Our Hands, Ourselves: A Deeply Unscientific Investigation of Identity

feature image via shutterstock

I found myself looking at my hands the other day, as you do when you’re avoiding doing something, and I noticed my left ring finger’s prominence. It’s not the first time I’ve been caught by it, but it made me think about those studies linking digit ratio to sexual orientation, where gay women often mimicked the hands of straight men with a longer ring vs. index, and gay men mimicked those of straight women with a longer index vs. ring, which is all said to be influenced by prenatal testosterone exposure. These studies are all assuming some very concrete things about gender/sexuality which we know IS RELATIVE, but I thought it’d still be fun for everyone to interpret their hand’s reading based on how they identify. Plus I would get to see pictures of these wonderful people’s hands. And now so do you!


Raquel, Intern

Raquel
“When I was younger I heard the hand myth (so I believe) about length of digit corresponding to h o m o s e x u a l i t y and, eager to “prove” my bisexuality, I would curve my hand slightly so as to make my index and ring finger align perfectly. In reality, I am neither a perfect 50-50 in attraction nor in digit size, but who is, really? I did pass the ‘look at your hands’ test with flying colors, so I’ve got that going for me.”


Mey, Trans Editor

Mey
“As a kid in elementary school, I definitely heard the thing about your index finger and ring finger length being a sign of being gay. However, as a closeted trans girl desperately trying to prove to the world that she was a (somewhat) masculine straight boy, I heard that if my index finger was longer than my ring finger than that meant I was gay, something I was often accused of being and often terrified I was. So it came as a huge relief when I saw that, no, my ring finger is longer than my index, meaning that I was safe and straight. I used this as evidence that I was a normal boy for several years. Now that I realize I’m actually a woman, those same finger lengths mean something else; they mean I’m just as gay (or maybe even moreso) than I always feared I’d become.”


Riese, Editor-In-Chief and CEO

Riese
“You know how when you’re younger grown ups are always commenting on your body parts and physical attributes and what they mean? People would always be like wow you have really long fingers do you play piano? And like no I got kicked out of piano lessons. So they’d be like do you play basketball? Cause I was tall and I had big hands so basketball, right? But I was also super clumsy and had mediocre endurance and aim so I wasn’t very good at basketball either. So when I was a teenager I’d follow all this up with like, ‘Welp, there’s always lesbianism! Too bad I’m not a lesbian!’ And look at me now.”


Stef, Music/Vapid Fluff Editor

Stef
“I can never remember which finger is supposed to make me gay. I guess this is part of the whole indecisive bisexual thing.”


Maree, Staff Writer

Maree
“I remember the index finger thing, and how we all went around comparing/policing each other in elementary school. I think I was ‘safe’ from being gay?! I also remember this thing in high school about how you could tell if someone was gay or not by the way they looked at their nails. Apparently, girls looked at their nails by stretching out all of their finger in front of them (like a diva, maybe?) and boys did it by curling their fingers up into their palms. So if you were a girl who did it like a boy you were gay, and if you were a boy who did it like a girl you were gay, but I think we were all gays having the conversation so we really embraced the silliness of it all.”


Erin, Staff Writer

Erin

“My left hand is very gay and so am I.”


Laura M, Staff Writer

Laura M.

“I don’t have any feelings about this myth, but I do have some feelings about making what amounts to a photo gallery of queer lady sex organs. So yes, I volunteer as tribute. Looks like my ring and index fingers are equal length.”


Rachel, Senior Editor

Rachel
“So many meaningful parts of my identity tied up in this hand, like my poor circulation and forgetfulness about moisturizing. Oh, maybe I should add that my pinkie is broken from playing catch when I was ten. Maybe that made me bisexual, idk.”


Carolyn, NSFW Editor

Carolyn
“Pretty queer, as per significantly longer ring finger (not actually super evident in photo).
Femme.
Nail polish tastes of a seven-year-old girl.
Couldn’t find my nail file or preferred hand cream before taking this photo.
Much-diminished writer’s bump indicating left-handed-ness and how little I use pens and paper these days.
Good at fisting (tiny fists).
Married (but not monogamous, wink).
Needs more tattoos.”


