Trans Equals Gay

Despite what people will have you believe in fiction, gender identity and sexual orientation are two separate things.

The misconception that being trans is merely taking being gay one step further.

In Real Life, being gay and being transgender are entirely separate, as they relate to two different things. Being gay relates to sexual attraction, and means being attracted to others of the same gender. Being trans relates to gender identity, and means self-identifying as a gender different from your body's physical sex. This can be expressed (in a heavily oversimplified way) as being "a woman trapped in a man's body" or vice versa. However, this distinction is all too often overlooked by both straight and gay cisgender writers wanting to insert a little LGBT-ness into their stories.

The root of this confusion is probably the heteronormative cultural attitude that "boys like girls and girls like boys" as a rule, and anything else is an "unnatural" aberration. Faced with the existence of gay people, using this assumption some might think the two are linked: "Well, the only reason these boys like other boys is that they want to be girls". Similarly, in trying to understand transgender people, they might think "The only reason these boys want to be girls is that they like other boys."

Gay men and lesbian women still perceive themselves as being men and women respectively, and while a Camp Gay or Butch Lesbian may act according to the opposite genderís stereotype, they don't identify as actually being the opposite gender. Not only that, but transgender people may have any sexual orientation. Because of this trope, transgender people who actually are gay can take a greater amount of flak from people ("Why can't you just be straight?") For example, a lesbian trans woman may be questioned why she can't simply live as a straight man.

Crossdressing raises similar issues. It occurs with members of all sexual orientations, and is actually statistically more common among straight people than gay people. When crossdressing occurs in fiction, however, it's frequently seen as a sign of homosexuality. The Drag Queen tradition probably contributes to this perception, as drag queens are typically gay men, but typically not transgender or crossdressers as such.

Trans Equals Gay is something of a cultural trope. In many cultures (e.g. South Africa, Thailand), a feminine straight guy, or a masculine straight woman is perfectly acceptable.

Compare Camp Gay and Butch Lesbian; contrast Lipstick Lesbian, Manly Gay, Straight Gay and especially Camp Straight.

