People don’t usually wear a label on their foreheads declaring them gay, straight, bisexual or otherwise. Asking someone you just met if she is lesbian or bisexual is kind of awkward and they might be taken aback. A better approach is to try and find out in more subtle ways.
Some people claim to have “gaydar” the ability to tell if someone is gay or not. Sometimes gaydar can be about looking for clues in the person’s behavior or dress that indicates she is a lesbian.
Women have reported to use some of the following ways to tell if someone is a lesbian or not:
You can look for the obvious signs like a marriage equality sticker on her car or a piece of rainbow jewelry. But these days, many gay-friendly straight people sport those things.
Some people also try to look for certain visual clues: like does she have short hair, or a Justin Bieber haircut? Does she dress like a tomboy or have a faux hawk? Sometimes lesbians do dress like tomboys or have short hair. But not all women who dress like that are LGBT. And certainly not all lesbians look like that. Women who identify as femme lesbians probably don’t dress like that at all.
I once had someone write in to ask if you could tell a lesbian by the ring she wears. There have been some jewelry companies who have tried to market rings or pendants so that lesbians could subtly identify one another. Rainbows. Labryis, black triangles and lambdas were all popular back in the 80s and 90s, but you don’t see them much anymore.
Other Clues She Might Be a LesbianSome people claim they can tell a lesbian because she tends to make eye contact and hold it a bit longer. It can be a nanosecond longer, but just enough to acknowledge you. But then again, that is not a sure way to tell if someone is lesbian or not.
Where you see the person can sometimes give you a clue if she’s a lesbian or not. If you meet her at a gay or lesbian bar or at the gay pride parade, chances are she is a lesbian. But what if you meet her in class, at the local coffee shop or at your friend’s backyard barbeque?
ConversationsSometimes people will give you clues in their conversations. I met someone at a conference once and as part of a group exercise she said she would like to live in Provincetown, Massachusetts one day. Provincetown is a gay and lesbian Mecca, so that was a clue that she was trying to let us know she was a lesbian.
Of course, talking to someone and finding out more about them is really the only way to tell if someone is a lesbian or not. So if there is someone you’re interested in, go ahead and start talking to her.
Get to Know HerOne of the first things you can do is talk a bit about yourself. You can drop some hints that you’re lesbian or bisexual. You can mention an LGBT event you went to or talk about a current event or issue like gay marriage or bullying.
You can also just start a conversation with her and see if she happens to mention that she’s dating anyone or if she’s married or in a relationship. Usually within a few moments of talking with someone, unless she’s a really private person, you can tell if she is LGBT or not. If you can’t, but you’re still intrigued, you can ask her friends or once you get to know her better, you can ask her yourself.
Recently I was at a fundraiser for a gay youth scholarship fund. There were lots of people there—gay, straight and otherwise. I was with a group of people and we were talking about dating. I asked one woman, “Do you date men, women or both?” She was straight and didn’t seem at all offended by my question. So, if you can find a way to ask that fits into the conversation—go for it.