Which ear is the gay ear? Unboxing That Dated/Queerty Stereotype


If you’re wondering which side is the left or right gay piercing, then, long story short, getting pierced in your to the right the ear meant you were gay. But there’s so much more to this “gay piercing” than which side is the gay side and which is the straight men’s side.

There is a rich history of jewelry being used to show wealth, nobility or status. In the 20th century, it was used to show sexual preference. A man would wear a single earring in his right ear to say he was gay.

In this article, we’ll look at why it was a problem, how it affected LGBTQ youth, and what’s happened since. Join us in unboxing this old gay stereotype and ask the question: do we still need it?

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A brief history of piercing

Since ancient times, people have had their bodies pierced to show their status or caste. Adornments like facial piercings and other jewelry were common. Over the centuries, the popularity of ear piercing has come in waves. Egyptian mummies have pierced ears. In the 1500s in Europe it was common to see a wealthy man dripping in jewelry and it was fashionable for them to wear a single pearl earring hanging from one ear.

Ear piercings fell out of favor in the 1920s in the United States. From the 1920s to the 1950s, facial piercings were rare, gay ears or not. Even for women, it was fashionable to wear clip-on earrings. But then, in the 1970s, more and more people were getting their ears pierced. Rock stars made the look appealing and more people got multiple piercings.

At some point, homosexuals began to use piercings to signal to other men that they were gay. Which side was the gay earring on? Well, if you were a heterosexual and you wanted to pierce one ear, it always had to be the left ear because the right ear was the gay ear. And so the “gay piercing” was born – more than any body piercing, the gay ear piercing was the best way to tell if someone was playing for your team.

Being gay in the 20th century

Although there were homosexuals at that time, it was much less common and acceptable than today. There was no protection for homosexuals and they were often physically attacked just for being who they were.

LGBTQ life was still underground in secret bars and underground meetings in local parks in the 1970s when body piercings started to come back into fashion. Secrecy has led to an increased need for discreet signalling. It was then that gay ear piercing began to become a popular method of letting those in the know know to know.

man with cross earring

The effects of gay ear

In the late 1970s, it became common for men to secretly communicate their sexuality by wearing an earring in their right ear. By the 90s it had become so widely accepted as a secret code that there was a article about it in the New York Times. After that, there weren’t many questions about which ear is the gay ear. Left ear for heterosexuals, right ear for homosexuals, the publication had spoken.

New York Times newspaper

“The left is good, the right is bad.”

There was a saying around the playground that was so popular that everyone seemed to know it. This meant that anyone who got a piercing (usually a boy because girls got both ears pierced) had to get their left ear pierced because the right ear meant you were gay – and being gay was wrong.

This is unfortunately exactly the worst message we want to send to young LGBTQ people. The phrase is widely known in the United States. It’s repeated everywhere from Florida to Oregon, it’s unclear how it started or how the phrase spread, but it’s well known enough to cause harm to LGBTQ youth.

These days, the original phrase isn’t as common anymore, but it can still crop up every once in a while with boys getting their right ear pierced. It is likely that many children have suffered at the hands of bullies because of this common saying simply because they accidentally got their “gay ear” pierced.

Depressed teenager holding a pride flag

Create gay symbols

Unlike other marginalized groups, being gay is something you realize slowly. It’s not something you can tell about a person from their physical appearance. To communicate your sexuality, you need to tell people about it. Now, what happens when it becomes unacceptable to tell people?

The gay ear was a nice, subtle way to signal to other men that you were looking for men. But the problem was that it was becoming too recognizable and it was starting to create problems for men who identified as gay.

Sayings like “left is right, right is wrong” make it clear that being gay was seen as something to be ashamed of and that many young LGBTQ people were bullied for being gay. getting ‘gay ear’ pierced.

Has it improved?

There is good news. It is no longer as dangerous to date as a gay man in the United States, so it is no longer as important which ear is the gay ear. You don’t need something as subtle as a piercing, there are other ways to signal now – like telling someone you’re gay or buying another man a drink.

In fact, now you can just hop on dating apps and find other men looking for men in your neighborhood. The internet has made finding our tribes much easier.

In the years before the Internet, it was much harder to connect to anyone. Most homosexuals needed cues to quietly show their pride. But these days, they can just be themselves without being so afraid of retaliation.

Young gay couple standing over isolated background smiling pulling ears with fingers, funny gesture.  hearing problem


These days, it doesn’t matter which ear is the gay ear in the United States. The “gay ear” has fallen out of favor for a more open approach to piercings. Pretty much anyone can have them these days as long as they’re appropriate for the situation.

Now it’s also much easier to tell if someone is gay or straight because you can just ask them. It is no longer taboo to talk about it. It may be a little annoying, but it’s much better than before.

Since it’s not so taboo to be gay and proud anymore, the need for such discreet signaling has fallen on his ear. So which side is the gay side, the right side or the left side? It doesn’t matter anymore.

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