I have friends with gaydar. Usually women, these friends can conclude a guy is gay after a brief conversation. I don’t think it’s the way they dress or the way they talk. It’s a childlike aspect they pick up on. When they are wrong, and the guy they thought was gay was not, that person had a Peter Pan quality about him.

When I was in college, I evidently jammed some guys’ gaydar. On occasion, I’d have to tell gay guys I was straight. I had girlfriends. It’s just that I was living out the life of my hero, Peter Pan. The Mary Martin version. If there was a major in childhood, I had the course load: children’s lit, art, children’s theatre, developmental psychology, clay, drawing, children’s clinical psychology, etc.

Many years later, when I fell in love for the first time I experienced a powerful connection between Wendy, as she was portrayed in the Mary Martin production of Peter Pan, and the woman I’d fallen in love with. It’s only now, more than 15 years later, that I fully realize why her wearing the Wendy-like white nightgown so filled me with reverence, fear and joy.

I’ve heard of the Prince Charming complex, where a young girl grows up fixated on marrying a man not unlike the prince in a fairy tale. I grew up unconsciously seeking a woman that reflected the way that Wendy was portrayed in the 50s TV version of Peter Pan. Interestingly, the woman I finally first fell in love with was an actress.

Well, other people may have gaydar; I have maturation-delayed-dar. My aunt was seeking a solution to the learning disabilities my first cousin was displaying, and she told me the diagnosis. I suggested he be reappraised. He had Asperger’s. I felt this to be true by his behavior. In addition, his mother displayed all the usual tangential markers for mother of an autistic: left-handed, overweight, over 40 at conception. There are several special education teachers in my family, but no one had picked this up. The new diagnosis shared my conclusion. Astonishingly, in their evaluations, they never asked questions about the parents.

Conducting an interview to hire staff, five minutes into the conversation it seemed clear that the applicant was an Asperger’s candidate. The more he talked, the more it seemed the case. I felt that if he had a son, he would have autism. I asked if he had children. His son was autistic. The young man I was talking to described the burden he experienced, feeling it was his fault that his son was autistic.

In my last profession, while seeking to sell a store owner the various cartoon-related merchandise I specialized in, in the back of my mind I was tabulating all the characteristics that this woman was displaying that matched up with left-spectrum female. She pretty much exhibited them all. She was overweight, left-handed, low voice, blonde, and hair sparse with several features suggesting high testosterone levels that were genetically based. I asked her if she had sons. “Yes,” she said. “Both of them are autistic.”

It’s pretty rare I get these compulsions to find out if my intuition is correct. I just don’t get the intuitions very often.

Perhaps some guys thought me gay in my younger days because gays are also left-spectrum, closely related neurologically to those with autism and Asperger’s. These are the Peter Pans of contemporary times. Desmond Morris, the zoologist who in the 1960s popularized the theory of the aggressive male as our evolutionary forebear with his origin myth The Naked Ape, has recently published a book, The Naked Man suggesting gays exhibit neoteny. He got that right.

Gays are neotenous. So are many of those with Asperger’s and autism. In neoteny lies a secret to our evolutionary and societal origins. Perhaps gaydar and maturation-delayed-dar are two ways of picking out these exceptionally talented and creative people that live among us.


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