How do you react when a straight person tells you ‘you don’t look gay’?

How do you react when a straight person tells you ‘you don’t look gay’?

David Hudson says he’s thrown by the intention behind the comment, ‘You don’t look gay’, in this piece originally published on Gay Star News.


There’s a funny meme doing the rounds of social media.

I have been told “You don’t look gay” a handful of times over the years. My initial reaction is, firstly, slight surprise. I’m not sure why but I tend to assume people can discern my sexuality just by looking at me or reading my body language.

Perhaps because being gay is so much a part of my own identity and life (I work for an LGBTI news website, after all), I think I must project gay-ness to the world. That’s clearly not the case.

The second reaction, if I’m being totally honest, is a small flush of pride. Hooray for me! Still passing as straight!

Well, what sort of pride is that? Certainly not gay pride, I’m ashamed to say.

David Hudson

I’ve written about feeling internalized homophobia before, so won’t go on at length about it here. If you never ever experience feelings of internalized homophobia, good for you. For most of us, we’re still works in progress.

That said, I like to think I’m thankfully long past any conscious efforts to be ‘straight-acting’ and just want to simply be ‘David-acting’. Being your authentic self is so much more important than trying to fit in with the crowd.

But what of that statement – “You don’t look gay”? How are we supposed to react to that?

Is it being offered as a statement of surprise? Or as a clunky and misguided compliment? At the very least, it would suggest the person saying it thinks gay people look a certain way.

Does the fact they can’t determine someone’s sexuality just by looking at them make them feel uncomfortable? Is it a subconscious criticism?

Do they really think that we walk around like we’re on a Pride parade 24/7, with a rainbow whistle dangling from our neck and witty slogan T-shirt?

Maybe, if it happens again, that would be the best response.

“I don’t look gay? Tell me, what does a gay person look like?”

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  1. Q
    June 22, 07:34 Reply

    Good question, what does a gay person look like? ?

  2. Rehoboth
    June 22, 08:08 Reply

    How will I react? Dunno. Maybe I’ll switch the topic. Discussing sexual orientation with straight people can be problematic.

  3. Rehoboth
    June 22, 08:11 Reply

    Trust KDians to be up in righteous indignation but will still share video of a limp-wristed groom and infer he is gay.

  4. Hermoine
    June 22, 15:20 Reply

    Question: But you dont look gay?

    My response : oh really? Hang on lemme change (switches from mando-ing to bitch mode), how do i look now?

  5. Papi
    June 22, 16:05 Reply

    I’ll tell the person I didn’t know you were straight ?

  6. Swan King
    June 23, 10:55 Reply

    I think I will be offended because that statement presupposes that there is a gay-look and frankly, I’m not comfortable with that notion. It is meant to be flattering, but it is condescending.
    As for KDiand inferring people’s sexuality, I believe whatever U tell me Ur sexuality is.
    Even if there is evidence to the contrary? Yes!
    Why? Because only U can accurately and appropriately identify Ur sexuality. Some people might be works in progress but will eventually get there.

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