The ability to determine a person's sexual orientation without being explicitly told — or rather, the ability to detect gay people who haven't outed themselves to you. This may require anything from a casual glance, to hearing the target speak, to near-constant observation. In theory, a gaydar would detect straight people as well by process of elimination. In reality, the sheer amount of things people can be beside just "gay" vs. "straight" means no one's gaydar is perfect.
Can also rely heavily on an observer's common wisdom and intuition based on life experience, with good gaydar being measured by its probability of success, making this Truth in Television. (Compare Transparent Closet for gaydar's easiest detections.)
The term is a combination of the words "gay" and "radar".
This trope can be very close to LGBT Fanbase, especially where an observer likes what they see, is using Shipping Goggles, or otherwise is practicing some form of wishful thinking. But just as often, Gaydar can be perfectly sincere audience interpretation, whether or not there is also LGBT Fanbase — use caution when calling Fan Yay on someone's Gaydar.
See also: Flying Under the Gaydar.
- Subverted with Y-naga in Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy. Everyone in her social circle except Y-naga knew A-dou was gay before she did.
- Ryou from Strawberry Shake Sweet has a rather powerful one; she can instantly tell the sexuality of a woman with just a mere glance and can also apparently tell when a lesbian has officially come to terms with her sexuality.
- Y: The Last Man: Dr Mann mentions that an old colleague of Agent 355's reminds her of an ex. When Yorick asks "She reminds you of an ex-boyfriend?", Dr Mann points out that's not what she said. One Beat Panel later, Yorick expresses disbelief at how he's been traveling with her for a year without realising, and she snarks that they can add gaydar to the other common senses he seems to lack. Although that said, the whole Gendercide thing and its logical consequences would play hell with even the most finely-tuned gaydar.
- The Legend of Korra: Turf Wars: Korra and Asami come out as a couple to various other characters throughout the book, but Kya is the only one to figure it out without them telling her. Seeing as she's queer herself, she had her suspicions ever since she heard of their private vacation to the Spirit World during the finale of the animated series, and her seeing their body language together afterwards was all it took to confirm them.
- Bad Influence: According to Jetta's gaydar, the music journalist Lin-Z is so into Jem and the Holograms because she wants their lead, Jem, to herself.
- Sei mentions in Metamorphosis that she could tell Yumi was lesbian virtually from the first time they met.
- A Moon and World Apart: In chapter 9, Sunset is able to figure out that Onyx Plate is gay without being explicitly told. He's quite surprised when he realizes it.
- Prequel, an Elder Scrolls fan-comic, humorously depicts gaydar as a magical ability inherent in homosexuals. It functions similarly to the "detect life" spells in the games, except it only highlights gay people, and in pink instead of red.
- In Their Bond, Malon was able to tell that Link was gay due to his knowledge of fashion.
- In this Fate/Grand Order fan comic, Diarmuid sees Medb and Skadi-Scathach in the cafeteria together and guesses that they are friends when his lord Fionn mac Cumhaill points out that the two are lesbians. When everyone looks at him in disbelief, Fionn reminds them that he had two momsnote .
- Guys Being Dudes: Despite not having direct knowledge of Arlo's being into guys, Candela is able to quickly assess based on his reactions to her interrogation and reports of his behavior that his attraction to Spark is not only legitimate, he's had it since at least 2020.
- This exchange in the 1968 film The Detective:
Colin McIver: How could you know?
Teddy Leikman: We know each other. Something about the way you walked. Something about the eyes.
- Bit: The vampires seem capable of telling instantly that Laurel is transgender, though it's not visually obvious at all, nor does she tell them. Maybe because they have enhanced senses or can read her mind.
- Legally Blonde: A witness being gay is learned when he criticizes Elle's shoes as being out of season Pradas. Also, he's exposed by Emmett tricking him into denouncing his boyfriend who openly decries his lies in anger. "You Bitch," indeed.
- Rough Night: Pippa quickly discerns that Blair was involved with Frankie. They get back together later.
- Across the Universe (2007): Lucy quickly observes Prudence's longing looks for Sadie and realizes she's a lesbian (Jude, on the other hand, is oblivious to it).
- Maggie & Annie: One of Maggie's friends pegs Annie quickly as being into women by the way she's looked at Maggie. It turns out she's right, before Annie even realizes herself.
