"[...]Why is lesbian sex only OK if it involves another species?"They look exactly like hot women, and they make out with other hot women. But they're actually aliens/immortals/bodysnatchers/etc. So it's not really gay, right? Discount Lesbians (or Discount Gays, or Discount Bisexuals, etc.) are canon homosexual characters and couples who are either not human to begin with, come from alternate realities, have been magically or technologically altered in ways that affect their sexuality, etc., so that they don't really "count". This usually seems to be a device used within the story to maintain a status quo that lets the (presumed) audience watch two hot chicks making out without having to think about the associated real-world issues of homosexuality. On the other hand, the trope may come into play if the writer wishes to include a lesbian relationship in the story but is worried about Moral Guardians, thus becoming a way for a Rule-Abiding Rebel to make an attempt at Getting Crap Past the Radar. Note that they're Discount Lesbians only if they're included in the story in a way that obviates the need to address the associated issues of sexuality. This is usually done through othering homosexuality by associating it only with characters who have conspicuously different traits from the viewers. Characters used to draw attention to those issues are inversions, although this can still fall into Fantastic Aesop or Space Whale Aesop. If they're stated to be homosexual they're not Discount Lesbians, just a non-human who happens to be gay. Basically gays... but cheaper. Commonly carries Unfortunate Implications (see page quote). It can be considered a subtrope of But Not Too Gay. Compare Have You Tried Not Being a Monster?, Lesbian Vampire, Bury Your Gays, and (occasionally) Elfeminate. Related to Deceptively Human Robots because both are only as robotic/gay, respectively, as is convenient for the show. Also see Space Jews for aliens standing in for minorities. Related to Hide Your Lesbians in that both are a way of including apparently gay content without admitting to it. See also Speculative Fiction LGBT, which is about how Speculative Fiction settings make showing LGBT acceptable. Not to be confused with transgender and metaphorically transgender characters.
— Joystiq.com on Mass Effect
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- Some of the Kerrang! bumpers in the UK in 2009 showed a young Asian woman who flashes with yellow energy making out with a pink, suited androgynous humanoid with a mask, clearly intended to invoke the Pink and Yellow Rangers — but as only Yellow is clearly a human woman and Pink shows no gendered characteristics beyond its colour, it maintains plausible lesbian deniability.
Anime & Manga
- This trope is frequently invoked by some Neon Genesis Evangelion fans whenever anyone mentions the Ho Yay between Shinji and Kaworu, what with Kaworu bearing the soul of Adam.
- The entire premise of Simoun, where everyone is born female, only choosing a permanent gender at the age of 17. This automatically puts all teenage characters into the Schoolgirl Lesbians zone. However, by the end every possible gender combination is represented, averting the main reason for this trope.
- Used for the women in Vandread, because each gender had essentially become a different race. The male equivalent is never revealed. The Majerans (women) form romantic bonds and two-parent families for their daughters. As for the men of Tarak, in the first episode, one of the background conversations during a military graduation has one guy asking another if they want to make a kid. The guy's answer was basically, "Sure, why not?", as if he had been asked to form a World of Warcraft guild. A later episode one guy is shocked the baby grows inside the woman as all men are test-tube grown.
- Blue Drop gives us the Arume, who are a One-Gender Race of space lesbians.
- Creo the Crimson Crises, a Cast Full Of Lesbian, where more than half of the cast are demons (who inexplicably look exactly like humans).
- Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl has the main lesbian character be a transformed boy, although it's heavily implied that s/he was a trans woman, but didn't know about his/her condition. Not even the voice-actor is changed with her gender!
- The Cthulhu in Iczer One play this straight, being an one-gendered female-looking alien species. The title Iczer-1 and Nagisa may count as well, with Iczer-1 being an alien android who seems to love Nagisa.
- Alien from the Darkness has Flair, who spends most of the story seducing the all-female crew of the Zogne. While she qualifies due to being possessed by a tentacle-raping alien in search of breeding stock, the sex scenes Flair isn't involved in prove that the hentai has no problem with actual lesbians either.
- In Interstella5555, a female couple consisting of two Green Skinned Space Babes can be seen at the concert in the first segment.
