|Who is the target?|
A recent article about men avoiding recycling in order not to appear gay (or be "outed") made me wonder if this fear keeps so many men away from dancing. Why are there so few men in many parts of the world who avoid being dancers? By reflection on my own experiences throughout my life, I realized that men--both gay and hetero--have reason to be warry of how men and women "scope them out." As I thought about this subject, many of my own experiences were reawakened--like recovered memories. I became more and more somber, even repulsed, as each memory surfaced:
- I heard in seventh grade from some female classmates that their mothers said that if a man crosses his legs he was gay. I thought that was stupid, even funny, but I took note and tried not to cross my legs so much.
- My private music teacher was scoped out by an ex-sailor's gaydar. He told everyone that my music teacher was gay and said he was nearly ready to beat him up because he saw my teacher touch me in a friendly way. I am horrified that as a young teen, I assumed the ex-sailor's gaydar was accurate. As I learned over time, the veteran sailor's gaydar had malfunctioned.
- When I was in my 20's and a musician in Oakland, California, my church made a threat to ex-communicate a pastor because she and I attended our mutual church and musician friend's gay wedding. My friend was disallowed from being a member of the church.
- A good friend and fellow long-distance cyclist was identified by a salsa partner of mine as being gay. Her gaydar malfunctioned too, sending off warning signals because he shaved his legs. She did not know that the majority of serious cyclists shave their leg hair since if they get in a wreck it is easier to clean wounds without hair in the way. He later married the woman he was dating. (I didn't tell her about my legs. ;-)
- Dancing tango in Washington, DC in 2016, a woman remarked that she loved my cologne. She asked what it was. "Cartier," I said. "I got it in France." That surely set off her gaydar. So she sent out another gaydar signal to be sure. "Who makes it?" she said. "I don't know," I said. "Oh, well I guess that means you're not gay," she assured me. According to her gaydar scope, if I had known who made the cologne, that surely would have confirmed my gayety. As always, I took note.
- A salsa partner years ago taunted me with her gaydar because I was not interested in her. "You are a good dancer, and my theory is that a man has to be gay if he is a good dancer." She was baiting me, jealous of the woman I was dating with whom I had just broken up. She was implicitly trying to have me prove myself and my sexual identity or be labeled in her inner circle of friends. Again, I took note.
- In 2012 I lived in Germany when my female coworkers found out that I like to dance. Their gaydar was set off unwittingly by my Cuban boss who told that them that my girlfriend and I were avid tango dancers. They told me later that they first had assumed I was gay. Again I took note. Another department at the hospital knew I danced, and when I said I was engaged to a French woman, they all checked their gaydar and agreed that it was a decoy--until they met her at an organizational dinner.
- When I was deployed to Egypt in the Army, a staff sergeant said that our Executive Officer was gay (according to his gaydar). "I can see it a mile away," he told a group of us as we sat eating at the chow hall. "Really?" I thought. "I don't see that!" But I took note.
- My ex-wife and mother of my two children took some of my personal letters to court from my gay musician and church friend (mentioned above). She argued to the court that I should be limited in my ability to see my two children because I had a gay friend. The female judge had asked my children if they wanted to stay with me until Monday mornings every other week. The judge allowed and then disallowed my request because of this damning "evidence." At that time I wasn't even living in the homophobic US, I was living in a country that made homosexual people wear pink triangles on their clothes in 1938 before eventually killing many of them. Gaydar. Toxic laser rays.
- Lastly on this abbreviated list: Long ago, my ex-brother-in-law (divorced for a very good reason), was imprisoned for having killed a man whom he had thought was trying to seduce him. Gaydar is not funny for any man, especially a gay man.
The casualties of gaydar are mostly the men who never show up to dance. If men are even afraid for their lives--and they have every right to be--I hope that I have influenced a few people to put away their gaydar, especially in our non-violent, non-judgemental tango community. I have promised myself to keep my own gaydar scope to myself and to ask others to keep theirs as a "concealed weapon"(before someone gets hurt)! Another positive step, too, is to think of ways to inspire men to join our dance community. It's about time we start reversing the damage already done. Replace it with finding guys who have warm embraces and move their bodies as if controlled by the music. This is Tangdar--the ability to spot future tangueros and nurture them that they may find their dancing self.
Before you buy your very own gaydar mug (yes, they are for sale), you should know that the definition is not accurate. The real definition is: "The stupidly proud, usually erroneous and sometimes dangerous belief that one has the ability to correctly label people as gay."