- Girls Like Magic: Jamie and Nick both peg Maggie as being into women before she realizes this herself.
- Attachment: Maja can tell Leah likes women just by bumping into her. They soon start dating.
- Oddly Enough: In "Am I Blue?", Vincent gets a form of this, identifying gay people by the color blue. Also in the short story, everyone from coast to coast gets a form of this too, for twenty-four hours. The latter is a result of a wish granted by Vincent's fairy godfather (the first is just "education" on Melvin's part, which falls under a different category altogether).
"Gaydar. Automatic sensing system that lets you spot people of similar persuasion. A lot of gay guys have it to some degree or other. If it was more reliable, it make would life easier on us.''
- Interestingly, in Russia "Blue" (specifically, "light blue") is the euphemism for gay male.
- The mundane version of the trope is also mentioned by name and discussed:
- In Earth (The Book), Jon Stewart explains that some humans had more than the standard 5 senses, one of which was called "gaydar". He admits that, while it was not very useful for survival, it did provide hours of bitchy fun at parties.
- In The Wheel of Time, Pevara Tazanovi, after spending some time with Emarin Pendaloan, is able to tell that he prefers men and casually mentions this to his friend Androl during a discussion about relationships. Androl is flabbergasted.
- In the third book of Sword of Truth, Richard is floored when he realizes two of his bodyguards, Raina and Berdine, are lovers. At the end of the book, Richard's girlfriend Kahlan meets them. When Berdine makes a dirty joke about Richard grabbing her breasts, Kahlan responds by saying her breasts are just perfect for Raina's hands. Richard is floored again that Kahlan was able to figure it out so easily.
- In The Catcher in the Rye, Holder speaks of Carl Luce as a well-known gay man who can tell easily if a particular fellow man is gay and knows the names of every gay being in the country.
- In One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies, Ruby claims that she inherited a gaydar from her mother that's 100% accurate in detecting gay people and she does indeed figure out right away that Max, her father's assistant, is gay. However, it turns out that her gaydar completely missed that her own father is gay too.
- Just Juliet: Discussed when Lena expresses surprise that Juliet isn't sure if Lena's into her. Juliet replies that her gaydar is far from perfect. Lena's mom later also clearly knows that something is up between them, but she'd acted fairly obvious about it.
- The Mortal Instruments: It takes Clary a few days to figure out that Alec is gay, something that his parents are not aware of until he comes out to them.
- The Secret History: Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today? Richard makes the extraordinary claim that he has really good gaydar because he's so not gay himself.
I had lived with Henry for a month, and there hadn't been the faintest hint of that sort of tension, which I, being rather more disinclined that way than not, am quick to pick up on.
- A lot of characters in Heralds of Valdemar are just somehow able to tell if someone is gay. Vanyel, presented with two different teen boys offering themselves to him, knows neither is sincere because neither actually feels "shaych" to him. Kethry can't just tell that but also that a Hawkbrother she's just met is genderfluid, although Hawkbrothers all tend to elaborate clothes and long-haired androgyny.
- Shatter the Sky: Maren is pegged by Vienne, a Zefedi girl around her age, as feeling attracted to other girls very quickly after they meet. Vienne soon hits on her as a result.
- Game of Thrones:
- Ser Jaime Lannister claims to have known that Lord Renly Baratheon was a "tulip" from the moment the boy first arrived at court.
- Oberyn might need his checked since he seems flabbergasted that Varys the eunuch is asexual, though it works perfectly when he pursues Loras and Olyvar.
- Inverted Sherlock identifies a man as gay upon being introduced to him, much to the dismay of his girlfriend. It turns out that the man actually wasn't gay, but was intentionally giving off subtle gay signals since he is Moriarty, Sherlock's nemesis and a genius like him.
- Sherlock also at one point thinks John is making romantic overtures toward him, indicating that this may be one of the few glaring holes in his powers of observation and deduction.
- On The Office, Jim "helps" Dwight order a literal gaydar online so he can help Michael avoid embarrassing gay employees in the future. At the end of the episode, the fake gaydar (actually a metal detector) arrives and of course, identifies Dwight as gay (and his belt buckle as metal).
- A The Daily Show segment had Ed Helms invent one, detecting background levels of gayness via increasingly campy phrases. He said that since it worked as a radar for gayness, he'd call it a "Homometer." By the way, it's pronounced 'Hoe-MAW-me-ter'.