- Marvel Universe:
- During Joss Whedon's run on Runaways, lesbian character Karolina has a long-standing relationship with a shapeshifting alien (twofer!) who appears female entirely to keep her happy. Karolina herself is also an alien. (An alien who believed she was human, and was physically human, until her early teens, but an alien nevertheless.) This is an especially glaring example, because Xavin (the shapeshifter) has mentioned that members of his/her species don't stay the same sex all the time anyway (s/he compared changing sex to dyeing one's hair) and had a subplot where Molly, another teammate, was bothered by the fact that Xavin was only a girl sometimes (Molly eventually learned to accept Xavin as is). Karolina, however, insists that Xavin is female and only female, despite that Xavin does spend a lot of time male, too (and not just when it's more practical, either).
- Shatterstar fits this, depending on which origin story you believe.
- Aleksin and Pavol, from the Star Wars: Lando mini-series, are a male couple trying to raise enough funds to get a cloned child to call their own. They also happen to be panther-headed humanoid aliens.
- Ahsoka and Barriss in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars Fanfic "Barris's Secrets". Ahsoka is a Togruta while Barriss is a Mirialan, literally a Green-Skinned Space Babe.
- Most M Preg fanfic is this with genders reversed - basically, one of the gay men is from a species where it is normal for males to get pregnant, by other males, no less.
Films — Animation
- Technically speaking, Disney portrayed a same-sex couple in Hugo and Djali from The Hunchback of Notre Dame II. Said couple is composed of what amounts to a (probably) living rock and a goat, played for laughs on top of that. Understandably, not many people see this as a major breakthrough in LGBT representation, and the Moral Guardians didn't even flip out, even though it's exactly the sort of insanely over the top depraved scenario they often use as a slippery slope argument.
- The Neil Gaiman short story "Murder Mysteries" actually has a Gender Flipped version - discount gay men. The characters in the main part of the story are angels, sexless and genderless, though they do generally take the form of human males. The angels who discover love end up as lovers, which means while there isn't any distinctive action, there's a lot of cuddling. It was also adapted as a Radio Drama and Graphic Novel.
- Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness, dealing with a planet of people who are asexually hermaphroditic until they enter heat, at which point they can assume either set of genitals, is sometimes confused for this. It's not, for two reasons: first, the issues raised by this setup are the entire point of the novel, so there's nothing discounted about it; and second, the characters are not presented as substitutes for gays.
- Discount Bisexuals? Discount Bisexual Threesome? In the Dark Nest Trilogy, Jaina Solo and one of her love interests, Zekk, were both snapped up by the psychic alien menace-of-the-week; they became Joiners, on the aliens' side and telepathically very close to each other. At one point they started fighting against Jagged Fel, Jaina's other big love interest. Jaina-and-Zekk had thoughts along the lines of "We should make him a Joiner and be Jaina-and-Zekk-and-Jagged! Yes, he is pretty. He would make the mating rituals much better."
- Star Trek:
- An episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, "The Host", features an alien (Trill) ambassador, Odan, who has a fling with Dr. Crusher and then dies, having his personality and memories transplanted into a new (female) body thanks to Bizarre Alien Biology. The trope is averted in that Crusher makes it clear that she cannot continue their relationship now. The episode was accused of Unfortunate Implications, because Crusher had considered the idea of continuing the relationship when Odan was temporarily placed into the body of Commander Riker, even though he was never intended to be a permanent host and there would have been questions regarding consent. Crusher was initially very excited that a new Trill host for Odan had come, until she discovered that it was a woman.
- Deep Space Nine tried to do this in a more sensitive manner than TNG had in the "The Host". In "Rejoined", Jadzia Dax meets Lenara Kahn, whom one of the Dax symbiont's previous male hosts had been married to. The trope is applied in that it is really Dax and Kahn, the symbionts, who have romantic feelings for each other, rather than Jadzia and Lenara. Also, the Trill have a taboo against symbionts resuming romantic relationships carried over from past hosts (a retcon from their introduction in TNG) and thus this was a single-episode story that is never pursued further. Jadzia would go on to marry Worf.
- Also touched on in the season 5 episode "The Outcast", where Riker is attracted to a member of an androgynous alien species. By the end of the episode the alien in question (who was starting to identify as female and was played by a female actor) was forced by her planet's government, which views those identifying as (more or less) strictly male or female as abominations, to undergo the equivalent of conversion therapy and denied any further sexual interest in Riker. It was about as close to covering the issue of transexuality as Star Trek ever got. It was also rife with Unfortunate Implications given that Soren was played by a woman. You could read it as "Riker's dick saves girl from lesbian colony: unfortunately psycho lesbians brainwash her back." Jonathan Frakes even suggested the female-identified alien be played by a male actor. Given that it was the early nineties though, that is pretty Fair for Its Day, as most shows would not even approach the issue.