See also: Useful Notes: Transgender


Anime & Manga
  • The husband and wife of Family Compo are both clearly pre-op (non-op?) transsexuals but are otherwise quite devoted to one another and very monogamous. Their daughter (or son.....even they don't seem to be sure) is still undecided in the transgender department (as they likes to be one or other on a whim so genderqueer isn't out of it), but is apparently bisexual.
  • All of the gay (Okama) characters in One Piece are drag queens. No exception. There are a few who are explicitly transgender like Iva, and one who seems to be gay but not transgender (Bon Clay who ends up being butch by the standards of Iva and the Okama Island characters) - but most of them seem to regard cross-dressing as something they have to do. They are also hideously and offensively bad at it, being ugly men who apparently have never heard of shaving regularly. This is especially odd as many of them are hanging out with Iva, who has the demonstrated ability to turn them into actual hot women with some kind of cloud of magic hormones. Ivankov has only used this once, as punishment on an annoying cisgender guy. Also on self. They inflicted serious trauma on Sanji by ceaselessly attempting to molest him in a hideous Thundering Herd.
    • Bon Clay's crazy monologue in one of his early appearances invoked the idea that he was either bigender or genderless. Given Oda's heavyhanded treatment of this trope, this received no real followup, but Iva sends mixed messages and Inazuma sends no clear gender messages. There are indications in Ivankov's dialogue that Oda considers 'okama' to be a third gender, a la premodern eunuchs. One whose primary purpose is Fan Disservice gags. This is largely due to Japanese culture which has historically been open and accepting of transgender and homosexual characters, with many appearing as popular mythological figures or folk heroes. At the same time however, they're subjected to stereotyping and misconceptions that Americans would find outrageously offensive regardless of which side of the issue they fall on. Ivankov was actually based on Norio Imamura, a real-life Okama and friend of Oda, who did most of the voice acting for Ivankov as well.
  • Kamatari of Rurouni Kenshin is a (very convincing) crossdresser who is in love with his male boss, Shishio, but he's actually a fairly sympathetic character and undergoes a Heel-Face Turn. Note that he is both gay and a Villainous Crossdresser, but not transgender, and flashes Misao when misidentified as a woman; he seems to find her mistake and her reaction both hilarious, despite having the crossdressing skills of a kabuki onnagata (which it has been theorized he once was) and presumably convincing people on a regular basis.
    • Appropriately, the one who came up with Kamatari was none other than Eiichiro Oda, of One Piece, who used to be Watsuki's assistant. Watsuki used him in a much more sensitive way than Oda probably intended.
  • Nuriko of Fushigi Yuugi plays this straight at first, being infatuated with Emperor Hotohori, but later on admits he's attracted to Miaka as well. His crossdressing is also later explained as being a way for his dead sister to live through him, and he eventually stops doing it in order to better protect Miaka. It's not a good idea to bring this up with fans.
  • Averted in Wandering Son, where the transgender characters are shown to be of various sexual orientations which don't relate to their identities. Nitori, the protagonist, has only ever shown interest in girls and even gains a girlfriend half-way through the manga. Her friend, Mako, is also a trans girl but is only attracted to men (and Nitori, who she seems to see more as a boy). Takatsuki, the one f-t-m character is rather ambiguous. The two adult transsexuals, Yuki and Ebina, have a boyfriend and a wife respectively; though Ebina's a widow with a preschool daughter.
    • But played straight by the Fan Dumb, some of whom are convinced that the two leads are gay even though it's clear that they're trans and Nitori doesn't even like boys.
  • In Black Butler, Grell Sutcliff's character interview in the Kuroshitsuji Character Guide says she wishes she was born female, wishes she could get a sex change and laments her inability to have a child, but may in fact be bisexual. While she makes frequent advances on male characters, she also declared once that she was in love with Madam Red - in fact, one of the reasons why Grell was drawn to her was how Madame Red also couldn't give birth due to having been gone through an hysterectomy after an horrible accident. While this mostly points towards her being transgender author Yana Toboso may intend to have Grell viewed as an okama or drag queen, since she consistently uses male pronouns when speaking of Grell in third person, and she and Grell both directly use the word "okama" in her art and blog posts, suggesting that Grell's feminine speech and pronoun use may be an example of onee-kotoba, the effeminate dialect used by gay men and male crossdressers. It's a contentious issue in the fandom, to say the least, with the murky Word of God and language barrier issues muddling it further.
  • Fire Emblem in Tiger & Bunny shows some signs of this trope. He's very, very flamboyantly gay and likes referring to himself as a "girl." Subverted in that Word of God says he views himself as androgynous or more so both male and female.
  • Averted in The Day of Revolution as the intersexed and transsexual protagonist proves to be just as confused about her sexuality as she is about her gender and it quickly becomes apparent that she decided to re-identify as female (to conform with her genetic sex) without even giving the matter any consideration. She may have either been in denial or she may have just been a later bloomer.
  • Parodied in Kinou Nani Tabeta?. Trying to be supportive of her gay son, Shirou's well-meaning but ignorant mother tries to educate herself on the subject of homosexuality. Unfortunately, she hasn't quite figured out the difference between transgender and gay, and thus spends an uncomfortable phone conversation with her son talking about how she just watched Trans America and went to a meeting for parents with transgender children.
  • Averted in Ai no Shintairiku. Sara has a clear interest in boys, though the boys tend to question their sexuality when seeing her (her love interest eventually came to the conclusion she's a girl no matter what's under her clothes). Played straight by the Hatedom and Fan Dumb who label her a gay boy and the manga a Boys Love Genre manga.
  • Averted in Claudine, where the FtM titular character is interested in girls, but he also has huge issues in regards to his sexuality and it doesn't end well for him and everyone involved. But mind you, this manga was published in The Seventies and it's one of the first manga (and Japanese media in general) to cover the issue of transgender (and it's relatively respectful in its portrayal, specially when compared to others.)
    • However, this is played straight by some readers who see Claudine as a lesbian and calling this a Yuri Genre manga, despite how Anvilicious the manga in itself is about Claudine's identity even after Claudine's suicide, where his doctor clearly says he was truly a trans man and was right into identifying as a guy.
  • Referenced to in the Mermaid Line chapters revolving around Aika and Ayumi. Aika breaks up with her girlfriend, Ayumi, after she decides to transition. When they meet up a few weeks later Ayumi thinks Aika is attracted to men.. Aika tells her she's lesbian and that she loved her as a girl. Eventually they get back together.
  • In the manga Dream Saga, once Nachi is awakened and the existing team discovers that she's a cis girl in Takamagahara, she comes out to them as a trans girl in Nakatsukuni... and says that she always knew she must be a girl because she's in love with a boy. Nachi is The Ditz on her own, to be sure, but still.
  • In Kyou Kara Yonshimai all three sisters expect their, recently came out, sister to have a boyfriend. They're surprised when she reveals she has a girlfriend and debate amongst themselves if it's gay or not.