- A bit fuzzy on the details, but it is used to detect heterosexuality in one episode of MTV's Undressed. A woman in college is concerned that her boyfriend isn't sleeping with her, so she goes to a gay friend who, after asking her a few questions about her, decides that he is definitely straight.
- Mentioned in Friends. Chandler's gay coworker implies that this is how he knew Chandler wasn't gay.
Chandler: So-you can tell?Lowell: Pretty much, most of the time. We have a kind of... radar.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- Glee: Santana. This is how she figures Karofsky out.
Santana: I'm a closet lesbian and a judgemental bitch - which means one thing: I have awesome gaydar.
- It also helps that he was blatantly checking out Sam's ass.
- He was checking out his jeans!
- Nate claims to have this in an early episode of Six Feet Under after effectively fixing his gay brother up on a date. David tells him not to say it again.
- There used to be a reality show called Gay, Straight, or Taken? where single women would spend some time with three men and try to use their gaydar to figure out which one was gay, straight and single, or straight and taken.
- On the American Life On Mars, Annie has figured out that a man they're questioning is gay, listing several behavioral cues she'd noticed during questioning that Sam was oblivious to.
Sam: Women always have better gaydar.Annie: "Gaydar." I like that.
- South of Nowhere: Spencer and Ashley are talking about a girl who may or may not have hit on Spencer.
Ashley: You are so clueless sometimes. You know she is gay, right?
Spencer: What? She is not. You need to reboot your gaydar.
Ashley: Whatever. I just hope it is better than your breeder-meter.
Spencer: Why is it that every gay person are so sure that everyone else is gay?
Ashley: Oh, not everyone. Just the gay ones.
- On Smash, Ivy says Tom's gaydar is stupid when she tells him that her sports-loving friend Sam is gay.
Tom: Heís gay?!Ivy: Where have you been?Tom: Why didnít you tell me?Ivy: Who knew your gaydar was so stupid?Tom: My gaydar is not stupid. I do not have stupid gaydar. Ugh, I hate that word.
- A recurring sketch on Saturday Night Live is about Nicole, "The Girl with No Gaydar." She is always marvelling at a man's interior design sense or similar stereotypically gay interest while being oblivious to their gayness.
- Thirteen actually uses the word in an episode of House when trying to diagnose a patient, claiming that it has never been wrong. Except it turns out to be wrong in this case, as the "female" patient is actually a heterosexual male.
- The "Blind Spot" episode of Fresh Off the Boat revolves around Louis Huang having a perfectly functional gaydar while his wife Jessica's is utterly broken... then again, he's got a broken love-dar.
- In one episode of NCIS, Tony claims that McGee set off a whole bunch of gaydars by mentioning his sensitive cuticles. Gibbs also spends one scene admiring McGee's "feminine glow."
- Das Boot: Despite claiming she didn't know Simone is a lesbian, Carla appears to realize her advances would be reciprocated as she had little hesitation about kissing her. After this, they have sex with the same alacrity.
- Party of Five (2020): Lucia's mom very quickly discerns that she's into women after just a single slip of the tongue, due to her speaking about one before in a worshipful way.
- On Schitt's Creek ever confident Alexis Rose tells her brother David that if a man doesn't ask for her number, he's either newly married or he's gay. She applies this to David's new business partner and single man, Patrick. David, on the other hand, insists that a man who wears straight-legged, mid-range denim cannot be into him. Turns out, Alexis is right and David eventually marries Straight Gay Patrick.
- Never Have I Ever:
- Trinkets: Elodie thinks Jillian might be gay, but isn't sure, and feels things out (such as bringing up Sally Reid, the first LGBT astronaut). It turns out that Jillian is gay and interested in Elodie, though still closeted then.
- We Are Who We Are: Sarah seems to realize before Caitlin says anything that she's questioning her gender identity, possibly in fact being a transgender boy.
- Tipping the Velvet (2002): Nan seems to sense, or at least hope, that Flo is a lesbian like her. At first she thinks she's mistaken as Florence seems to be married with a child. It turns out that's her brother, while the child is one they adopted. Later it's confirmed that Florence really is a lesbian, and the two get involved.
