Created By: bluepenguin on March 18, 2011 Last Edited By: bluepenguin on April 9, 2016

I Always Knew I Was Different

The pictures of me playing with dolls and wearing dresses, should have known...

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Trope
Needs a Better Title -- this one's awful. It's a common stock phrase that goes along with the trope, but it's misleadingly broad. I just suck at titles and couldn't think of anything better. Also, this is a pretty lousy writeup. Oh well, I hope it makes sense.

Anyway, this is the idea that gay characters manifest their "difference" in childhood, long before they could be said to have a sexuality as such, by having interests and pastimes more associated with the opposite gender. Lesbians probably spent their childhoods climbing trees and refusing to play with dolls, while gay guys are likely to have eschewed sports in favor of playing dress-up. This in turn means that the character themself and/or the people around them may suspect that they're not straight (won't be straight?) well before they actually reach puberty (which is where the "always knew I was different" thing comes in).

Ties into Butch Lesbian and Camp Gay, as well as the whole "gay = transgender" confusion (which I know has been YKTTW'd before, but apparently wasn't launched). It often is Truth in Television, but also may carry the implication that (a) Straight Gays and Lipstick Lesbians don't exist and (b) any child who doesn't conform properly to gender roles is probably going to grow up to be gay.

Examples:

Film
  • In the (ridiculously cute) film Ready? OK!, one of the protagonists is a little boy who plays with dolls and desperately wants to be a cheerleader. At one point he also dresses like one of his heroes from history who just happens to be female, in a dress sewn by his gay neighbor. It is strongly implied that the boy is gay.
  • Parodied in But I'm a Cheerleader, where they "prove" the protagonists gayness, among other things, by her vegetarianism.

Literature
  • In the early gay novel Better Angel, the protagonist, Kurt, has no interest in sports as a little boy and is described by his father as being "like a girl" -- though aside from a love of theatre, he's more of a bookish nerd than anything else.
  • One of the Alice books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor featured a one-shot lesbian character (just there to deliver a message about tolerance) who, when Alice asked when she had realized that she was a lesbian, responded by talking about how even as a child she'd been tomboyish and not interested in girly things.

Live-Action TV
  • Glee: Kurt's father always knew Kurt was gay; for his third birthday, he wanted "sensible heels."
  • Soap: Jodie tells his mother he's getting a sex change (which is the same thing as being gay):
Jodie: Mom, I should be a woman. I've always felt like a woman. Mom, remember when I was four years old, and it was Christmas, and you gave me and Danny those little plastic shaving kits, remember? Remember how Danny took that little plastic razor and started to shave his face...I shaved my legs, ma. It was obvious even then.

Web Original
Community Feedback Replies: 39
  • March 18, 2011
    leonardo3
    For a title, how about "Head Start Outcast"?
  • March 18, 2011
    bluepenguin
    That could work, but it's still a little broad -- this is specifically a gay trope, I think, if only because most other ways in which one can be "different" or "an outcast" would have reason to be obvious in childhood, if not at birth. Unless we get into more fantastical stuff, I guess.
  • March 18, 2011
    krssven
    I think your title is actually quite apt, considering the number of people in real life and fiction who have actually said it.
  • March 18, 2011
    FuzzyBoots
    I think it could probably apply to a fairly wide series of sexual predilections. I know that there's a really moving video I saw on The Escapist forums with quotes from various people suffering from pedophilia talking about how they knew from an early age and how it swcarred them growing up knowing they were "bad people". Similarly, I've known a number of people who realized their BDSM kink at an early age.
  • March 18, 2011
    originalhobbit
    maybe you could call it "I Should have known" or "I Wore Mom's Heels"?
  • March 18, 2011
    mtlwriterguy
    I agree that the title is perfectly fine as it is. Though I must admit that I originally thought you were referring to the X-Men/mutant teen suddenly gaining his superpowers at puberty. That's pretty much an avatar for homosexuality anyhow, so it still fits. I say keep it!
  • March 18, 2011
    LoopyChew
    Glee: Kurt's father always knew Kurt was gay; for his third birthday, he wanted "sensible heels."
  • March 18, 2011
    originalhobbit
    • In the (ridiculously cute) film Ready? OK!, one of the protagonists is a little boy who plays with dolls and desperately wants to be a cheerleader. At one point he also dresses like one of his heroes from history who just happens to be female, in a dress sewn by his gay neighbor. It is strongly implied that the boy is gay.
  • March 18, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Soap: Jodie tells his mother he's getting a sex change (which is the same thing as being gay):
    Jodie: Mom, I should be a woman. I've always felt like a woman. Mom, remember when I was four years old, and it was Christmas, and you gave me and Danny those little plastic shaving kits, remember? Remember how Danny took that little plastic razor and started to shave his face...I shaved my legs, ma. It was obvious even then.
  • March 19, 2011
    bluepenguin
    Well, my problem with the title was that if you don't already know what context the phrase is usually used in, it's pretty vague and might invite misuse, but if you guys think it's okay we can keep it.
  • March 19, 2011
    VampireBuddha
    When I first saw the title, I thought it was about someone who is partially nonhuman. The nonhuman part doesn't manifest until early adulthood, but the character has some notion that they're different beforehand.

