"That boy has a really high-pitched voice."An unfeminine female character looks like, or is mistaken for, a male. Sometimes this is to show that she's as tough as a guy, sometimes to show that she's a Butch Lesbian, but frequently just to show that she's unattractive. Often used for comedy, in which case she may be an Abhorrent Admirer. Supertrope of Bifauxnen, where a woman looks like an attractive young man, usually with fangirls (or fanboys) who take obvious notice. Not to be confused with Sweet Polly Oliver, who is a woman deliberately disguised as a man; Samus Is a Girl, where the story is deliberately misleading about the character's gender; or Viewer Gender Confusion, where there's only out-of-universe confusion. Compare Dude Looks Like a Lady and Attractive Bent-Gender, for men who look like women, and The Lad-ette, for women who act like men. Sometimes involves a Gender Reveal.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Nagi Ichinose from Nyan Koi! is an interesting case. She sounds like a gruff-voiced woman, but most assume her to just be a feminine-sounding man. So much so that every guy she attempted to flirt with turned her down, saying they didn't "swing that way." She eventually moved on to chasing girls, not because she turned lesbian, but because she wishes to "chase the beauty that [she] so wishes to have." She eventually falls in love with Junpei, after he tells her that he doesn't care that she looks like a boy, and she defaults to chasing after him.
- Project Ako :
- In Cafe Kichijoji De, Jun has a bunch of macho underlings who resemble gorillas. His co-workers were quite shocked when he tells them that they're all girls.
- Cowboy Bebop:
- Ed is a girl, which the rest of the cast doesn't realize until the very end of the episode in which she's introduced. Given that she's young enough to be prepubescent and her personality is halfway between Feral Child and Cloudcuckoolander anyway, it doesn't actually affect her characterization much.
- VT the middle-aged space trucker.
- Mobile Suit Gundam SEED: Cagalli is introduced this way, though she wasn't specifically disguising herself as male. People assume she is until it's revealed otherwise, save for Kira who easily figures it out.
- Sir Integra, who dresses in a masculine fashion and is referred to as "sir" despite being female. It's explained that this is deliberate on her part, to make people more accepting of her taking the traditionally male role of the head of the Hellsing Organization. Nevertheless, this wasn't as apparent at the beginning of the manga, due the fact that she had an impressive bust, but started to shrink in later parts of the manga, and became small chested.
- Zorin Blitz is an even more convincing example, despite having the Boobs of Steel.
- Heinekel Wolfe is too.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS: The supplementary manga revealed that Otto of the Numbers Cyborgs had such a boyish appearance that most of her own Cyborg family were unsure if she had a male or female body.
- Ouran High School Host Club:
- Very early on in Ouran High School Host Club, where Haruhi is assumed to be male because of her very unflattering appearance. This continues through the rest of the series, though a proper clothing upgrade makes her into more of a bifauxnen.
- Under similar conditions, Benibara of Lobelia has a rather masculine face despite dressing more effeminately. Ouran: The Vaguely Abridged Series parodied this by giving her a craggy man's voice.
- HeartCatch Pretty Cure!: Both Tsubomi and Cobraja thought that Itsuki was a male until different circumstances revealed the truth (a servant of Itsuki's called her "Oujo-sama" in front of Tsubomi and Erika/Cure Marine told Cobraja flat out that Itsuki was a girl). Cobraja was shocked while Tsubomi ended up falling slightly ill from the revelation.
- Axis Powers Hetalia:
- Liechtenstein cuts her hair short to mimic her adopted brother Switzerland. When the two go walking while wearing the same military uniform, an old lady compliments Switzerland on having an adorable younger brother. Cue Liechtenstein groping her chest in shock. This isn't as much of a problem when she wears dresses and a ribbon.
- Hungary thought she was a boy, and so did Prussia until he realised she had breasts. However, she looks a lot more female after puberty, when she has longer hair and is often seen wearing dresses.
- When Sechs from Gunnm still had her (female) TUNED body, it was easily masculine enough to be confused for male, especially considering the manga's artstyle. Compare and contract with the twins, who, despite having the same series TUNED bodies, are easily identified as females.
- Waratte! Sotomura-san: In a flashback from when the Sotomura siblings went to a store to buy yukatas, each one was given something for the other's gender.