KaeLyn, Staff Writer

KaeLyn
“This picture is taken at such an angle that my digits look pretty lady gay, meaning my ring finger looks much longer than my index finger. However, in reality, they are almost exactly the same length. I guess this must be why I’m bi/pan/queer/whatever? These kinds of genetic or biological theories about sexual orientation always make me feel left out as a confirmed and card-carrying bisexual because they typically only include gay and straight as options. Like, what should my fingers look like if I’m a Kinsey 4.5791053 with a predilection for bois in eyeliner and grrrls with hairy armpits? What then? What I do know is that I’ve been a nail-biter since I was five years old and I just finally, in the last several months, finally succeeded in giving up the bad habit. So I’m pretty impressed with my nail length right now, even if I have to put on latex gloves for sexy times.”


Heather, Senior Editor

Heather

**CAUTION: NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART**

“This is my girlfriend’s hand; mine’s on the other side. For some reason she snapped this photo the night we met. 4:00 am in a random Manhattan diner because I wanted a cheeseburger (and because dinner and standing out in the snow and shutting down the bar just didn’t seem like enough time with her. I was only in town for the weekend, you see). Probably she took it because her hands are so tiny and my hands are so enormous and it seemed like a funny juxtaposition. We didn’t know the night she took this photo that we’d still be holding hands six years later, promising to hold hands for the rest of our lives.”


Laneia, Executive Editor

Laneia

“This hand didn’t know it was gay for like, a long time. Like over 20 years! When it found out how gay it was, it was so excited and happy to be alive in this world. My hand currently IDs as queer lesbian man-hater.”

Los Angeles based writer. Let's keep it clean out there!

Erin has written 207 articles for us.

103 Comments

  1. ““I don’t have any feelings about this myth, but I do have some feelings about making what amounts to a photo gallery of queer lady sex organs.”

    I was blushing throughout this article: no lie.

    • Men really don’t understand the pressure of this. Of course we care a lot about our hands, it is literally proof that we are both sexy and considerate enough not to stick unmanicured grossness into our partners! Can you imagine how much bigger an industry hand maintenance would be if all humans were like us?

    • That reminds me of the joke:

      “What can our fingers tell us about our orientations?”

      “Well, they’re currently between another gal’s legs, so that’s probably indicative of something!”

  2. I remember looking this up after that episode in the L Word.. and then again when I was really confused re: Am I gay? Am I bisexual? Am I pansexual?… I don’t know, biology just tell me!!! ( I’ve settled with queer.)

    However, I thought the question of which finger is longer depended on how much I straighten, relax or curl my fingers.

    So, for you, Autostraddle, I’ve conducted a super-scientific* experiment on whether or not straightened, relaxed or curled fingers changes results.

    Super straight fingers:

    Result = very gay

    Relaxed fingers:

    Result: = bisexual

    curled= oh wait….. still gay… hmmmm

    What if I really,really, really wanted to be straight*
    (* as forecasted by my fingers)?

    MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
    … but, no thanks. 🙂

  3. Well my hands are kind of straight, then? It’s darn close. I already hated my hands because they’re small (the only thing about Donald Trump that makes any sense to me is his hand-anxiety), now I have another reason.

    *sigh*

  4. I can definitely relate to Mey’s feelings about her hands. I wasn’t accused of being gay that much, but it did happen sometimes. But I always felt like there was something off about me and for someone who wasn’t pretending to be a masculine jock type at all, I still did certain things to deny my femininity, like pretending I didn’t like pop music (secretly loved The Spice Girls SO much). Growing up at the time that I grew up and the place that I grew up meant that I knew next to nothing about trans women. So, I honestly just thought I was some sort of weird pervert with oddly specific lesbian fantasies. But anway, I went from having straight hands to very gay hands and that makes me pretty happy.

    And Laneia, I love your nail polish!

  5. As a cocky (poor word choice for subject matter) teen dyke I was always proud of my 7 3/4 inch span and my half-inch-longer-than-index ring finger…oh those halcyon days of youthful idiocy. What I thought the span had to do with anything is now beyond me.

