The power of language: How the words we use reflect our biases



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between language use and attitudes related to sexual orientation. Significant research has demonstrated that the use of microaggressions (slurs, snubs, or insults used to communicate hostility) towards targeted minorities carries detrimental consequences on a societal and individual level. While racially charged and gendered microaggressions have been investigated, a gap exists regarding sexual orientation microaggressions; more specifically, the word “Queer”. Participants were asked to answer questions related to the use of “Queer” along with several measures of related constructs. Results indicate differences between homosexuals and heterosexuals in the use of “Queer” in terms of dynamic language, honesty, frequency and power. Explicit attitudes, religious fundamentalism, social dominance orientation, and conservatism emerged as predictors of the use of “Queer”. Findings provide insightful evidence to how language is used to perpetuate social norms related to sexual orientation that can be applied in a variety of settings to foster safer environments for the targeted group.



Microaggressions, Sexual orientation, Language use