It’s a common situation: one of your roommates is moving out, and the remaining renters need to search for someone to replace them. You sit down to talk about your ideal new roomie. When this happened to me last summer, my roommate and I decided that the new addition should be over 25 and have lived in New York City for at least a year. This was our only real criteria, but a few months earlier in 2019 another set of roommates in Portland, Ore. had a seemingly strange and celestial one: No Capricorns. The housing ad didn’t state so explicitly, but one of the existing roommates specified this to a potential inquiring renter. The message, which went viral, read: “This Virgo/Gemini house is a special place where soft mutable signs get to run free untethered by cardinal authorities.” This uncanny request might seem like a one-off, but these picky roommates are far from alone in considering someone’s astrological sign.
Last January, Mashable shared a similar story of renters who turned down an applicant because she was a Pisces. In November, John Paul Brammer’s advice column ¡Hola Papi! (formerly published by Out magazine, now a Substack newsletter) featured a questioner who asked, “Should I fake my astrology sign to be more employable?” after discovering their Libra bosses prioritized other Libras as new hires.
In September, Fast Company detailed how some start-ups are incorporating astrology in their company culture and even the hiring process. Occasionally dubbed “astrology discrimination,” “zodiac discrimination,” or “zodiac shaming,” this practice isn’t illegal — Capricorns are neither a protected class nor a historically-oppressed group. But some astrology fans say it’s annoying and it’s becoming increasingly widespread, particularly in dating.
“I lost out on a hand-modelling job when the person casting asked for our signs,” she says. “She basically lit up when the other girl said she was an Aries and was nodding and saying yes, I sense that energy from you. Then she asked me what my sign was. When I said Cancer, her demeanor visibly changed drastically, and she just kind of politely nodded at me with a forced smile. I was torn between laughing and panicking because I couldn’t believe she would decide between us based on a zodiac sign.” Sepulveres did not get the job.
Bringing astrology into the hiring process seems to be rarer in the U.S. than in other parts of the world. In China, a 2017 survey found that 4.3% of college graduates looking for jobs had experienced discrimination based on their Western or Chinese zodiac sign, according to The New York Times. And in 2009, an Austrian insurance company’s ad expressing preference for “Capricorn, Taurus, Aquarius, Aries and Leo” candidates sparked an investigation, according to Live Science. (The investigation concluded that in Austria too, zodiac signs weren’t protected by law in the same way as gender, race, and age.)
But while losing out on a job because of your sign isn’t all that common in the U.S., losing out on a date seems to be more so. In January 2019, dating app Bumble introduced new filters to let you screen out, say, a Sagittarian’s profile.
It’s not limited to Bumble. My Twitter query brought several DMs from people who had strong feelings about never dating certain signs. Sara, a Libra, met her now-girlfriend, a Virgo, after specifying she preferred earth and water signs. “After dating a Sag, Aries, and Leo right in a row, I decided I wasn’t dating fire signs anymore ever, and I’m not sorry!” she says.
Similarly, Rae, a Scorpio, decided to stop going out with Libras after dating three seriously. “I was very over being the mean emotional Scorpio to their rational, fair, objective Libra,” she says. “I mean, oof! The gaslighting! The arguments that got passively dismissed with a shrug when they were wrong!” She’s now dating a “wonderful, lovely Cancer woman.” She adds, “We met while I was refusing Libras, so I can confidently say I wouldn’t have considered her as seriously as I did if she had been one. She also happens to have no major Libra placements, SCORE.” Rae has also been on the other end of zodiac stereotyping. She was once propositioned for a threesome specifically because she’s a Scorpio, a sign said to be particularly sexual.
Astrology’s current boom — about 30% of American adults now say they believe in astrology and popular apps such as Co-Star are bringing in millions in funding — might be perpetuating this behaviour. When I search my work inbox, it only takes a few minutes to find press releases telling me the signs most likely to cheat (Leo), least likely to save money (Pisces), and most likely to fake an orgasm (Taurus).
Media publications do the same: YourTango has written about “the zodiac signs most likely to overeat” (Scorpio, Aquarius, and Gemini topped the list), and Romper published an article about the “four most emotionally abusive zodiac signs” (Cancer, Virgo, Scorpio, and Capricorn). Even the New Yorker and The New York Times are reporting on astrology’s surge in relevance. As someone who writes about the stars all the time, I’m not immune: I haven’t flat-out turned someone down because of their sun sign, but I was thrilled to discover a recent date was a Capricorn (said to be particularly compatible with Scorpios — I’m one).
There’s one sign that seems to get more hate than any other: Gemini. “The old me used to love a Gemini / like a threesome, f*cking with him every night,” Lizzo proclaims in her song “Soulmate.” But it’s not just the pop star who’s biased. One Gemini, Halle, says, “People recoil every time I reveal my sign, it’s ridiculous.” Another, Iayana Elie, explains, “People automatically assume that I’m two-faced or not to be trusted. I once went to an event where as an ice breaker we were asked for our name, and our sign. Once I shared mine, it got tense, and I just made a joke out of it. But it’s moments like those when I have to prove myself to a group of strangers.”
My sun is in Scorpio, but my Mars is in Gemini, and even that’s enough to bring on Gemini hate. When I recently attended an astrology workshop, the astrologer who gave me a reading told me I should get off social media because my Mars sign might lead me to cause Twitter drama, like a certain notorious Gemini, President Donald Trump. (I did not quit social media. Nor have I started any Twitter blowups.)
Trump might play a role in all the Gemini hate, says Courtney Perkins, the Gemini behind the popular astrology meme Instagram Not All Geminis. But he’s not the only factor.
“I think it’s just bandwagoning,” she says. “It’s done by people who don’t really know a lot about astrology.” There are good and bad people of every sign, she adds, and every sign has negative traits. “We could be calling Aries tyrannical, or we could be calling Cancers manipulative wet noodles,” she says. “For Gemini, people come back to the two-faced thing, but there are other signs of duality: Pisces, with two fish swimming in opposite directions, doesn’t make up their mind easily. And Libra is equally superficial, if not more so. Every fault that’s assigned to Gemini is shared by another sign.”
View this post on Instagram
🚨 ROLL CALL! Will the Messy Bitch Hall of Fame please stand up?! NOT ALL GEMINIS! I did less moral policing than usual with this one and just included most people, because honestly, public scandal is a hallmark of Gemini fame. If I took out all of the problematic people from this collage, there’d be no collage! And a bunch of comments saying “Where’s Kanye? 😒” Okay!! Go find your favorites!! Tag your favorite Gemini to show em you love em! My Venmo is the same as my username if ya wanna leave a tip 😏
Perkins also gets to the heart of why so many professional astrologers are annoyed by “zodiac shaming.” Your birth chart is so much more complicated than just your sun sign. “My best friends are Scorpio and Capricorn, which should not work, but we all have water moons,” which makes them astrologically compatible, she says. “That’s something you cannot tell off a Craigslist ad for a roommate. With every different placement, there are so many things that factor into compatibility.”
All of this astro hate aside, there are two main factors when it comes to judging people based on their sign. First, there’s free will. “Saying you don’t want to live with a Gemini because you think Geminis are gossipy is one thing, but you may have a perfectly sweet Gemini roommate applicant who has worked really hard to learn to use their words for the better,” Perkins explains. “People can learn to curb their faults.” Second, and perhaps the biggest, is that while astrology has been around for a very long time, it’s not scientifically proven and is supposed to be fun — excluding people is not.
As Brammer — the ¡Hola Papi! columnist — says: “We have enough rules and oppressive structures in our day-to-day realities. We don't need them in our stars, too.”