Question: Genderqueer Compliments?

Lexi asks…

What words do you use and/or enjoy receiving as compliments on your appearance?

I usually use “gorgeous” as gender-neutral compliment. Would that word offend any of you?

Please post your response in the comments below.

» Ask Genderfork «

Posted by on April 10th, 2010 at 08:00 am

Category: questions 47 comments »

47 Responses to “Question: Genderqueer Compliments?”

  1. mc

    the most common compliment I get is “cute”. And while that’s not exactly the most effusive of compliments, I’m beginning to like it. As a girl who likes looking boyish, “cute” is safe! I’m cute like a little boy, or cute like a shy boyish girl.

    If someone called me “gorgeous” I’d be confused! But I think it’s definitely gender-neutral. Brad Pitt is gorgeous, Alan Cummings is gorgeous, Kate Bornstein is gorgeous, Ivan E. Coyote is gorgeous, Monica Bellucci is gorgeous.


  2. Anonymous

    “Gorgeous” definitely seems feminine to me. Or neuter. But not neutral, as such.

    It’s definitely a case-by-case thing. I think you can tell by the way people carry themselves and dress the kind of compliments that they will respond well to.

    I don’t identify as genderqueer. I am a bio-female who is, gender-wise, pretty androgynous. I don’t really give a damn about what gender people perceive me as. That said, when people tell me I’m “cute” (with the possible exception of a significant other), I am galled to no end.

    When I was exuding boyish charm (if I may say so myself) in my suit jacket, collared shirt, sweater vest, and tie, someone told me I looked “dapper,” and I felt great. This is obviously not a compliment that works in every context. It is exactly the contextuality of it that made it so nice. She thought about what she knew about me and the way I was dressed and complimented me based on that knowledge.


  3. Shadoki/Jen

    I think that it’s pretty gender-neutral. I go to an all girls private school but about anything goes. There are some people, lncluding myself, that have no problem with expressing our boyish side so we get handsome as well. But I’m pretty sure most compliments can be for any gender identity: hot, cute, beautiful, gorgeous. Though it also depends on what you’re comfortable with as well. I myself am not offended by anything. Though I have given my friends and family a look when I’m trying to look boyish and they say I look really pretty.
    Then again I think pretty is pretty flexible, depends on the context it’s used it.


  4. cinna

    Gorgeous is a little more effusive than I would believe in most circumstances. Perhaps because I like things to be a little understated?

    I was called dapper the other day and loved it.

    I think the most supportive compliment is simply “you look really good today,” coupled with something specific so i know how to repeat it: “that scarf/tie/necklace/shirt really matches your eyes and makes them glitter.” But I’m new to dressing well and not feeling like a slob, so its particularly important to me that people reinforce WHAT is working so I know what to do again…


  5. Jay

    I’d probably be a little overwhelmed by ‘gorgeous’, personally, but to me it does seem like a pretty gender-neutral compliment.

    Like Cinna, though, I’d be more than happy with just a ‘you look good today’ + details. Or even without details.


  6. K

    I just prefer comments on my smarts over comments on my appearances. I’d rather be witty/quick/wise/nerdy than cute/pretty/beautiful/etc.


  7. Anonymous

    Personally, as far as appearance goes, I rather enjoy “dashing”. However, since most people don’t use dashing, cute or adorable are fine alternatives.

    …however, I think “beautiful” is one of the most meaningful compliments in my mind, because I always feel like it means more than just visual beauty. I use the word beautiful to describe things that are overwhelmingly good, and I don’t see it as gender-specific or appearance-specific. I use it to describe people whose inner goodness is so apparent that it shines through in their appearances.

    (Mostly, though, it’s the context that matters, not the words themselves. The truth is, everybody has their own ideas of what words mean, and when I take that into account, I find it far easier to really appreciate the things people say to me.)


  8. Lyn Aven

    Mm… Personally I find “gorgeous” to be on the feminine side. That may just be me.