  • Referenced in Welcome To Room 305. When a few homophobic men are discussing gay men one says "Wait, don't gays put on makeup? Isn't that the same thing as being gay?" and another says "They're all the same whether they're crossdressers, gays, or transsexuals". The protagonist himself thinks his gay roommate crossdresses when he goes into his room and notes it doesn't fit any Camp Gay stereotypes.
    • Later when a transgender character is introduced this trope gets discussed more

  • This Jack Chick tract claims that gay men think that they're women in men's bodies.
  • The "Five Years Later" version of Legion of Super-Heroes had a complicated Retcon about a character who apparently believed this enough to act on it. Longtime Legion supporting character Shvaughn Erin was revealed to have been using a Gender Bender drug called ProFem that changed her from male to female. The character, who up to this point had never been shown to have any sort of gender ambiguity, reverts back to "Sean" in the Five Years Later storyline when she loses access to the drug. The only reason Sean became a woman was so that he could have a relationship with Element Lad, who he was in love with.note 
  • There seems to have been some confusion to this effect among the various writers of Demon Knights regarding Sir Ystin, who presents himself as and identifies as a man, and dates at least one woman... an Amazon, who identifies as a lesbian and who has no fond feelings for men at large. No other character besides Merlin even acknowledges that Ystin might be a man (or genderqueer).
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In season nine, there's a gay male character—Billy Lane—made an honorary Slayer (an all-female magically determined warrior). In a world where there's a name for a non-Slayer vampire hunter (it's "vampire hunter"), he chooses to call himself a Slayer. He models the lifestyle of a Slayer. And then the spirit of the First Slayer decides to momentarily link him into the psychic connection shared by Slayers. Though male characters can power up many ways in this universe, it's been made very clear that Slayerhood is female-only as part of Joss Whedon's female empowerment message. The fact that a gay male can gain Slayer powers, even briefly, reflects a misunderstanding of being gay vs. being trans.
    • Or it could be that he's just fanboying over Slayers. If you think about it, he could probably relate to the whole empowerment thing as a homosexual.

  • The opening scene of Boys Don't Cry, based on the life of Brandon Teena, is a gay male friend urging him to "just admit you're a dyke!"
  • The X-Files: I Want to Believe had a gay doctor killing women to harvest parts to build a body for his husband's (still living) severed head. The fact that there weren't severe questions about this plan says something.
  • From But I'm a Cheerleader, this is a big misconception of the Anti-Gay Camp True Directions, to the point where the 'ungaying' process focuses mainly on trying to get the characters to fulfil traditional gender roles. This is especially mystifying for Megan, who is femme but gay and Jan, who is butch but straight. Similarly Dolph, a varsity wrestler is pretty 'masculine' to begin with but somehow the camp seems to suggest that by becoming even more masculine, he'll magically stop being gay.
  • I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry: Played with in a clip from the shopping scene (available in a trailer but edited from the film) in which Larry decides their guise of two gay guys is aided by purchasing maxipads. Chuck snaps at him that they're supposed to be gay, not transsexuals... not that trans women would have periods.

