Not only is everyone's "gaydar" permanently on the fritz, this faulty gay-identifying equipment can actually be dangerous. That's according to a study published in July in the Journal of Sex Research. The Washington Post reports psychologist William Cox and his team of researchers found gaydar doesn't actually exist and is simply a way to make stereotypes about the LGBTQ community more socially acceptable. "If you tell people they have gaydar, it legitimizes the use of those stereotypes," Cox says in a press release. For example, test subjects who were told that gaydar is based in science were more likely to use stereotypes. Cox says he wants to expose the "myth" of gaydar as something that is actually harmful.
Not only did Cox find gaydar was just another name for stereotyping, it was also inaccurate, the Post reports. "Imagine that 100% of gay men wear pink shirts all the time, and 10% of straight men wear pink shirts all the time," he says. "Even though all gay men wear pink shirts, there would still be twice as many straight men wearing pink shirts." Cox's research goes against a 2008 study that concluded gaydar was real based on test subjects' ability to identify gay people from their faces on dating sites. But, Cox found those earlier subjects were actually just picking out higher quality photos rather than anything about the people's faces. (None of this stopped one famous playwright from using gaydar to out both Abraham Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth.)