  9. Rusty

    Dapper, dashing, smart, cute

    I like adorable myself, but I guess it’s often applied to small fuzzy animals…

    A friend of mine always goes over the top on purpose, she uses stuff like like “ravishing,” and “tremendous” and “sensational”

    I like gorgeous, I always loved how Nick describes Gatsby as gorgeous in “the Great Gatsby”

    Snappy is fun too.


  10. Echo

    I think gorgeous is fine.

    As other people have said, I think it depends on the context a lot. I personally object to being called cute. As much as I know it’s used as a general compliment, it always feels too girly for me.


  11. Rebekah

    I’m not very comfortable with my body (as it is definitely more obviously female than I have ever wanted to be). Every compliment directed towards me based in conforming to beauty standards that are specifically female makes me feel like I (as a person) am being undermined by myself (as a body), and other people are just encouraging this mutiny of form against thought. I realize it’s a bit melodramatic and they probably mean well, but it still just feels horrible. I spend so much of my time trying to escape being seen first as a petite, delicately-featured biological female that being called anything like “cute” or “adorable” (or even “charming”) makes me rage, and especially when it’s from people who actually KNOW me, because it’s just confirming that people notice qualities of myself that I absolutely hate.

    I wouldn’t mind any of the “masculine” appearance compliments – handsome, dapper, and dashing are all more than acceptable – but anything else, even “gorgeous,” makes me cringe or rage, depending on the context and my mood.


  12. nick

    I love the word “Gorgeous”, but then, my favorite word is “fabulous” so I might be a bit of an odd-ball.
    The only thing I hate are infantizing things like ‘cute’, baby’ and ‘pretty’.


  13. Nine

    There’s been almost no mention of ‘hot’ here! Works for me. Also ‘gorgeous’. I’m fine with ‘beautiful’ (though possibly only if it comes from someone with whom I have a connection), but not so much ‘pretty’.

    I’m not sure if or when anyone has ever called me ‘cute’. I need to go and ponder that now.


  14. the raven

    i tend to compliment people based on specific things–eyes, bone structure, the lines their clothing makes on them, etc., and i use whatever words are most appropriate to the situation. (“amazing” and “lovely” being my favorites)

    otherwise, i go the smallchild route and say “i think you’re pretty” regardless of what a person seems to be presenting. it helps that i rock the wide-eyed little girl look when i say things like that and that i generally look shy and non-threatening, so it’s not something i’d recommend as an all-purpose thing.


  15. Kirsty

    ‘Pretty’ is, for me, my favourite non-gendered compliment. I’ve never understood why ‘pretty’ need necessarily be a feminine thing – my boyfriend is probably the most masculine person I know, and also the prettiest.


  16. Milo

    I love gorgeous. cute is all right.


  17. Samson

    I like gorgeous! And lovely, and hot. All of those strike me as good all-gender compliments.


  18. Joel

    I find that everyone compliments others on their appearances and that because everyone says those things, that the other person isn’t sure if you’re being genuine or if you’re just plucking something out of the air. I like to tell people what they really mean to me. I like to tell them how endearing their little quirks are, all their idiosyncrisies, because that’s what makes them themselves and that’s what I truly love about them.


  19. S. A.

    I recently have identified as genderqueer, and I feel that the most gender-neutral compliments are being cute, hot,sexy, or stylish. Like most people have been saying on this post, though, I find that it depends on the context. Cute, unless you were being flirtatious, might indicate that they did something that was “cute”. Hot/sexy would indicate they are or did something to look that way (this comment only works for some individuals from my observations). Stylish would indicate that someone was looking somewhat splendoriffic in slightly more formal than casual threads that seem to be making a little bit of effort towards looking good.

    Apart from these, “good” is fine, and “hip” if you’re looking a bit artsy/hipster/modern-day beatnik.


  20. Charles

    I think gorgeous is okay in most contexts. There’s a bunch of other words I use; spiffy, fantastic, dashing, awesome, great. If somebody told me that I looked dapper, I would be doing flips out of happiness. ;D


  21. Anonymous

    I’m not really sure what terms I prefer, but I can tell you one that grates on me to no end: cute. My height may have something to do with that (I’m ridiculously short, but I have never seen how “small” and “cute” are interchangeable).


