You love LGBTQIA+ people but you may not be as good of an if you think that these are compliments. Try unlearning your bias and not saying these things.
1. “You don’t look gay/transgender” or “I never would have known!”
Gender identity and sexualities are not looks; they are identities. There is no one way to “look” an identity. The misconception that you will always be able to “tell” when a person identifies as something is misguided and toxic. We are people, not a specific look. The “compliment” is loaded with the idea that queer and trans people must adhere to stereotypes to be seen as their identiy.
2. “You pass so well!”
This. Is. Not. A. Compliment
It is backhanded.
This is the same as saying: “You fit MY box of man/womanhood – yay!” This is not appropriate or kind. It says: it’s not okay to look transgender. Our identities & presentation are not about you or your opinion of us. This statement also perpetuates the belief that gender expression always equals gender identity which is false!
3. “Your ‘new name’ is so nice!” or “Your ‘old name’ was better!”
The names we use are “real” not “new”. For transgender people, names given at or before birth are called “deadnames” not “old names”. Complimenting someone’s deadname means invalidating their agency and complimenting their painful past. Don’t ask for, use or compliment anyone’s deadname. Deadnames often drag forth trauma and can be very painful.
4. “You’re so attractive for a transgender person.” or “But why are you more attractive than me? That’s so unfair!”
Queer and trans people are not inherently less attractive than cisgender and heterosexual people. The belief that they are somehow lesser than is inaccurate, harmful and transphobic. Do not add “for a trans person” to a compliment. If you feel the need to do so, ask yourself why. Most likely you are working with some implicit bias against trans people.
5. “But you were such a pretty girl/handsome man!” or “Why are you destroying your man/womanhood?” or “You’re ruining your body.”
Someone’s transition is NOT to make others comfortable or happy, to fit into others’ standards of manhood, to be attractive in the eyes of others, to be beautiful in the eyes of others, or to garner approval of their beauty. Their transition IS for THEIR happiness, congruence, peace and identity.
6. “You’re just like [insert queer celebrity’s name] / [that one queer relative]!”
Yes, they probably know Ellen. No, not every lesbian person is like her. This sends a bad message and can be read as lazy conversation-making. These kinds of comments can be an indication that a person does not care about them beyond a superficial level. You knowing a celebrity is often irrelevant to the queer and trans acquaintances, thus communicating a lack of thoughtfulness or education on LGBTQIA+ issues. Generally, tokenizing celebrities of marginalized identities as an attempt to relate to coworkers is rude. Instead, try asking questions about their interests and hobbies.
Along the same lines, do not try to relate to them to your LGBTQIA+ relatives every time. Doing so can come off as a lack of interest in knowing them beyond their sexuality or gender identity.
7. “I’d Think You Were Hot If I Was Gay.”
Theoretically, this is someone’s way of saying you’re attractive. Unfortunately, that qualifier tacked on at the end rather takes away from the compliment. Their scramble to keep from being perceived as LGBTQIA+, which is so strong that they can’t compliment someone’s appearance without clarifying their sexuality, is essentially an adult version of “no homo,” and that’s no fun for anyone involved.
8. “You’re Totally The Man In The Relationship.”
This one’s a doozy, combining both gender politics and a misunderstanding of LGBTQIA+ relationships. Such phrases are generally intended as praise; if you’re the “man” in a relationship, you’re typically considered the dominant one. Not only does this imply that your partner isn’t as deserving of respect, it’s also based in gender norms that prize masculinity and devalue femininity — not exactly the stuff of compliments.
9. “I love gay boys! Let’s be friends.” or “You’re one of the guys since you like women too.”
Do you like gay boys, or do you like the idea of the stereotypical gay male playing dress-up with you and giving you love advice? If you would not befriend a man just because he is straight, why is it with gay men?
Similarly, if you would not include another man in your friend circle just because of his sexual interests, why do it for a lesbian person?
10. “I wish I was gay/lesbian, I’m so done with [insert opposite sex]”
No, you don’t. We are not easy paths or parties, we are real people who have to go through a lot. Do you also want to be criminalized in most countries? Or be disowned for being who you are? Maybe you want to be pelted for holding hands with your partner? No? Exactly.
Accept people as they are, and don’t treat anyone any differently than you normally would. You’ll be a lot happier once you do. Learn to be a better ally and conversing with LGBTQIA+ people, or just don’t speak a lot.
On that note, happy pride month!