According to a new report a survey group has been able to identify different facial features in gay people from those who are straight using computer imaging.

The survey team recruited 40 gay and 40 straight white men in the Czech Republic and 33 of each for their 2nd survey.

A picture of each man was taken in the first survey and analysed using geometric morphometrics. Over 11,000 facial coordinates were identified for comparison.

Results

The results were that homosexual men had smaller and shorter noses, shorter faces and massive and more rounded jaws “resulting in a mosaic of both feminine and masculine features”, according to the authors.

So, there you are. It looks like you can tell if someone is homosexual or not just by looking at them.

However, not so fast.

Gay or Straight

They then showed the pictures to 40 male and 40 female students from Charles university and they had to guess the sexual orientation of those in the pictures. The people in the pictures were ranked from one to seven according to what was perceived as their masculinity and femininity.

Guess what?

The faces of the homosexual men were judged to be more masculine than those of straight men.

Well there you are!

Humans have evolved over thousands of years to be able to recognise traits in other people but in this survey they actually thought that gay men were more masculine looking than straight guys.

So, it’s not just that they dress better that the women like gay men.

Explanation

The authors of the survey try to explain this away by saying that ” this provides evidence that “sexual orientation judgment based on stereotyped gender specific traits leads to frequent misjudgment”.

Another conclusion might just be that they got it wrong.

Of course, there are some people that you meet that it is obvious that they are gay but that would be more their mannerisms than their faces. With others it is a complete surprise when they come out as gay. Even after one is told that someone has come out as being gay it is still not obvious either from their facial features or their mannerisms.

Could You Tell?

Just think of some gay men that you know from around the Moville area. Think of just a still picture of them and, even those with mannerisms that are the most gay, I don’t think you could tell from a still picture that they were gay. Even with the most flamboyant of gay men around here, I don’t think that you could tell from a still picture of them that they were gay – and many wouldn’t even look gay to you even after you were told they were gay.

Possible Misunderstandings

According to the author of the survey “It’s necessary to point out to possible misunderstandings of our results. The fact that we have found some significant morphological differences between homosexual and heterosexual men does not mean that any of the groups is easily recognizable on the street (and our Study 2 actually shows that it’s not that easy to guess anyone’s sexual orientation without knowing it), or that anything like that should be done (like pointing on people with our illustrations and guessing who is who).”

Unscientific

One would have to point out that the numbers surveyed are very small to make any scientific conclusion. Also, all the men were white and from the Czech Republic so any results might be just relevant to Czech white men.

There’s also the fact that despite this survey saying that they had identified, using 11,000 facial coordinates and geometric morphometrics, that gay Czech men look different from straight men, 40 guys and 40 gals from Charles university actually thought the gay men looked more masculine than the straight men.

The surveyors end with “Our results showed that differences in facial morphology of homosexual and heterosexual men do not simply mirror variation in femininity, and the stereotypic association of feminine looking men as homosexual may confound judgments of sexual orientation.”

Conclusion

So, I suppose that their conclusion is that gay Czech men look different from straight Czech men but the differences are not that they look more feminine.

One would also have to conclude that proper scientists and statisticians would cringe at the low numbers in the survey and the fact that the men were all from one ethnicity and colour and all from the one country.

It’s possible that there are differences in features between gay men and straight men but the numbers in this survey would suggest that this is far from proven – and I can’t think of any good use that the results of this survey would be put to.

Bad Uses

I could think of bad uses it could be put to. Imagine if they developed an app using this so-called geometric morphometrics, with its 11,000 facial coordinates, so that you could take a picture of someone on your mobile phone, put it through the geometric morphometrics app and then be given a percentage chance that the person whose picture was taken was gay or straight?

I could think of some countries where this may cost people their lives.

Tesco

Also, it was announced last week that Tesco were going to take pictures of the people looking at their ads in their forecourts to determine what sex and age the people who looked at the ads were. This was so that they could do market analysis.

Might they also, if they were able to identify a gay face from a straight face by using this geometric morphometrics, might they not try to analyse by whether someone was gay or straight?

Of course they would argue that they would be just doing this to target their markets. However, they couldn’t guarantee that the people who had access to that data would only use it for that purpose.

Workers

Could you imagine if someone in Derry, who worked for Tesco, was able to get all the information on all Teco’s shoppers and which of them were gay and which of them were straight, including some people they knew and some people who had not come out yet or who weren’t actually gay (I would doubt that geometric morphometrics was an exact science)?

I think this unscientific survey is best consigned to the dustbin of history.

Technology is changing the world daily but maybe it is about time that there was debate about what should be allowed and what should not be allowed.