    If this is launched under the current title, it will be misused in that manner. Unfortunately, I can't think of a better one.
  • March 21, 2011
    bluepenguin
    ^ Yeah, that's what I was afraid of -- maybe not nonhumans specifically, but supernatural stuff in general. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any kind of strong leaning towards another name at this point.
  • March 21, 2011
    FuzzyBoots
    Past Behavior Predicts Future Sexuality? ^_^ As you can tell, I'm not great at making names myself. Personally, I think that the trope could handle the wide variety of kinks in human behavior, but I can't think of any specific examples now. I can picture in my head someone saying "My friends dressed up their Barbie Dolls. I hogtied mine with kite string" or "Mom, when you spanked me as a kid... sometimes I broke things just so I could get spanked."

    I could also see it being exclusively homosexuality, since that is something that's been proven to have a partial genetic component and therefore something more likely to be there at an early age compared to all of the other fetishes which seem from anecdotal evidence, at least, to be caused by influences at an early age.

    I'll see if I can scare up this one article I read a month or two ago, a photographer solicited photographs from gay men and women of them doing gender-opposite things at an early age and published the photos side by side.
  • March 21, 2011
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
    On the trope name / definition thing, it may be worth noting that fantastical traits have sometimes been used (for example in X-Men) as a metaphor for sexual orientation or other Real Life diversity issues. Maybe the thing to do is have another trope for a character who showed signs of being a wizard or mutant or whatever at a young age, and use this trope to redirect the incorrect examples elsewhere.

    EDIT: related to Have You Tried Not Being A Monster
  • March 21, 2011
    LoopyChew
  • March 22, 2011
    bluepenguin
    Re: kinks & fetishes, I've heard people say this about them in real life, but I don't know of any fictional examples. If there are, though, I guess it makes a certain amount of sense to lump them in with this.

    Re: fantastical traits, there is some overlap via Have You Tried Not Being A Monster, but for the most part that feels like a separate trope to me.
  • March 27, 2011
    bluepenguin
    I'd really like to launch this, but I'd like some kind of consensus on the title first.
  • March 27, 2011
    Kaoy
    Oops. Missed that this possibly being Truth In Television for some had already been mentioned.
  • March 27, 2011
    vijeno
    • Parodied in But Im A Cheerleader, where they "prove" the protagonists gayness, among other things, by her vegetarianism.
  • March 28, 2011
    orimarc
    Closet In The Making?
  • June 8, 2011
    FuzzyBoots
    FWIW, The childhood pictures of homosexuals that I mentioned above. Many of them do indeed show that kids were just a bit different growing up, although this might be self-selected.
  • June 9, 2011
    amazinglyenough
    On South Park, Mr. Slave is shown in a flashback intensely enjoying having his temperature taken with a rectal thermometer as a child.
  • June 10, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Also from South Park Mr. Garrison is quite upset because when he was a child his father didn't molest him.
  • June 10, 2011
    Ardiente
    I'm not very satisfied with this trope. What are the odds that, instead, we have a Tom Boy and a Camp Straight dude? What about the Lipstick Lesbian and the Straight Gay? What about transgender people? Sharing traits traditionally associated with the opposite gender does not mean you sexually like your own gender more.
  • June 10, 2011
    MikaruKeiko
    Going without the 'sexuality' bit, how about Girl Mentally Guy Physically?
  • June 10, 2011
    StarryEyed
    Why does this have to be a gay trope? It seems like it could be easily broadened to any situation where a child is signaled to be an outcast/ different from his/her peers from the beginning. It could be soft split by common types, such as superpowers (Megamind, Mister Glass, etc.) pyschopaths (Azula for one, probably lots more), and sexuality, (and other types if other common trends pop up), and also covering "strangeness" that's harder to classify, (Like Elphaba ("From the moment she was born, she was, well, different.")
  • June 11, 2011
    bluepenguin
    ^^^ Well, yes, I mentioned that in the description. It kinda bothers me too, but it is a really common conception.

    ^^ That just sounds like it's talking about Transgender people.

    ^ I... don't really have a good answer for that just now, but I'd argue that someone having a visible, physical difference, like Elphaba, wouldn't really fit. Even leaving aside the sexuality aspect, the basic idea is that the childhood "difference" is sort of foreshadowing something that will become clearer when they're older.

    Granted, Elphaba did grow up to be different in more ways than just her skin color, but would that still have happened if she hadn't been an outcast to begin with? I'm not sure.
  • June 11, 2011
    ParadiscaCorbasi
  • June 11, 2011
    Ardiente
    Oh, wait, you mean people in-universe using "as a child person X did things stereotypical of the other gender ergo they were always gay"?

    Yeah, it's definitely a trope. A rare one, and one definitely open to criticsm.