  • There's a point in The World According To Garp where a MtF "Roberta" is criticized by feminist women for wanting to have a sex change operation. They insist she not have the surgery and just "be gay".
  • In Eclipse, the Quileute shapeshifters' discomfort with opposite genders sharing sexual attraction through their telepathy is characterized as gender confusion.
  • In The Last Continent, the parody of Priscilla Queen Of The Desert gets conflated with the Ecksian version of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
  • In Tamora Pierce's Provost's Dog, Nestor is gay, but his lover is very explicitly female-identified.
  • Defied by Melecio aka Mimi from Eva Luna, who openly states she's a trans-woman and NOT a gay dude. As she goes through reassignment therapy, she keeps defying the trope as she specifically searches for male love interests, settling down with Da Editor by the end.
    "I'm not a man. I'm a woman. I'm not gay either. This body was a mistake!"
  • Defied in Parrotfish: Grady (originally Angela) originally came out as a lesbian, but later realized that he identified as male, and decided to change his name and dress to reflect a male. In-Universe, some people still believed that he was a lesbian.
  • Similarly J from I Am J gets mistaken for a lesbian often. It's a source of great annoyance to him.
  • Played with in Silence of the Lambs. Buffalo Bill was in at least one homosexual relationship prior to his attempts at gender reassignment, but rather than it perpetuating the stereotype of sex changes being an extreme expression of homosexuality it is explicitly said to be the opposite: Buffalo Bill is not gay or a transexual. He hates himself and both lifestyles were an attempt to change into something he doesn't hate.

Live-Action TV
  • Tobias in Arrested Development gets a few gags that play to this idea.
  • Examples from the Law & Order franchise:
    • In one Law & Order episode, a gay boy was killing women for their body parts so that he could build a female body for his boyfriend.
    • The Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Transitions" featured Hailey, a young MtF teen. Hailey's mother is very supportive and understanding (e.g., wanting to put her on hormone blockers to minimize the effects of puberty and aid her transition). But when Hailey reveals that she had been out after curfew with a boy, she asks "Hailey, are you gay?" Noting that her mother still doesn't understand, Hailey replies "I'm a girl, I'm supposed to be with boys."
  • Modern Family does this a lot when mentioning Mitchell's childhood.
  • On Soap Jodie was one of the first (if not the first) explicitly gay characters on American TV. When we first saw him he was wearing a dress and wig, and talked with his mother about having used the toy shaving kit she gave him when he was little to shave his legs. Naturally he wanted to get a sex change so he could be with his boyfriend, a closeted pro football quarterback. When he was about to go under the knife his boyfriend broke up with him. After that his being gay was something of an Informed Attribute; he had more girlfriends during the show than a lot of straight guys do.
  • In The Drew Carey Show this was averted with Drew's brother Steve, who was a heterosexual crossdresser. However, many people in the show assumed he was gay because of his cross-dressing.
  • Played with on Glee with Kurt Hummel. He has described himself as an "honorary girl" and tries to join the girls' group whenever there's a boys vs. girls competition, but gets offended when other people draw attention to his feminine tendencies, call him "Lady" and when they tried to cast him as Frank in Rocky Horror (the transvestite character that wears heels and fishnets) and when Sue tried to convince him to pretend to be transgender and dress in drag for a competition. He genuinely likes spending time with the girls because of shared interests like fashion and music and because none of the guys ever tried to get to know him, but he's never left any doubt that he firmly identifies as male.
    • Made abundantly clear when Unique (birth name is Wade) who IS trans says to him "[He] identif[ies] as a man."
  • In Friends, Chandler's father is supposed to be a gay drag queen, but he's played like a trans woman. He stars is a show called "Viva Las Gaygas." Drag queens who perform professionally are very, very good, and some have had plastic surgery on their faces, and get waxed. Chandler's mother specifically notes that his father still has a penis, so he hasn't had reassignment surgery. It's true that professional drag performers don't usually dress as women in their personal lives, but it's possible to interpret dressing as a woman at Chandler's wedding as a snipe at his mother. As for dressing as Hollywood starlets in front of his friends, it's hard to fathom why he would want to embarrass his son, but he probably had some reason other than being emotionally abusive (like being supporting a transgender parent or student at the school), but the treatment justifies Chandler's refusal to talk to him later in his life, without making Chandler seem homophobic.
  • Degrassi explored this with the Fiona/Adam relationship. Fiona wasn't yet ready to admit her attraction to females to herself and saw Adam as a "best-of-both-worlds" boyfriend with a girl's body. Adam was unwilling to accept this.
  • In Three's Company, Mr. Roper frequently refers to Jack, who he thinks is gay, as a woman.
  • In The Big Bang Theory, there are a lot of jokes about Camp Straight Raj acting gay. One such joke starts off with Raj complaining about not having a girlfriend. Howard quips that he should eat a lot of pie and get his own breasts to play with. Raj responds with "Don't be cruel! It would go straight to my hips!" This is a case of the writers wanting to make him sound gay but actually making him sound trans. Gay men don't actually want breasts.
    • There's a similar joke where Raj asks Howard what celebrity he most resembles. Howard names a female celebrity, and Raj rejects it... because he couldn't possibly look as good as her.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation has an episode specifically about homophobia. It does this through depicting a world of people without gender, which has outcast people who claim genders. One such woman, played by a female actress, falls in love with Riker and gives an impassioned speech about how people with gender are just like everyone else where it counts. The episode seems like it should be about transsexuality and transphobia, but everyone agrees that it's the homophobia episode.
    • The whole concept of the Trills is supposed to allude to homosexuality when someone becomes attracted to the Trill in one body and also know it in the body of a different gender, but it seems more relevant to trans issues.

