Electronic detector for gay cruisers attracts the wrong kind of wild life

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The Independent Online
THE DEVICE has been billed as a "discreet little alarm", designed quietly to alert lovelorn homosexuals that a suitable mate is in the vicinity.

The Gaydar, a kind of electronic pager, will vibrate when another gay man wearing a similar device approaches and promises, its inventors claim, toreduce the need for "cruising" and prevent embarrassing encounters. But as Graham Lees wandered through a park in Reigate, Surrey, testing the device, he found himself pursued. Not by gay men, but by an amorous badger and a stream of irritated "dive-bombing" squirrels. To make matters worse, Mr Lees discovered that his mere presence set off a chain-reaction among car alarms. As he fled the park, fending off the rodents and nocturnal mammals, Mr Lees realised the device required just a touch of fine-tuning.

"We had to make changes. It could be embarrassing," said Mr Lees, an electronics expert from the Inventors' Club.

"We certainly were not intending to `out' badgers," explained a fellow inventor, Andrew Goff, adding: "And the squirrels were rather aggravated. I thought it might just be their mating season but it wasn't. It was the sonic device."

Today the Gaydar's designer, David Elliott, 20, insists the technical hitches have been ironed out of his product and gay men or women can feel confident it will perform its duties without attracting the local wildlife, or constabulary.

To New York's homosexual community, "gaydar" is a talent, an in-built ability to detect fellow gays at a mere glance. But for guys who make passes at the wrong men, this new device is designed to make those embarrassing little cases of mistaken sexual orientation a thing of the past.

The device, however, appears to reveal more about the wonderful world of invention than the gay community. The Gaydar actually began life as a vibrating "doorbell" for the hard of hearing. Mr Elliott explained: "My ex-girlfriend's brother is deaf and I learnt that he had a doorbell which lit up. I though it would not be much use when he was asleep."

Somewhere along the line, Mr Elliot saw another market. "Some of the guys in my dance class told me they wished there was some way of recognising another gay guy. This gave me the idea."

The Gaydar, which retails at pounds 21 without post and packaging, has now gone on sale. The gay populations of London, Brighton, Manchester and Cheshire have already applied in bulk but lone applicants are being kept on hold to save them from wandering aimlessly without hope of response. Meanwhile the badgers and squirrels of those cities can rest undisturbed. "We contacted the RSPCA and, after research, changed it to an electronic transmitter. It's fine now," said Mr Goff.