    If we want the "I was different since childhood" version, I'll suggest this quote from The Lonely Island's "The Creep"

    [[quoteblock]][Andy Samberg]: I was six years old when I started creepin' My parents took it to their room and I started peepin' You can't imagine their surprise when they lifted their heads And saw my little ass creepin' at the foot of the bed

    [Akiva Schaffer] Yeah they knew I was a creep, since the day I was born Poppin' out my momma like some kettle corn Yeah the doctor caught my head and he started freakin' 'Cause I came out clean -- and I came out creepin'!

    [Nicki Minaj]:When I was a girl, I creeped in the boys' locker room Hide deep inside -- it was my little creep stalker room As they disrobed, I was oogling and oggling Little did they know, that for me, they were modeling And I would laugh, ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha, ha. And they would dance, la-la-la-la-la-la-la, la. So pop-pop-pop your peepers, and tweak out your sneakers Don't sleep, come on get your Creep on with me! [[/quoteblock]]
  • June 12, 2011
    SmashingMelons42
    @Fuzzy Boots: sorry for replying to something posted so long ago, but do you have a link to that Escapist forum?
  • June 12, 2011
    Chabal2
    • A deliberate case: Phillipe d'Orleans, the brother of Louis XIV (the Sun-King), was raised by his mother pretty much as a girl (spending more time choosing outfits and jewelry than hunting or warfare), so as to make sure he'd never try to usurp the throne. Phillipe ended up becoming one of the most flamboyant gay figures in the French court.
    • If we go with a broader definition of different, Tom Riddle gives the line when finally told he can do magic.
    • There's a joke about a guy who worries his son will turn out like this, as he requests a large dollhouse for his birthday. However, he only uses it to act out a man paying a prostitute $200 for sex. The father is relieved that his son is not gay but now thinks him loose with money.

  • June 12, 2011
    randomsurfer
    "When I first saw the title, I thought it was about someone who is partially nonhuman."

    Yeah, that was my impression to. You should either expand the trope top all differences from normals, or chnge the title to be a bit more specific.

    On that note, "Puny Puny Poemi" had one of the best nonhuman reveals ever.

    (Added by Vree, edited by Random Surfer to fix pic link.)
  • June 12, 2011
    FuzzyBoots
    ^^ Nope. It was posted at http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/18.267339-Poll-Is-Pedophilia-Really-Bad-Maybe-not but that topic is no longer available. I heard elsewhere (on this wiki, actually, in an entry on Paedo Hunt) that Escapist is purging all references to pedophilia on their forums. I think I posted it on Facebook at some point, but no dice so far finding it.
  • April 8, 2016
    Pichu-kun
    • Marika from Bokura No Hentai knew she was a girl from a young age but didn't formally come out until middle school. A flashback shows that her mother let her wear skirts until kindergarten because Marika hated shorts. Unsurprisingly Marika's mom takes her coming out with stride and supports her transition.
    • Wandering Son:
      • Yuki used to try on her mother's dresses as a child. Her mother worked at a clothing store.
      • The two transgender protagonists start out as fifth graders. Even from the start Takatsuki is boyish and androgynous enough that his classmates call him "Takatsuki-kun". Nitori on the other hand is less feminine seeming at first glance. She's soft spoken, sensitive, and enjoys baking however unless you're friends with her nothing stands out besides her lack of male friends. Takatsuki later subverts this when she decides not to transition, though there is some ambiguity to her gender.
    • Played tragically in The Childrens Hour. Martha always felt unusual but couldn't pin what it was until Mary's accusations of her and her best friend being intimate opened her eyes. Her aunt (who raised her) mentioned that from a young age she was "unnaturally" clingy to her friends and would get jealous when they fell for boys. Martha doesn't take her sexuality well and ends up Driven To Suicide.
    • Khaos Komix:
      • Charlie's mother let her behave how she pleased as a child, which included allowing her to wear girl's clothes. It wasn't until she began going to school that she realized being a "boy" who dressed feminine was seen as unusual.
      • Tom is a trans man who from an early age tried to express himself as male, however he didn't begin transitioning until high school.
  • April 7, 2016
    Aubren
    I really dislike the confusion between the LGB with the T here.

    That is to say, gay/bi/pan/poly/etc cis children don't act differently because of their sexuality. That's just a stereotype, it doesn't vary much compared to hets.

    Being trans or nonbinary, however, does. Significantly.
  • April 8, 2016
    Pichu-kun
    ^ The cliche still exists even if it's inaccurate.
  • April 9, 2016
    DAN004
    Can somebody explain what this trope is, in a nutshell? I'm afraid the meaning is lost in discussions above.

    Is it, um, when someone's childhood is shown, they don't behave like what their sex gives them the image to behave like? (You get it?)
  • April 9, 2016
    Pichu-kun
    ^ Stereotypes that you can "tell" if someone is lgbtq by their behavior at a young age, such as boys who like dolls being gay.
  • April 9, 2016
    DAN004
    ^ Well I guess I get it...

    I wonder what other problems we have here.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=u7o94dqbemraypss6erdocw5