  • Molina in the (non-musical) stage version of Kiss of the Spider Woman constantly references being the wrong sex, but the distinction between homosexual and transgender is never addressed.
  • In the theatrical adaptation of Kinky Boots, Don thinks that Lola/Simon is gay, but is corrected by him, and it's shown that all but one of the women in the factory find Lola more attractive than Don.

Video Games

Web Comics
  • El Goonish Shive: The author indicated in a non-canon piece that gay male character Justin would love being a girl so he could pick up guys. After receiving complaints, the author corrected this assumption in a follow-up piece and kept it from entering the comic's canon. Later on in the canon story Justin addresses the fact that he doesn't actually want to be a woman, even though it would make his life easier.
  • Exploited Trope: Steve/Cherry from Footloose, a straight full-time (but male-identified) transvestite on the Magical Girl squad, is assumed to be gay by almost everyone from the start, and even plays along so he can watch the others dress.
  • Played with in A Softer World, comic 389: No, I don't want to be a woman. What a stupid, misguided idea of homosexuality! I want you to be the woman. (I'll be the headmaster.)
  • Trans Girl Diaries uses this in-universe as invoked by various transphobic characters.
  • In Skin Horse, Tip is about as strong an aversion as you can get, being portrayed as a highly-successful lady's man despite never wearing men's clothes.

Web Original

Western Animation
  • Zigzagged on Family Guy when Quagmire reveals to Peter and Lois that his father is a transsexual. The two laugh hysterically that his father's gay (though this was most likely a moment to demonstrate Peter and Lois' Jerk Ass tendencies) even though the episode plays this trope both straight and inverted. (Quagmire argues that his new mother is actually a woman, therefore, she cannot be gay for being attracted to men.)
  • Possible aversion: in Superjail, Alice is a MTF transsexual. In her Backstory, it's revealed that it was her love for her old warden that led her to realize that she was transgender (explained as "finding her true self"). However, she found out that the warden was gay, and he fired her for becoming "a freak" (after she walked in on him with his male lover). Despite this, she doesn't regret being a woman, and her transition is treated as separate to her love of men. She later winds up sleeping with the Mistress, and remarks that she forgot how needy women can be.
  • Played with in just about every possible way in South Park, with the character of Mr. Garrison, who ends up in every category of LGBT at some point, as well as opposition to it:
    • Mr. Garrison (who is gay) gets a sex change. This upsets his partner Mr. Slave, who, also being gay, has no sexual interest in the now Mrs. Garrison.
    • Later, Mrs. Garrison goes on a crusade against gays after being rejected by the still gay Mr. Slave because of being a woman.
    • Still later, Mrs. Garrison determines that she is a lesbian after several unsuccessful dates/relationships with straight men.
    • After all this, Mrs. Garrison gets another sex change after determining that looking like a woman didn't actually make him a woman.
    • Finally, this trope is explored and defied in The Cissy. Cartman pretends he's a trans girl for the sake of using the girls' bathroom (because it's nicer), and explains to Principal Victoria that him being trans has nothing to do with what sex he's attracted to. Although, when Wendy reveals they are now Wendell, Cartman calls Stan a girl on the grounds that if Wendell is still attracted to Stan, that makes Stan a girl. This, however, is just the show demonstrating Cartman being an asshole.
  • In an episode of The Venture Bros., Hank believes Al to be transgender, who corrects him by telling him that although he is gay, he still has a normal "dingus."