    • Oh, I totally still use hand span to favorably compare my hypothetical organ size against male friends. Of course, the irony is that my hands are quite dinky, and the long span is entirely down to manual flexibility because lesbianism.

      • I measured my Span as the length across the palm from tip of thumb to tip of little finger with you hand fully outstretched (for super innocent piano octave reach based reasons). Fun fact it’s also the length of your arm from elbow crease to wrist crease, and the length of your foot from heel to big toe tip. 🙂

  6. During Christmas break my freshman year of college, when I was in the closet, my mom suddenly grabbed my hands and started talking about how elegant my hands had become. I have perfectly average, stubby hands, so I thought she was just being weird and trying to get out of the argument. I now am questioning everything. Does she know the myth? Was she screening me?

      • Eh, have fun with it. I pretend I have an elbow fetish just to mess with my wife. I’ve kept it going for years. She thinks I’m a total freak about elbows, but in reality I keep trolling her because I get such a kick out of her reactions. It’s so hard to keep a “straight” face. XD

        • OMG, That is funny! I don’t think I could keep it up for years. Do you pretend to check out other people’s elbows in front of her?

          I managed to convince my fiancee that I get turned on by certain types of fonts for a couple of months. She caught on when I started laughing after saying Times New Roman is the sexiest font and it’s the reason I always want sex after writing a paper lol 🙂

  7. I spent my whole life up until halfway through this article thinking that the finger comparison was between the pointer and middle fingers and that according to this metric pretty much everyone is gay (/not-straight). This is not the first time I have gotten the names of the pointer and middle fingers confused, although this is the longest it’s taken me to catch my mistake. The hand thing makes more sense now.

  8. My hands are pretty lady gay (long ring fingers) but I also like that my straight (yes, really) mom’s are the same way because: It’s a good reminder that this is just a fun little speculative thing about testosterone exposure; and, that I like to identify with my mom in a lot of ways (e.g. loving but take-no-crap boss person) regardless of not having the same sexuality.

  9. I teach sex ed and one of the most common questions I get is if there is a “test” for identify. Oh my sweet little pigeons, the question of who we are is so vast and complex no test can quantify any part of it. If only it was that simple…

    • Depending on how old the children are, the test is pretty simple.
      Ask them how many of them have seen a pretty girl before. Most, if not all, should raise their hands. Hopefully they know that recognizing beauty doesn’t determine identity.
      Then ask them, how many wanted to have sex with that pretty girl… voilà, identity test complete.
      guess you could change it up with, how many wanted to see her naked or how many wanted to kiss her. You can add a follow on question about a pretty boy.
      Not sure how the school board would feel about it though.

      • Totally didn’t work for me, even with seeing naked or kissing as the standard. The standard for me would have been more like, “fantasize about impressing her in some esoteric conversational manner” right up until oh, about the time I first really fell in love at nineteen (and there were definitely none sexual reasons for wanting to impress people to, so the test would have given some false positives). Flirting and negotiation still seems to be about as far as my imagination is willing to go with any real person other than my wife but, then again, my mind is a) extremely verbal and b) possessed of very strict standards of narrative thoroughness, so if I can’t imagine myself getting to the kissing, I can’t really imagine the kissing or even the desire for it.

        Attempting to use that test more or less made me think I was asexual, though the term was only marginally available to me at the time. Which I’m definitely not although demi comes pretty close. I can look back and see that I was attracted to people and even had crushes on them, but I couldn’t have identified it at the time because it was so so far from wanting sex with them–I could feel there was some sort of potential there but until I went down the path with someone I couldn’t recognize that potential as sexual.

        So yeah, sometimes there is no test but time, and even that is likely to leave some potentials unexplored and even invisible (still don’t know if I could be attracted to someone I met as a man). Still, I do like wearing my gay wedding ring on my gay-test-passing ring finger. I like that it doesn’t really work as a test–it would be a little disturbing if it did–but as a vague, possibly-maybe sort of indication, I like the way it ties my gayness into my body and history, the way it suggests both embodiedness and destiny and our inability to pin any of that down to a predictive certainty. And of course, most of all, I like the moments when my own living, chosen certainty is written there in that ring and in the lingering smell of sex.