  22. Avery

    Speaking for myself, I think “Gorgeous” is definitely gender neutral but in most circumstances would feel over the top. I prefer words like dashing, dapper, hansom. I’d also echo that “You look really good.” is a great choice. Also “Fantastic.”

    On the other side, pretty is a no go and people saying “cute” when they mean something else is a pet peeve. My dog is “cute,” babies are cute.

    “Oh! that wedding gown / Tux / outfit is so CUTE!” really? really?! “cute” is the best you could do there? What about Beautiful, stunning, dashing, smart, perfect, hot, GORGEOUS? If you think I look good, that’s what I’d like to hear not “cute.”


  23. Anonymous

    as long as no one looks at me and says “ugh!” then i’m set.

    i usually tell people, “you look good.” or if they look mind blowing, then “amazing.”


  24. Kian

    Personally I opt for “you look great” or “awesome,” both of which are completely neutral. Gorgeous implies femininity to me, and it bothers me only because I’m used to being perceived as an attractive girl rather than handsome boy. It also depends on how someone perceives me… if someone were to say “you’re such a pretty guy” I’d take it better than them calling me a handsome girl.


  25. epinards

    I think if someone ever told me that I looked “handsome” I would probably cry from happiness. I am not sure if i have enough bravery to go as fully to a masculine look as I would want to, though, and that makes me sad. i guess I can struggle with it for awhile. I am truly amazed by how far my struggle has taken me so far.


  26. Sam

    “great”, “good”, “fabulous”, “amazing” and “awesome” are all useful words in my experience. I also like “gorgeous”, though. While “cute” might be okay for some, I know people (including myself) might have heard it used too much in a way that makes sounds a lot like a combination of the words small, sweet, feminine and naive.

    I think that the best you can do is pay attention to how people react to your compliments, especially in real life situations.

    That said I personally love getting compliments from people who use them creatively and also from kids. Just a few weeks ago my four-year-old cousin told me I looked “very handsome” with my new glasses and another kid called me “odd-looking” with an awed tone of voice. Made my day.


  27. Dream

    If I’m presenting as a girl, being called she, miss, young lady all make me feel surprisingly good about myself, while if I’m presenting male, he, sir, so forth work just as well. I guess it’s not so much the answer you were looking for, but I take them as compliments.

    To give a less cheap answer; cute. Gorgeous would make me feel too much like an old school super model.


  28. Anonymous

    I tend to use pretty for all genders. Which probably doesn’t sound gender-neutral at all, but I’m bad at thinking of compliments. So gorgeous would definately be fine by my standards.

    I tend to use:

    I also really like handsome, but sometimes that’s like pretty, and sounds not gender-neutral.


  29. softestbullet

    I like old-fashioned compliments, like: sharp, snazzy, dressed to the nines, dreamy, the bee’s knees, and the cat’s pajamas.


  30. Nicholas

    Magnificent! If anything, that would be the absolute best :D


  31. Gene

    I use gorgeous for male-identified people, female-identified people and everyone else, but I think most people apply it to women. I’m cool with any kind of compliment, as long as it’s not something inappropriately personal, you know? Like, there’s a limited list of people who can call me sexy, but gorgeous is just fine.


  32. Nikola

    can’t believe there’s been so little mention of Fabulous. This may be my theatrical side showing through, but i love Fab or Fabulous. C’mon people, we’re a bunch of queers and we haven’t really brought it up yet? /sarcasm. Spiffy, dashing, and damn smoking hot are also always appreciated


  33. Lilybean

    I tend to pick certain words depending on the situation, but I think gorgeous works as a generalisation. It’s not usual to look ‘dapper’ in a dress or ‘pretty’ in a suit, but gorgeous people can be wearing anything from overalls to Cinderella garb to birthday suits.

    Although at this point I’m glad for whatever I get… hehe.