Real Life
  • Picture above is from a photo project called "A Series of Questions" made to draw attention to questions that alienate transgender people.
  • The general practice of referring to gay men as "her" along with other, less-savory names is most likely born of this trope.
    • On the flipside, etiquette is to use the pronoun of the gender being presented, so any guy in drag is "she" and out of drag is "he", as seen on shows like RuPaul's Drag Race, where competitors refer to themselves and each other as "she" most of the time but will occasionally use "he" when referring to their real lives out of drag. This tends to add to the confusion, but it does prevent errors when an "obviously cross-dressing guy" turns out to be a transgender female. The show itself has also had several contestants who actually are transgender, including Monica Beverly Hillz from season 5, and several queens who have started transitioning after their seasons ended.
  • Transsexuals come from all walks of life, and some do dislike or hate gays, such as the real life inspiration for Brandon Teena above, and being called gay to them is a deep insult.
  • The usage of "gay rights" to mean the same thing as "LGBT rights," automatically implies that bisexuality and the state of being transgender are both synonymous with being gay. There are some who do recognize that they aren't the same thing but do this for simplicity's sake, but unfortunately, some people who do this do indeed subscribe to this view.
  • Eddie Izzard has sometimes dealt with the assumption that he's gay because of his cross-dressing stand up even though he identifies as heterosexual (or at times, "male tomboy" and "male lesbian"), and addresses this by saying that even though people tend to equate gay men and drag queens there's a bit of "a crowbar of separation."
  • In Iran, of all places, where homosexuality is punishable by lashing or even death under Islamic law, transsexuality was treated the same way until a 1987 fatwa from the Ayatollah Khomeini authorized surgery for a transwoman. Today, transsexuality is tolerated, with medical procedures even partly paid for by the state. Iran carries out more sex change operations than any other country except for Thailand. One result of this trope is that in Iran gay men are pressured to get sex change operations, since it's more acceptable in that culture to be transsexual than to be gay. The novel If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan deals with a young lesbian considering getting surgery to become a man in order to openly live with the girl she loves.
  • Back in the 30s, Mae West protested cops assaulting gay protesters with "A homosexual is a woman in a man's body. You're hitting a woman!" Misinformed, yes (and sexist), but her heart was in the right place.
  • Though comedically exaggerated, the camp described in But I'm a Cheerleader is a disturbingly accurate depiction of a real "ex-gay" camp. Among other things, men are told to play sports, go camping, drink Gatorade, call each other "dude", and tell any women they date to be submissive under the idea that by being more stereotypically masculine they will no longer be gay. Women on the other hand are expected to wear make up, dress up, care for babies, and generally act like girly girls to feminize themselves out of their lesbianism. Men and women who do act more gender stereotypically are declared successes regardless of whether there's any change in their attractions, something there has never been proof of. The concept of a Lipstick Lesbian or Straight Gay, let alone transsexual, is apparently foreign to such camps.
  • Made somewhat more complicated by Camp Gay men (mostly) who refer to each other using feminine pronouns, and, in certain languages, with feminine verb/adjective declension, along with intra-community slang. This is because, well, gender is a complicated thing, really.