    • thank you!!! i don’t know what color it is ’cause it was a gel polish and they didn’t have names, but i was trying to pick the color that looked most like the color i use for touch-ups, which is naughty nautical by essie

  10. Good grief, my hands are so gay my ring fingers are nearly as tall as my middle fingers, and my poor index fingers barely even skim the bottom of my middle finger nail beds! Who knew?!

    Well done on those manis, you babes!

  11. Just had to haul out a tape measure in the interest of science. When looking at my hands the left index looks significantly longer than the ring finger and the right index also looks slightly longer than the matching ring finger (but closer to same length). After measuring: my index and ring finger lengths are 6.6cm (I) and 7.2cm (R) on the left, and 7.1cm (I) and 7.2cm (R) on the right. Maybe my left hand shape just curves really weirdly? Or perhaps how short they are makes it hard to tell…

  12. Welp Laneia’s my hand twin and Stef’s my spirtual twin or at least chill older cousin that just gets it.
    That is what I learned from this.
    Also that Riese has awesome spider hands I’d like craft skeletor boob armor off of.
    Didn’t think THAT would be the inappropriate thought I’d get from a photo listing of queer lady hands, but I’ll accept it.

  13. I just studied this in my gender studies class. According to the white upper class cis-gendered hetrosexual man who teaches the class from a book written by a white upper class cis-gendered hetrosexual male… Sorry I got side tracked… But supposedly the most masculine of fingers belong to gay men.

  14. Once upon a time as a closeted college sophomore, this topic came up while I was studying with a (beautiful, beautiful, beautiful) friend. She held her hand out and said, “I guess I’m straight?” I held my hand out and said, “They’re the same length…so I guess I’m bi, HA HA HA WEIRD,” and changed the subject.

  15. There is some gorgeous nail polish in this article. Uhhhhh, also gorgeous hands, damn.
    One thing I really like about my boyfriend’s hands are that they’re fairly small for a cis guy, and are kinda like a woman’s hands. Is that weird?

  16. When this study first came out I was in high school and already wondering if I should do something to make myself clearly queer – I had long hair and presented as relatively feminine (and still do) but for all the other baby dykes I knew gender presentation was part of what they were struggling with, including my girlfriend. I remember feeling like my finger length further undermined my queer cred, since she had a longer ring finger and I definitely have a longer first finger.

    AND YET, you know what? I am so gay I still literally do not have any idea how to tell if a guy is attractive or not. I am so extremely gay. I know no one’s suggesting that this is actually an accurate gayness test,it’s just nice realizing that looking at my fingers no longer fills me with doubt.

    There is actually something to this study (here’s a more recent meta-analysis: http://psycnet.apa.org/?&fa=main.doiLanding&doi=10.1037/a0018764) and I’m really interested to see what scientists learn about the mechanisms behind sexuality and gender in coming years, since I think right now we don’t know much. But it’s undoubtedly a lot more complex than this.

  17. I wonder if the length by which your ring finger is longer/shorter than your index finger determines your level of gay/straightness. Like a Kinsey scale based on finger length. Fuck it I’m declaring that the case. Per the finger Kinsey scale I’m hella gay.

  18. Similar to Riese, when I was a child adults would often point out how long my fingers were and ask if I played piano. Now when anyone mentions it I just get really embarrassed.

    My ring fingers are so much longer than my index fingers on both hands (like a finger nail’s length longer), and a few of my lesbian friends have similar hands. It’s kind of interesting that digit length can be linked to testosterone exposure, but are there not any more obvious physical signs of the difference in in-utero hormone exposure?

  19. I FORGOT TO ASK FELLOW LONG FINGERED LONG HANDED FOLKS IF THEY HAVE GLOVE TROUBLE
    Like the fingers end before the divide in your fingers begin leaving you in some horrid human-duck hybrid place.
    And/Or the edges of your palms are left naked and cold because the glove ends before your palms do.

    It’s terrible and I know I’m not alone in experiencing this terribleness.

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