- The Mirror Universe version of Kira Nerys is a Depraved Bisexual with more evil kink than Character Development; she's even made advances toward the regular universe version of herself ... but according to Nana Visitor, that last one was more out of narcissism than anything else. The mirror versions of Ezri and Leeta were also either bisexual or lesbians. The trope is not really paralleled with male characters, except for Garak, who was Ambiguously Bi even in the prime universe.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Willow's Mirror Universe duplicate is a Lesbian Vampire. But then it's averted a few seasons later when Willow herself comes out and has to deal head-on with all the issues of sexuality and society. Played With in that, when Willow is freaking out about how evil and slutty and "kinda gay" her vampire self is, Giles notes that vampires are possessed by demons, and their personalities have nothing to do with the person they were. Angel (a vampire himself) starts to chime in "Actually," gets a Death Glare, and finishes "that's a really good point." Presumably, Angel (who should know the most about vampire psychology) was about to point out that some personality traits do survive, cleverly foreshadowing Willow's own coming out two seasons later.
- The evil sexually-manipulative bodysnatching alien Mary in the episode "Greeks Bearing Gifts" is a glaring example. Toshiko is at least on the borderline, given that Tosh is never seen to have a sexual interest in a woman before or afterwards and it's not made precisely clear whether her sexual relationship with Mary was bisexuality or mind-control.
- A straighter example is Gwen making out with a (female possessed by a) sex-gas alien in "Day One". Given that there are many same-sex relationships and Word of God states that everybody on the team is bi, this is more of a coincidence than actively invoking this trope.
- Tina Greer of Smallville is a shapeshifting Psycho Lesbian obsessed with Lana. However, her every romantic interaction with Lana is while she's in the form of a male. She invokes it because she knows Lana is straight.
- Doctor Who:
- The Doctor occasionally suffers from this - this is, unfortunately, a case of damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't that comes from having a main character who is a Cloud Cuckoo Lander alien of a genderfluid species, and about half the characters being non-human.
- Although there's absolutely no shortage of more humanoid queer characters, the fact that Madame Vastra is a Silurian makes her somewhat gender-blind when it comes to humans. Her wife, Jenny, is very gay, but Vastra herself doesn't especially care if someone is male or female. The homophobia of Victorian Britain gets dodged by having Jenny pretend to be Vastra's maid.
- In Alphas, Nina mind-controls the straight (and also uncomfortable with physical contact) Rachel into kissing another woman in a club, to cause a distraction and also just For the Evulz.
- While Ziggy isn't David Bowie's only gay or bisexual stage persona (as for the man himself...let's not start), he's certainly the most flamboyant...and happens to be Touched by Vorlons.
- Similarly, Lady Gaga (who's drawn inspiration from Bowie over the years) came out as bisexual soon after becoming famous, but one of her more explicitly homoerotic songs is "Venus," which has strong overtones of Boldly Coming.
- A pair of Tasen from Iji are in a relationship. This one makes a bit more sense in that almost all Tasen soldiers shown on-screen except for the Bonus Boss are female.
- The asari of Mass Effect are a classic example. An entire alien species of mono-gendered, universally hot blue alien space babes who have relationships with each other, all genders of almost every other sapient species, and (potentially) with female PCs, the gender aspect almost never shown to be an issue for interspecies relationships. A number of asari characters express bemusement at the whole concept of sexual orientation (though at the start of a romance with FemShep, Liara will still have a minor freakout about being attracted to another woman who isn't her own species, despite the fact that both qualities are supposedly considered normal for an asari's romantic partner), and there are a few jokes about gender-based concepts not translating properly (for example, the asari consider the parent that didn't give birth the "father" in all cases, though their language doesn't have gendered pronouns for obvious reasons). Mass Effect may have originally been going to include same-sex options for the two human love interests, as suggested by Dummied Out audio files that suggest such a thing, but those files also have the very male Mark Meer ask Liara if she's OK with dating a woman. Finally averted in Mass Effect 3, where two gay characters are introduced to the crew and one comes is revealed as bisexual. Conversations with these characters and others suggest that sexuality is almost a non-issue by that time.note Mass Effect: Andromeda takes things even further. In addition to having a crew that includes multiple sexual orientations, flirting with Cora Harper, a heterosexual woman, as a female Player Character gives In-Universe confirmation that a relationship between an asari and a female from another species does count as lesbianism from the perspective of the non-asari partner.