- Honey's and Natsuko's classmates in the original Cutey Honey manga, who are all ridiculously ugly.
- In Gunsmith Cats we have the psychotic Russian assassin Natasha Radinov she looks like a tall broad shouldered young man, she covers her rather large breasts with her trench coat most of the time.
- Both Tohru and Ilulu mistook Kobayashi for a man when they first met her in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid. She even undergoes a Gender Bender at one point, and absolutely nothing about her outwards appearance changes.
- Kuu from Haibane Renmei is a young girl with short hair who wears unisex clothes. She's mistaken for a boy by the man she works for but she doesn't feel the need to correct him.
Film — Animation
- In Strange Magic one of the Bog Kings minions is revealed to be a female, much to the surprise of the other minion who had bumbled through the movie with her.
- Madame Gasket in Robots is mistaken for a man, even down to the voice. The Reveal that she is in fact a woman has some pretty hilarious reactions (including the glass that helps protect the eyes shattering).
- Done in The Lorax. The title character is about to open a can of fury on a relative of The Onceler's, who objects saying, "You wouldn't hit a woman, would you?" "That's a woman?!?!!?!?"
- Kung Fu Panda has Master Tigress who, unlike Master Viper, lacks Tertiary Sexual Characteristics to indicate any femininity (even her voice actress was initially confused), in addition to a low voice. Taken Up to Eleven in the animated series, where her being mistaken for a man (despite her name obviously indicating otherwise) is a Running Gag and she is often subject to Femininity Failure.
- Shrek has Doris, one of Cinderella's ugly stepsisters. Emphasis on ugly. She can easily be mistaken by a man on a drag and has an amazingly deep voice. Fiona even once remarks "You go...! Girl...?"
Film — Live-Action
- In Sky High (2005), Royal Pain is thought to be a guy because of the voice modulator. It is later revealed that she is a she when she finally puts her evil plan into action.
- Executed brilliantly in The Dark Knight Rises whereby flashbacks are shown of a child with a shaved head and modest dress. We're told this was the child of Ra's al Ghul and Bruce believes it is Bane, but it turns out to be Miranda Tate, birth name Talia.
- One of the most bizarre recurring gags in the Airplane!-style spoof film Hot Shots! concerns Kowalski, a pilot who is considered by all the other pilots (including the film's protagonist) and even her drill sergeant to be a man, even though she's obviously a woman, and a pretty one too. Her feminine appearance, her feminine voice, and the fact that she wears a bra during roll call while all her fellow pilots are barechested are still not enough to convince anyone due to Rule of Funny; everyone assumes she's just a small man who has trouble sucking in his chest. (Of course, it doesn't help that throughout the movie she is always referred to by her gender-neutral surname.) Maybe this is supposed to be a mockery of Political Correctness Gone Mad, with Kowalski being made to feel not just equal, but completely indistinguishable from the men. If so, it's not really necessary, since, due to the nature of this film series, Kowalski is just as competent - which is to say, incompetent - as all the other characters.
- Romeo Must Die has a scene that combines this trope with Suddenly Ethnicity. Han (Jet Li) is attacked by a faceless biker who looks reasonably masculine in appearance and who is presumably black (Han's Chinese family has been fighting with the black gangs in Oakland). Once he's chased the biker down, the biker takes off "his" helmet and exposes "himself" as a Chinese woman. It signals a major turning point in the plot, since for the rest of the movie Han is battling a rival Chinese gang.
- One appears in Rat Race:
Owen: (talks to a bartender who stands with her back to him) Miss? Could I have another one of these, please?Bartender: (turns around)Owen: (sees her maskuline face) Oh I'm sorry, I thought you were a woman!Bartender: I am a woman!
- In Bound (1996), Caesar walks in on his girlfriend having an intimate conversation with a Butch Lesbian, Corky. He's about to get angry when Corky turns around and reveals herself to be a woman. Caesar excuses himself and mutters about how dark the room is. Corky was probably written as being more butch then she ended up, as it's not particularly believable to mistake her for a man.
- One of the detectives' "solutions" to the mystery in Murder by Death has the supposed butler being a woman.