- The L Word: On several occasions, people pick up that someone is queer. Jenny gets pegged as attracted to women before she's even realized or accepted this for instance. Not all of the queer characters are able to though.
- Utopia Falls: Brooklyn can tell immediately that Sage likes her, even though Sage doesn't say or do anything that shows it explicitly. They later get involved.
- The Last of Us (2023): Frank's appears to be well tuned, as he immediately realizes that Bill's gay and attracted by him though the latter doesn't say or do anything that indicates this at first.
- The White Lotus: Mia very quickly discerns that Valentina is a closeted lesbian and seduces her.
- My Dead Ex: Wren could apparently clearly tell Bethany liked girls and reciprocated her attraction to her before the latter kisses her or comes out.
- Dracula (2013): Lady Jayne, who's herself bisexual, discerns that Lucy has fallen for Mina due to the longing looks which she's sent Mina's way.
- Criminal Minds: Evolution:
- In "Sicarius", Emily discerns instantly that Rebecca isn't just Tara's friend, but her girlfriend. That's what you get around profilers, no doubt. She jokingly says the heat in the room rose immediately when they were near each other.
- In "True Conviction", Tara quickly discerns that Silvio's a closeted gay man from the way he looks at the photo of his boyfriend which she shows him.
- Class of '09:
- While undercover, Poet is asked by a corrupt police captain whether she's into girls or boys. Her refusal to answer makes him conclude it's girls. It turns out that he's half right-she's bisexual and likes both.
- Poet later discerns two fake suspects from a training scenario are in fact a gay couple, and uses this for saving all the hostages by advising Tayo on how to. No one had ever figured this out before.
- The Rising: Joe says he can tell his friend Nicky has feelings for him from the way he looks at him.
- In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, Katheryn correctly calls Benedict being gay and cites that she 'just has a feeling' when asked to explain. She does imply that there's more to it, though.
- Elle's gaydar in Legally Blonde helps her discredit a witness by proving he wasn't having an affair with a defendant. What tips her off is when he doesn't react to the "bend & snap", but a heated discussion with co-counsel ensues about whether other traits mark him as "Gay or European". He's both.
- In A Very Potter Sequel, the Hogwarts Students have to try on the Scarf of Sexual Preference after the Sorting Hat.
- Zigzagged in Max's Big Bust: A Captain Nekorai Tale. Max is fairly fast to clue in on the fact that Amber and Victoria are both gay on their routes though she pretends not to notice Amber's attraction at first since she's afraid that she'll be turning back into a guy soon and doesn't want to start a relationship that will instantly end due to Incompatable Orientation. However, she completely misses that Holly, who's far more obvious about being attracted to women is also gay until Holly explicitly tells her on Holly's route.
- Red vs. Blue: Sherry has the ability to read people's body language to absurd specificity. When meeting the "Triplets", one of the things she picks up on is that Ohio is a lesbian. Mind, they're all in full body armor, and this is while they're far apart enough that they have to yell back and forth to communicate.
- Roll from Bob and George says she has this, but if this works or not depends on if you believe Mega Man X X and Zero are actually gay or just Heterosexual Life-Partners.
- Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal has the page picture showing how it can be used for actual emergency navigation.
- Under comments in news section "This is the navy we're talking about here, there'd be too much interference from the crew."
- Referred by name in this Misfile strip. Kinda subverted as the 'gay' detected there is actually a boy turned into a girl.
- There's a literal gaydar in I Was Kidnapped By Lesbian Pirates From Outer Space!!! It's how the eponymous Space Pirates first detect the protagonist when she's attracted to a female co-worker.
- Beth from Better Days claims to have an exceptional gaydar. It's an Informed Ability though since there aren't any gay people in the comic, except for Flounce and he and Beth have no interaction.
- In Rain, not only is the gaydar mentioned, but the idea of a "transceiver", which functions as a gaydar for trans people is thrown around. The joke is that Rain's is defective.
- Saundra of Umlaut House once built one, it blew up when she tested it on Rick and gave an inconsistent reading when she tried it on Volair
- Denmark claims to get this after five beers in Scandinavia and the World. Sweden thinks he is just listing all the women he wants to see have lesbian sex.
- Marten's mother in Questionable Content isn't gay herself, but she's a very experienced Dominatrix. Her first, totally accurate, reaction on meeting Tai is "OH MY GOD I LOVE THE TINY BUTCH ONES."