- Joshua in Another Day from The World Ends with You. This looks to be played straight until you remember that Joshua, as the Composer / an Angel, could be whatever sexuality or gender he damn well pleases.
- Guild Wars 2 has the sylvari, plant people who don't reproduce sexually, and to whom gender is completely irrelevant (they definitely have gender in that there are defined male and female sylvari, it just isn't an important distinction to them). And more specifically, Caithe and Faolain.
- The vampire-ish Mystics in SaGa Frontier have a natural "Charm" ability that can attract others, none moreso that Orlouge, ruler of the Mystics. He gives a blood transfusion to a human girl named Asellus, one of the protagonists, and she becomes a half-Mystic in turn. Because of his magical blood, Asellus is more or less a lesbian (or vaguely bisexual, and this same blood causes a human girl named Gina to fall in love with her. She and Asellus have a sort-of-there Mayfly–December Romance should Asellus choose to remain a half-Mystic in one ending, they become a couple (with Asellus toting an all-girl harem to boot) in the full Mystic ending, and in the ending where Asellus becomes human again, she marries a man.
- The only gay characters in Fallout 3 are a lesbian couple where both women are ghouls (humans mutated by radiation to make them outwardly resemble zombies, but don't actually call them zombies, they don't like that).
- Fallout: New Vegas in no way has a shortage of gay characters, but there is an example with Tabitha the Nightkin (human mutated into huge, hulking, blue monster that is also violently insane) and Rhonda the Mr. Handy robot (who has the same male voice as every other Mr. Handy).
- Eternal Eden: Joelle is engaged to Lynette. When Downey expresses surprise/disgust at the fact that the two girls are romantically involved with each other, Joelle explains that fairies have No Biological Sex, so her relationship with Lynette don't count as lesbians even if both looks female.
- Male/Male version in Dragon Age: Origins. The only male love interest a male PC can have is the elf Zervan. Though you can choose to make your character an elf, averting this somewhat.
- The Dragon Doctors features a town where all the men have been transformed into women. Their romantic relationships have generally continued, the town having become a huge market for Magitek that alters one's sexual preference to "bi". (The author has mentioned that the "orientation adapter" magic only sets you to bi, basically widening the spectrum of what you could be attracted to without otherwise altering what you're already attracted to, so it's not used as a cure for gayness or anything).
"I don't think they're lesbians so much as..."
"Pfft. Like I care about technicalities."
- Penny Arcade, in regards to Dragon Age: Origins:
Gabe: It's not gay if it's an elf.
Tycho: I'd love to know why you have a rule for that.
- In Homestuck, Alternian society is binormative. Unfortunate Implications are removed however with the explicit presence of gay and bisexual humans. Also, Kanaya is specifically only attracted to females, which is considered unusual but normal.
- Variation: In 1/0, Terra the earthworm is introduced as a lesbian because Tailsteak wanted to include a female character who wasn't a viable romantic option for the guys. This is clarified by saying that earthworms are hermaphrodites, but he's choosing to identify them all as female, so they're all "lesbians". The fact that she's not a "real" lesbian is the key to her being with the man she loves without rejecting the author.
- The Futurama movie The Beast with a Billion Backs contains a transdimensional planet-sized tentacle monster named Yivo. Shklee has a male voice, but everyone in the universe dating shklim isn't treated like an issue by anyone, at least not from the perspective of sexual orientation. Fry clearly states that Yivo loves both male and female equally and has no gender, and shklee even has shklis own pronouns.
- The last episode of Æon Flux has Aeon and Trevor both falling in love (or at least lust) for the same androgynous alien. It turns out the "alien" is actually a human from the far future.
- The Gems in Steven Universe are a One-Gender Race of sapient rocks with No Biological Sex that use forms that look like human women. They still hold romantic feelings of attraction to each other and, in a few rare cases, humans of either sex. However, no one suggests gems are different than human women in terms of sexuality in either direction—humans tend not to realize or care that gems are aliens. When Pearl falls for a human women who seems to return her interest, the implication is clearly that both are attracted to women. Gems being sexless isn't even stated in the show, just implied by their Bizarre Alien Reproduction.