6 Common Phrases That are Actually Forms of LGBTQ+ Microaggressions

"I have an accurate gaydar."
by Marit Samson   |  Jun 30, 2023
Art: Anna Louise Flores
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Have you ever received a comment from somebody that made you stop and think, “Wait…should I get offended by that?” If yes, then those statements may be microaggressions. They are subtle and mostly unintentional forms of discrimination against marginalized groups.

Backhanded compliments are different from microaggressions, but can be a form of it as well.  Aside from choice of words, delivery can also change the meaning and impact of microaggressions, especially if they are said in an intrusive and mocking tone. Additionally, your relationship and level of closeness with the person also matter.

Sometimes, people who say statements of microaggression against the queer community are coming from a place of ignorance. In a heteronormative society such as ours, several mundane dialogues and common phrases have an underlying homophobic meaning hiding beneath its normalcy. That’s why it’s important to watch ourselves and call out our friends whenever microaggressions come up in daily conversations.


To help you be more aware of microaggressions, we listed down some common phrases that are actually discriminating towards our queer friends and relatives:

  1. “Who’s the man/woman in the relationship?”

The beauty of queer relationships is their non-conformity to long-established gender roles in our society. They are merely people who are choosing to stay and love each other. Asking queer couples about gender roles not only puts them in an uncomfortable position, but also erases the unique and valid experience of being in a queer relationship.

  1. Sayang, ang gwapo/ganda mo pa naman.

The word ‘sayang’ is what makes this statement a microaggression. Sayang is a Filipino word that expresses deep disappointment and regret. Using the word ‘sayang’ to refer to a queer person's physical attractiveness may imply that they have lost something just because they are queer. This is not true, of course. A person’s physical beauty is not dependent on their gender identity or which gender they are attracted to. 

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  1. “Are you… *bends hand downward* ?”

There is nothing wrong with saying the words “gay,” “bakla,” or “bading.” Using a hand gesture as a euphemism for such normal words feeds the outdated norm that talking about the queer experience is taboo. Just make sure that you are asking about their sexual orientation or gender identity with good intentions and in a respectful tone towards a person who is already comfortable around you.

  1. “You’re pretty for a transwoman!/You’re handsome for a transman!”

These statements may have been meant to be compliments but that doesn’t cancel out the offensive meaning they entail. Remember: Impact over intention. Telling someone that they are pretty for a transwoman implies that trans women aren’t expected to be as beautiful as cisgender women. Same goes when you say this to transmen. So, if you want to compliment a queer person, just tell them they are good-looking. Periodt!

  1. “I have an accurate gaydar.”

This statement feeds on the stereotypes that dictate how queer people should act, speak, or dress. The truth is, there are no certain habits, mannerisms, fashion styles, or ways of talking that may imply queerness. Keep in mind that the only person qualified to decide someone’s gender identity is themself.

  1. “We knew all along because it was obvious.”

Whenever someone opens up their sexual orientation or gender identity to you, take it as a privilege to be trusted by that person, and not as a moment of confirmation to your previous impressions. That said, avoid responding with this phrase because it invalidates all their courage and struggles to come out of the closet.

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Marit Samson