- The plot of Tomboy is about a ten year old girl who moves to a town and decides to try and pass as male. Her short hair, androgynous looks, and prepubescent physique means that she looks boyish all the time. She's only found out when she gets into a fight with a boy and his parents talk to her parents.
- In Dragon Bones, Tisala of Callis has short hair, and a scarred face. She also doesn't look just like any dude, but extremely her father, who, unfortunately, is not a Bishonen, but rather homely, in a way that's tolerable for a man, but defies the beauty ideals for women. She is also as tall as her father, who is considered a tall man. When Ward notices the latter, he pities her, as, he notes, it can't be easy for a woman to be taller than most men. (It takes him some time to notice as he's a Gentle Giant, and Tisala's father is just about the height of his shoulders) Doesn't stop Ward from having a crush on her.
- Jaime Lannister gives Brienne of Tarth a lot of shit for this in A Song of Ice and Fire, specifically during the third book. At one point he even suggest she might be a female-to-male transsexual.
- American Gods: in the narrative of the first people to come to North America (the first first people, not Columbus), one of the characters is a scout, technically female, who dresses like a man, has a male occupation, and a wife. She is accepted in this role and has a senior place in the tribe. Neil Gaiman shows his work with this one: historically, many Native American cultures had a practice by which a male or female person could fully embrace the duties, roles and appearance of the opposite and from that point on be treated as if they were born and lived the other gender.
- In Alex and the Ironic Gentleman, it is repeatedly addressed how Alex, a girl, is mistaken for a boy because of her nickname and her bowl haircut.
- Autobiography of Red: In Argentina, Geryon briefly mistakes a tuxedo-clad female tango singer for a man.
- When Jesse from Bridge to Terabithia first meets Leslie he is unable to tell her gender due to her short hair, unisex clothes, and Gender-Blender Name. Her tomboyishness is a point of contention amongst the others in town because she doesn't fit what's expected for a girl. The 2007 film adaptation gave her a Girliness Upgrade and made her wear bright clothes due to what's unusual changing since the books release. The 1985 made-for-tv film however kept Leslie's tomboyish look (albeit with slightly longer hair).
- In Merona Grant and the Lost Tomb of Golgotha, Merona was mistaken for a man in the past.
Merona: You punched me in the face the first time we met.Sasha: It was dark! And I thought you were man who owe me money.
- George from The Famous Five is described as having very short hair, almost as short as a boy's, that she cut because she hates long hair. She wears androgynous clothes and is prepubescent. She often gets mistaken for a boy as a result.
- Game of Thrones:
- Ser Jaime Lannister (who is both shorter and considered to be way prettier than her) thinks Brienne of Tarth is far too masculine-looking for a woman. She's very tall, wears her hair short, dresses in men's clothing and armor and even bows rather than curtsies.
- Arya Stark in season 1 behaves like a tomboy and was frequently being mistaken as a boy due to her appearance, which annoyed her. After the death of her father Ned Stark, she had to crossdress as a boy to hide her identity from her enemies.
- Monk: Mr. Monk gets stuck in traffic, where Monk runs into a truck driver whom he initially assumes to be a male.
- Up to Eleven in Sister, Sister where Rhonda, formerly an Alpha Bitch towards Tia and Tamera, re-appears in the season 4 episode "You Are So Beautiful" looking and sounding rather masculine.
- In Miranda, this happens to the title character on a fair few occasions. It even got to the point where in one episode she was mistaken for a man dressed as a woman.
Delivery Man: Here you go, sir.(cue audience laughter and an annoyed Aside Glance from Miranda)
- In Married... with Children, Marcy was mistaken for a male several times due to her flat chest and short hair. This was mostly due to Rule of Funny, since she wasn't especially unfeminine in appearance, and at least some of it was Al deliberately making fun of her.
- Glee's Season 2 (and on) football Coach Shannon Beiste, and a good amount of her characterization is owed to the real life experiences of Dot Marie Jones who portrays her.
- Farscape has the Zenetans, a species with pretty much no sexual dimorphism. By the end of "The Flax," D'Argo has had it up to here with Staanz, a former space pirate and "garbologist" - only to find out that, not only is the male-looking Staanz a woman, but has really fallen for D'Argo. Supplementary materials discuss how Zenetans rely on pheromones to tell which gender is which.