  34. j-bird

    I’m a compliment grinch!
    (Some background: I’m a cis-woman. My body is, as far as I can tell, always recognized as female; i.e. I’ve never gotten “sir”ed. Inside, though, gender doesn’t seem like a central part of my soul, and I like to embody a mix of traits. My style of dress ranges between androgyny and a sort of low-key, unadorned femininity.)
    I feel uncomfortable with many/most of the appearance based comments I get, because they so often seem to be a subtle form of policing. Virtually all of the compliments I get come when I am wearing my clothes or hair in a particularly feminine way or in a way that makes me look thinner.
    I get irritated with compliments to the extent that they seem to be rewarding me for bringing my presentation in line with my apparent physical sex (and for being a socially acceptable weight). So I don’t care what word you use, just try to make it clear that you’re impressed with me and not my ability to perform the gender you were expecting.


  35. j-bird

    p.s. Does anyone like the term “foxy”? I would use it on both men and women, but I’m curious as to whether I’m in the norm there.


  36. Jay

    To J-bird: ‘Foxy’ would make me absurdly happy, if just because it is such an odd word, and I like odd words. xP

    Just wanted to add that this: “Virtually all of the compliments I get come when I am wearing my clothes or hair in a particularly feminine way or in a way that makes me look thinner.” It happens to me too, on the odd occasion when I present in a rather feminine way (thus coming in-line with my physical sex – and I’m rarely terribly feminine). And it frustrates me – I want someone to say that I look good on a day when I’m going as butch/masculine as I dare! Or even just a normal day. /grumpy.


  37. Alex

    Anything but pretty and cute. Cute especially.


  38. the raven

    left my two cents here already, i guess, but i forgot to mention another thing i myself do: “i like your [noun]” and “your [noun] is neat.” again, because i rock the wide-eyed little girl look when i say these things, people don’t tend to view this as offensive in any way. but i find that it both makes a compliment seem more genuine and throws people off more when you comment on something specific–facial/bone structure, hands, eyes, shoulders, silhouette, etc. clothing is complimented rather often, but appreciating something that a person cannot change as easily seems to mean more. or at least, i think it does.


  39. soon to be Jesse

    gorgious…well, if it was a photo I took of me, I’d like it (I’m an artist, and that says more about my ability than my look). Otherwise, I don’t like it, because all I got from my guy friends when I told them I wanted to look more boyish was, “Don’t change your body! Your gorgious!”

    I prefer beautiful, handsome, or scruffy (if I’m in that sorta mood)

    I HATE cute. With a passion.

    And to be honest I’d just die of joy if someone said, “You look like young Bob Dylan.” But I guess I’m little…different in that aspect.


  40. William

    The other day I told someone who was very visibly genderqueer (and equally visibly male-assigned) that they were pretty. They were shocked and happy – i don’t think people say that to them often.


  41. Frink

    What the community can agree on is that we essentially redefine gender. When we redefine gender we redefine language to verbalize and articulate to other people who we are. Since I am a big fan of linguistic reclamation I say we reclaim words like AMAZING and Fabulous.
    Jay sees Cameron from across the room and they haven’t seen each other in weeks. Cameron approaches Jay and says, “Hey FANTASTIC how are you?” No need for the binary dynamic :)

    Any thoughts?


  42. Anonymous

    you look wonderful!

    wow, that outfit looks great on you


  43. Kyler

    Radiant, phenomenal, delightful, extraordinary, genuine, heavenly, incomparable, mesmerizing, precious, ravishing, tantalizing, vibrant, zestful.


    Kt. replied:

    Ooo, mesmerizing, good word! I’m looking for terms to call my partner and I like that one!


  44. S

    I know a very attractive nonbinary person and I struggle with complimenting them. I see “gorgeous”, “beautiful”, and “cute” and perfect gender-neutral words to describe them, but due to their small stature and tendency to have dysphoria I haven’t said any of these.
    I think stunning would be good because they often say it as a joke, and if I said it seriously it would make for a good moment.
    The other day I came up with “God did a great job on you”, “I think God spent a little extra time on you”, etc. Haven’t gotten to say that yet but I think it’ll go over well as we’re both Christian and have a great [fRiEnDsHiP???].


  45. angie

    i think chic is pretty gender neutral:)


  46. Eurika

    My pronouns are she/her but I dont know any good phrases to compliment a nonbinary person. So does anyone know any great ones??


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