in girl clothes and go by his birth name, Gracie, as not to shock or upset the grandmother.
  • An odd example in Community: Dean Pelton is asked to pretend to be gay so that the college can earn some good PR for diversity. For the dean, this is actually being asked to tone down his flamboyance (according to him, "gay" only covers about a fourth of his orientation).
  • It's not entirely clear where exactly Paul, Jenna's cross-dressing fiance on 30 Rock, lies on the rainbow (he's described as a "gender dysmorphic bi-genitalia pansexualle"); whatever he is, Jenna asks him to put on a facade of heteronormativity so she can impress some conservative advertisers for an endorsement deal. He puts up a grudging effort but eventually is too resentful to keep up the act.
  • Until a certain episode of The War at Home, Kenny tries to hide his sexual orientation. The audience still knows he's gay because of his Inner Monologues.
  • Max from Happy Endings subverts this: while he is definitely not Camp Gay at all, his friends point out that he can't really act straight either. Especially in front of his parents.
    Max: *While pointing at Penny's breasts* Get a load of these! Huh? Yeah!
  • Noah's Arc: In an episode where Noah wants to go to a bar to meet Wade's friends, Wade gets Noah to tone down his normally feminine look for this purpose. Noah calls him out on it later.
  • On Will & Grace, Jack overhears Will saying he wish he (Jack) weren't so "gay" (because Jack was being incredibly loud and campy around Will at a completely inappropriate time). Jack comes to the gym acting like an equally obnoxious and stereotypically straight man, even remarking, "Nice rack" at a young woman working there.
  • The fourth episode of The Cool Kids, "Sid Comes Out", has Sid's son Walt coming over to visit. Sid hasn't come out to him and he's afraid he'll hurt his son if he does, so Sid asks his friends to help him pass as straight. Unfortunately, he is very Camp Gay and his attempts at "seeming straight" are terrible. It gets worse when he has Margaret act as his beard.
  • In AquĆ­ no hay quien viva, while Mauri definitely isn't the most flamboyant gay on Earth, his boyfriend Fernando spends most of the first season telling him to watch his mannerisms out of fear of being outed himself. The couple also try to pass off as football fans so that Armando wouldn't suspect that they were homosexual (he already knew, as their bedroom is right below his).

    Multiple Media 
  • In the book, film, and theater versions of The Birdcage, a gay man has to pass for straight to win over his son's new (and deeply conservative) in-laws. It does not go well. However, his drag queen lover does pass for a straight woman.

  • Lampshaded in Angels in America in a conversation between Louis and Prior. Prior remarks that Louis always introduces himself as "Lou" to his relatives—so they don't hear the sibilant s.
  • The Kevins ("We're both named Kevin. It was cute, for a while.") in Come from Away try to do this when they're stranded in a tiny Canadian town in 2001, since "you just don't know where the red states are in a foreign country." However, they're so bad at hiding it that Diane doesn't even realize that they're trying to hide it in the first place. Then they drunkenly out themselves to the locals... and their waitress' response is to say, "You're gay? Well, praise be to God, my daughter's gay!" and everyone starts sharing stories about all their queer friends and relatives. The Kevins relax after that.

  • Hom from Welcome to Room #305 often does this. He passes himself off as Camp Straight.
  • Milo from Tripping Over You does this for a while, though less for his own benefit than for his closeted boyfriend's sake.
  • One part of the Sluggy Freelance story "Freelance Bums" involves Torg, Riff, and friends working to help a client and his boyfriend undergo this due to his parents not knowing he's gay. The attempt fails miserably and the guy decides to come clean instead.

    Western Animation 
  • In an inversion similar to the Ugly Betty example above, Bill Dauterive of King of the Hill pretends to be Camp Gay in order to keep his employment at a trendy hair salon that only hires women and gay men because they do not believe straight men can properly cut/style hair.
  • In the American Dad! episode "Daddy Queerest," the Smiths' neighbor Terry needed to pretend to be straight because his intolerant father was coming to town for a few days. This resulted in Francine pretending to be his live-in girlfriend, forcing his actual partner Greg to stay with Stan.
  • Archer, "Bloody Ferlin": Agent Peacock Ray has to go home to his Appalachian community to save his pot farmer brother Randy from the local authorities. And, to cover his homosexuality, he brings along Cheryl as his wife while spinning a cover story to hide his spy activities. Mind you, he's not doing that great a job...
    Randy: A New York City interior decorator?
    Archer: That's what you went with?
    Randy: I bet you're just up to your eyeballs in poontang!
    Ray: Oh, yeah, all those... vaginas.