- Because she's wearing trousers and has her long hair tucked into a cap, Polly is mistaken for a young boy throughout the Doctor Who serial "The Smugglers." While Ben pokes fun at her for it, she never really bothers to correct the mistake.
- In The Killing, Holder initially mistakes Bullet for a boy, thanks to her short hair and unkempt baggy clothes, as well as her overall masculine demeanour.
- Because of her androgynous appearance, Eleven in Stranger Things is briefly mistaken for a boy in the first episode. This later leads to her case getting mixed up with Will's during Hopper's investigation.
- BIONICLE's Hahli in her Toa Inika form wore a mask with breathing-tube facial hair, an enormous chin and a large, shiny bald head. It was given to her by Karzahni when he imprisoned her group in his realm and took their own masks away. She didn't mind the look, but the fans, who viewed every female toy as a gift, sure did.
- This trope is Older Than Steam. In Shakespeare's As You Like It, the protagonist Rosalind dresses up as a man both out of curiosity and to escape persecution. However, this comes back to bite her in the rear when she finds herself in love with Orlando, who is actually male.
- Touhou: Wriggle Nightbug is female, like 99.99% of the cast, despite her androgynous appearance (to the point of looking like a cute boy sometimes) and all the fanwork to the contrary.
- The Machop and Timburr lines have a 25% chance of being female, despite their very manly appearances- the latter line's final evolution, Conkeldurr even sports a visible goatee!
- In Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, Pokémon Coordinator Chaz has a Machoke named Macherie, who is female. You wouldn't be able to tell by just looking at her, but he refers to her by female pronouns, and insists on not teaching her Tough moves for contests (preferring Cuteness and Beauty), as she's "too cute" for them.
- Even better example: the very masculine looking Granbull actually has a 75% chance of being female. Its pre-evolution being pink may have something to do with it.
- Elh Melizée from Solatorobo, at least according to the characters in-game. This even allows Red to help her sneak into an all-boys magic school, insisting to the Ritual Master that she "couldn't be any more of a boy" - which, of course, annoys her immensely, since by that point she was quite fond of him. Viewers tend to get confused when first introduced to her: since she wears a Skirt over Slacks and has an androgynous face, most players assumed she was female, yet other characters insisted on referring to her as a boy and she uses masculine pronouns in the Japanese version, so players assumed they must've been mistaken. Then it's revealed that she is a girl after all; that Skirt over Slacks look is apparently boys' clothing in the Shepherd Republic, which is why the other characters thought she was a boy. She never bothered to correct anyone because they just never asked which she was.
- Final Fantasy VIII: Adel. The only clue that she is a she is that she is called a sorceress.
- Anna Hottenmeyer from Mr. Driller.
- Jherii Gallo, the Dead Rising 3 Psychopath representing Pride, is an overzealous and arrogant bodybuilder with a deep voice and overmuscular physique. She tries to kill Nick when he accidentally keeps referring to her as a "sir".
- Mute from Ar tonelico Qoga: Knell of Ar Ciel. She's a musclebound brute and virtually devoid of any femininity outside of her voice (Which is normal in the JP dub, but very masculine in the English dub) and Sailor Fuku. Aoto gives her the unflattering nickname of "Butch" in the English dub, but instead literally just refers to her as "man-woman" in the JP dub. You later find out that she can transform into a typical loli when she feels like it, though.
- Senran Kagura:
- Miyabi is apparently this to the point where she constantly gets mistaken for a man and her squealing fangirls as well as childhood friend Imu won't let her catch a break. Her story mode has her trying her very hardest to make herself more feminine. It ends up backfiring. Of course, this is very much an Informed Attribute since she lives in a World of Buxom and her chest makes it obvious that she's a girl. The Informed Attribute does get lampshaded in one of the games where she asks Yozakura if there is anything feminine about her, and all what Yozakura can answer is her breasts.
- Kanzaki is another example. Similar to Miyabi, some of her cards imply that she tries to make herself more feminine as well.
- If you play Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth as the protagonist of Persona 3, Naoto is called "Intelligent looking boy" before her name is revealed. Some characters don't get that she's a girl until much later in the game.