- Spinnerette wishes her spider senses came with gaydar.
- Homestuck: Roxy claims to have one that is very oversensitive, as a counterpart to Jane who doesn't have one at all.
TG: my gaydar is like the exanct fuckin poposite of urs
TG: which is to say it is better than completety nonexistant
TG: mine is so sensitive it has been used to sweep the ocean floor for mythical sea monsters
TG: turns out
TG: all of those monsters are SO gay
TG: truth B)
- Ethan sets off everybody's gaydar despite being very Straight Gay (save for his interest in My Little Pony, which is less a function of being gay and more a function of being a toy nerd.)
- Sarah claims to have one of these, and is perfectly willing to spread rumors based on it.
- Alan of Sunstone was subjected to some measure of harassment in college due to him setting off a good number of people's mistuned gaydars.
- Catalina of El Goonish Shive seems to have a malfunctioning gaydar, judging by the fact that she asked Susan out on a date, and assumed that Elliot broke up with Sarah because he realized he was gay. Both these characters are straight. This was lampshaded in a non-canon sketchbook entry where she was shown ordering a literal gaydar from the back of a comic book. Justin doesn't have a particularly good one either, as he totally misses Luke's rather obvious attraction to him until Grace pointed it out. Ironically, it's Grace who seems best at determining this sort of thing, despite the fact that she seems largely unconcerned with gender when it comes to attraction.
- Done as a Visual Pun in The Adventures Of Gynostar. Gynostar's sidekick, Little Sappho, has a tiny radar dish on her head.
- The titular character of Buster Wilde Weerwolf claimed he could tell someone's orientation by scent◊. Straight guys smell like old sofa cushions and aerosol cheese, straight women like strawberries and disinfectant, lesbians like wet carpet and sesame oil, gay men an explosion in a chlorine factory.
- Dr. Insano has one, as shown in Spoony's review of Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time. An effeminate French stereotype causes it to self-destruct. When Spoony asks why Insano would ever need a gaydar, Insano evades the question. In the commentary for that review, Spoony reveals that this caused fans to suspect that Insano was gay himself.
- The gay men's dating website gaydar.com.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series changes Bakura's Millennium Item detection ability into a Gaydar.
- Bender from Futurama has an actual gaydar. Whether it works or not is questionable.
- Stan from American Dad! also has one, but it didn't seem to work since it kept pointing at [straight] even when he was talking to a gay guy.
- On The Simpsons, Homer is tasked by Marge with finding a potential suitor for either Patty or Selma. When he assesses Principal Skinner, he notes, "Possible Homer Sexual."
- It's implied in The Owl House episode "Wing it Like Witches" that Willow has picked up on the fact that Amity is in love with Luz (something that no one else shows any signs of suspecting until the following season). The fact that she's the daughter of a gay couple probably helps.
- One episode of Lastman has Richard "guarding" a mobster's daughter on her way to meet her arranged husband. Problem is she's a lesbian who, understandably, doesn't want to be married to a man. At one point, she tells Richard that gay people can just tell when someone else is gay just by looking at them. When she and her future fiance finally meet, we see their respective gaydars going off towards each other (with one big lit up arrow pointing at her from his perspective and a bunch of lit up arrows pointing at him from her perspective). Suddenly, it becomes clear her father was actually setting up a Marriage of Convenience that both can agree to—which may have been what he has with his wife.
- Relatedly, there's the "transdar". It's mostly related to whether a person "passes" or not, or how they behave pre-transition. It can be easy for out trans people to spot closeted ones — common signs include an obsession with gender transformation, excessive daydreaming, being really really really into yaoi (for female-assigned folks) or yuri (male-assigned folks), crossplaying at every opportunity, and having a whole lot of trans friends.
- There's the suggestion that the greater exposure and acceptance of gay people in society increases the odds of a person correctly identifying someone who is gay because of the acceptance that gay people actually exist and don't all look like drag queens. People from a less open culture (or an older generation) are less likely to recognize someone as being gay because it's hard to recognize something that you refuse to accept.
- A 2005 study had discovered that people can smell people's sexual orientation by body odor. For homosexual male participants, there was a consistent preference for homosexual males over heterosexual males or homosexual females, under the forced-choice paradigm. This suggests that smell is one way of how the gaydar could work.