A gin-fuelled night out leaves Jessie Lewthwaite spotting signs that a girl might be queer. From body language to types of tattoos and placements of piercings, has she mastered the ‘Gaydar’?

I am being a tourist and crawling straight bars with my straight guy friends. I’m very supportive of their lifestyles.

I’m an ally. We roll in, and I swagger with the confidence of previous gins up to the bar. A girl turns to me, and my eyes immediately clock the tattoos that cascade down her neck. I mentally tally one point to queerness. She has long hair, but an undercut is visible. Two points. When I order, she smiles at me, and I catch a glimpse of a tongue piercing. With three points banked, I was pretty sure we had a queer woman here..


As I attempted to lean what I hoped was seductively against the bar, I reflected on why I was confident enough that this woman was queer. I was in a straight dive bar, the kind with a broken pool table and sticky floors. Yet my ‘gaydar’ moment left me wondering, ‘How can we tell if a woman is queer?’

For those of us who pride ourselves on our ‘gaydars’ (really should be queerdar, I’ll let the Rainbow Overlords know and get that changed), what signs are we looking for?

I’m not talking about flirting. That’s a whole other article. I’m talking about seeing a girl on the street and feeling, with confidence that she is a lady-lover.

There are women (like myself) that give the game away. I’m what we call a ‘one hundred footer’, in that you can tell I’m gay from 100 feet away. But not all women who love women are as easy to spot, especially the femmes that roam among us.


First of all, we have the stereotype of the finger nails…. We all know why!

Obviously, this isn’t 100% as she could have long nails but just be exclusively a bottom or only use toys. But stereotypically if you manage to get a look at her hands, this is a great starting point for your mental tally.

Next, tattoos on a woman be queer as fuck. Especially if they are on the fingers or neck. What the tattoo depicts really matters too.

For example: if a girl has a crow or raven tattoo – she is queer. If it’s a dove – she’s straight. I won’t elaborate further. It’s just science.

Then there’s hair, clothes, piercings, even how she walks or holds herself could be secret signs; little hints at queerness lurking.

For example: a lot of femme-presenting queer women will intentionally “gay up” their outfits so they can be more easily identified. Camo pants or a flannel shirt around the waist is sometimes all it takes to add a point to the queer column, as is any piercing that isn’t in the ears. The tongue basically counts as double points.

Now, look at her walk. Is she gliding like a bisexual queen hunting her prey? Does she swagger with hips that don’t lie? Does she hold herself like a girl who knows how to operate power tools? Three points or more and four gins in, I’m ready to introduce myself.

Some of us are blatant with our queerness, and some of us are fun little puzzles to put together. There is no right or wrong way to present yourself, and a ‘gaydar’ should never be taken too seriously. Just a fun little game to play, even in straight bars.

JESSIE LEWTHWAITE (she/her) is the Rainbow Inclusion Manager at Auckland University of Technology (AUT). She is also the Technology Manager on the Rainbow NZ Charitable Trust Board. Jessie splits her time between trying to complete a Masters Degree in Human Rights and playing video games. She loves all things nerdy and can be easily bribed with gin.