- In Icewind Dale the swarthy dwarven warrior in the opening inn is called Hildur. She gets faintly annoyed at being confused for a man, and having to explain to a non-dwarven party member that the three foot beard is entirely normal.
- Papers, Please has some female entrants whose heads look like men's heads. You have to strip search them to find whether or not the passport's stated biological sex is true or not in order to determine whether to let them in or to arrest them.
- In BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma, Amane Nishiki calls Noel Vermillion the best cross-dresser he's ever seen. Why, she'd be perfect for playing the roles of women in his acting troupe! This enrages the normally Shrinking Violet Noel enough to cause her Murakumo Unit personality to take over.
Noel: ...Target deemed hostile. Commencing termination.
- Dorothy Albright from Arcana Heart has a small case of this, in that just by appearance alone she might get confused by a young boy. It even comes to play in one of her victory animations where she passes off as a boy to fool the police (though she may also dress as a schoolgirl instead). Some fans reffer to her as "Reverse Bridget" because of this.
- The Player Character of Ladykiller in a Bind is a young woman who is rather flat-chested and has androgynous facial features. This of course helps her a bit in pulling off the Twin Switch her scheming brother has cajoled her into doing with him.
- Sakura Oogami from Dangan Ronpa is an extreme example, to the point that she basically looks like a male bodybuilder wearing a Sailor Fuku. When Aoi mentions spending the night in Sakura's room, Kiyotaka is outraged at a girl sleeping with a "boy", before Sakura points out that she's a girl.
- Homestar Runner: "Some people wears glasses. Beth looks like a dude."
- Mai from Porkchop 'n Flatscreen! takes this Up to Eleven: she can go around topless in the men's locker room and not draw attention.
- Parodied in Dragon Ball Z Abridged. Dodoria looks and sounds like a man, but is actually female, much to everyone's surprise.
- In Hemispheres, Mineshaft, the dwarf, looks like a generic fantasy dwarf male... but, of course, it's eventually revealed that dwarves in this setting all look and sound male to humans, beards and all.note
- Zii of Ménage ŕ 3 doesn't suffer from this regularly, as she generally presents a convincing and attractive feminine style, but she does have a very flat chest (and she is very mildly self-conscious about it). Hence, she is very annoyed in one early strip when Jung asks "Who's the skinny dude?" — understandably, given that she's flashing everyone at the time...
- Same New Woman follows Marita, an ordinary librarian who wakes up one morning with a hyper-muscular body and extraordinary strength and is subsequently a source of gender confusion. She tries to go on with her old life but finds her world increasingly out of control.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: Smellerbee is frequently mistaken for a boy, a misconception which she is somewhat sensitive about and quick to correct.
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold has Mrs. Manface, the wife of Babyface. She looks exactly like a dude, complete with five o'clock shadow.
- Family Guy:
- The Griffins go into witness protection in the Deep South. Chris befriends a kid named Sam who looks and sounds like a guy — until he kisses Chris and it's revealed shortly after that he is a she.
- Another episode, "Mind Over Murder", the homely, burly 'man' Peter punches turns out to be an incredibly ugly and pregnant woman, leading to her delivering her child ahead of schedule and his being placed under house arrest.
- A recurring joke is that Meg is mistaken for a boy (despite having a clearly female chest).
- Laney Penn from Grojband, at least to the titular band.
- In the episode of Hey Arnold! where Helga gives herself a makeover a man mistakes her for a boy.
- Liz from The Magic School Bus, a rare case for a feminine animal.
- One episode of The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack had Flapjack encounter a woman who looked like a hairy middle aged man with a long beard, he assumed at first that she was a man with the voice of a little girl.
- In Mike Tyson Mysteries several people have mistaken Yung Hee for a boy. Even a woman thought she was boy.
Yung: Why does everyone think I'm a boy?
Marquess: It's your haircut and I've told you that.
- Moose, the little sister of the title character in Pepper Ann, not only looks like a boy but also acts and sounds like one.
- The Simpsons:
Patty: When you do good, I use the green pen. When you do bad, I use the red pen. Any questions?
- The episode "The Otto Show": Otto has to take a driving test, and Patty is his tester.
Otto: Yeah, one. Have you always been a chick? I mean I don't want to offend you, but you were born a man, weren't you? You can tell me; I'm open-minded.
Patty: (Dropping the green pen) We won't be needing this.
Priest: He was a caring man, he was a kind man. He gave to his community and asked little in return. He-[A man whispers something in his ear.]That's a woman? Oh, dear God!
- The episode "Selma's Choice" has a moment where the priest is eulogizing the deceased Aunt Gladys at her funeral:
- ToddWorld, a series targeted at preschool audiences. Todd's dog, Benny, meets a dog named Sam and they play together in the mud, so he never really gets a good look at her. When they meet later, Benny is shocked she's a girl — "Sam" is short for Samantha. He thinks that he can't play with a girl, but learns differently. "Benny has a new friend now. Girls make great friends and so do boys!"
- In Total Drama, the Jerk Jock Lightning thinks that Brawn Hilda Jo is a guy, leading to an amusing Mistaken for Gay situation when, in a life-threatening situation, Jo laments that she's going to die without ever having kissed a guy. Eventually he finds out that Jo is a girl and is completely shocked. It should be noted that Lightning's surprise wasn't justified, since Jo had already tried to tell him several times that she was a girl - he just didn't believe her until her elimination.
- The Amazing World of Gumball: Nothing about Coach Russo looks even remotely feminine: she has a huge, blocky Cephalothorax for a body and a masculine voice. It's only at the end of her debut episode that she is revealed as a woman (as well as being the mother of a feared bully).
Coach: And I'm not a woman... who can say she's never lied on her résumé either.
- The Adventuresof Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius: Carl's mother is the ugliest female on the show—with a hoarse masculine voice. Helps that like Carl and Mr. Weezer, she's voiced by Rob Paulsen.
- Mary Frith, a.k.a. Mad Moll Cutpurse, was a well-known pickpocket and pimp in the English Renaissance who dressed as a man, dueled other men, smoked a pipe, and swore. She was married to a man eventually, but it was largely believed to be a domestic farce. Thomas Middleton's play The Roaring Girl was based on her.
- Carly Simon has often been compared with Mick Jagger's looks.
- Kim and Kelley Deal. Wearing lumberjack shirts and smoking like chimneys hasn't helped
- Anne Bonney and Mary Read, female pirates in the early 1700's. Sources differ on if or how long they disguised themselves as men, though.
- Patti Smith
- Calamity Jane, who dressed up as a man and swore and drank like them too.
- Jeanne d'Arc (better known as Joan of Arc in English-speaking countries) cut her hair and dressed as a man during the Hundred Years War. Actually, when she was on trial by the English for heresy, this was one of the only things they could convict her of, and thus was one of the sole reasons she was burned at the stake.
- In Britain, during times when hairstyles either favored shorter hair for women or longer hair for men, it could be hard to tell the difference between a man and a woman who just wore trousers (or for pre-adolescents, a girl could easily be mistaken for a boy who hadn't hit puberty).
- Spotted Hyena females look almost exactly like the males, right down to having an enlarged clitoris that's essentially a pseudopenis, and fused labia that look like a scrotum (until after giving birth for the first time, when they are torn apart).
- Dairy cows often are understandably mistaken for being male. It isn't a well-known fact that cows and bulls are the same species.
- More a case of Lady acts Like a Dude, but European Robins (not to be confused with American robins), aside from the sexes looking the same, are exceptional among birds for their females being just as territorial, and just as aggressive (this bird species is one of the few who will fight each other to the death) as the males, and the females even sing to mark their territory, something only males do in other bird species.
- When Fox News Channel posted an editorial in favor of traditional gender roles, they illustrated it with a photo of a lesbian wedding, which they had ironically mistaken for a depiction of a heterosexual couple due to the masculine appearance and attire of Stephanie Fiagrelle. Once this was pointed out, the photo was replaced with a more generic one.
- Catalina de Erauso, a straight up Butch Lesbian who escaped the convent she had been secluded in at age four by joining the army. She had several female lovers who never realized she wasn't a man and served in the same company as her brother, who didn't recognize her.
- Actress/voice actress Charlyne Yi, according to Sri Lanka.