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Be Trans Not Gay

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If you want a same-sex romance, you're safer to just change gender

This trope has been Nuked
Proposed By:
lakingsif on Aug 3rd 2016 at 10:29:26 AM
Last Edited By:
XFllo on Mar 17th 2019 at 1:28:03 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

In some places, same-sex relationships are still treated as unacceptable. One way to counter this is for one party to pretend to be of the opposite gender. Well, This Is Not That Trope. This trope is for when the party either does not or cannot simply pretend, but do have to transition or in some way prove an alternate gender. It is also not simply for people who thought they were or came out as gay before being trans. In fiction, it is equally Played for Laughs and Played for Drama when the genre is appropriate.


Examples

Film — Live-Action

  • In Absolutely Fabulous the Movie, Patsy and Edina initially try to get Charlie to marry Patsy for his money. When this plan doesn't go through, they get Patsy to court then marry someone they just met, also the wealthiest woman in the world, under the guise of suddenly becoming a man — even though she wouldn't mind either way.

Theatre

  • Hedwig and the Angry Inch: In which it is unclear if Hedwig is actually a transgender woman, but many interpretations show that he is not, but in order to escape must be part of a couple with his male love interest and does physically undergo at least part of sex reassignment surgery to play the part.

Real Life

  • In Samoa, there is a legally recognised (and culturally traditional) third gender that one can claim to be and therefore be able to have a relationship with anyone; however, same-sex sexual activity is punishable by up to 7 years in prison, though this law is no longer enforced.
  • In the United States — yes, the USA — before same-sex marriage was legalised there were some places where, once you had changed your legal gender (and some of these not even requiring a psychological affirmation or waiting period) you were free to marry anyone of the opposite gender, no matter the state's stance on homosexuality.

Feedback: 39 replies

Mar 14th 2019 at 4:54:52 PM

Why has this four bombs? This is actually a very interesting draft.

Mar 14th 2019 at 4:57:56 PM

Right now there is only two examples in media which might give the implication it's Too Rare To Trope.

Mar 14th 2019 at 5:53:29 PM

^ I hear you, but there was no discussion and no reactions from other tropers when it was first proposed. Perhaps more examples will show up soon. If not, I'd be happy to discard this draft myself.

Mar 14th 2019 at 5:22:04 PM

Let's pull up some examples just to make sure this is not Too Rare To Trope.

Mar 14th 2019 at 11:58:00 PM

I’m not going to bomb until there’s been fair time to look for examples, but I’m skeptical that there’s enough out there for this to make a trope out of. Currently half the examples are real-life, which is pretty bad.

Also, corrected phrasing in the Hedwog example. Transgender is an adjective; calling someone ‘transgendered’ makes as much sense as calling them ‘talled’.

Edited to add: should the pronouns there be changed to female ones to match what’s used on the main work’s page?

Mar 15th 2019 at 12:05:42 AM

Literature

  • The plot of Bangkok 8 involves a former male prostitute getting revenge on their closeted boyfriend for pushing them to get gender-reassignment surgery and then pimping them out to pay off his debts.

Live Action TV

  • In the The Blacklist episode "The Djinn", the titular criminal was a gay Iranian man who was forced to undergo gender-reassignment surgery in order to avoid being disowned by their family... only to lose out on their right to take over their father's company, because as a "daughter", they were no longer the rightful heir.

Mar 15th 2019 at 12:46:12 AM

This draft is probably going to go a lot more smoothly once it clearly establishes the fact that this is very much a case of Values Dissonance, and that we're well aware of the fact. A lot of these examples will come from cultures and eras where understanding and awareness was nowhere near what it is today, and where a lot of the current accepted language was still being created or had yet to reach certain communities — bear in mind that this was early or pre-internet, and people were often isolated or forced to hide in the places where they lived. The larger community and broader culture had yet to fully form. "Transgendered", for example, while obviously not the right term now, was frequently used in the time when Hedwig and the Angry Inch was written, even by allies and actual transgender people. The language was still changing.

Needs A Better Name and Needs A Better Description, stat. Just changing the name and laconic so that it doesn't come across as an imperative or suggestion would probably be a big help.

Mar 15th 2019 at 2:42:26 AM

^ The word "transgender" barely existed, if at all, in 1998... or 2008, for that matter. It's very much a product of the last 5-10 years.

As for the trope itself... I don't see it. What exactly is the definition we're looking for?

Mar 15th 2019 at 2:49:40 AM

"Transgender" is claiming your "mental gender" to be different from your sex, right? (Just trying to confirm here)

What's the term for "surgically changing your sex organ" again? "Transsexual"?

Mar 15th 2019 at 3:00:12 AM

Wasn't Transsexual = Transgender meant the same but the first is now offensive or wrong while the last is more appropriate?

Mar 15th 2019 at 6:03:41 AM

I admit I know very little about it and it's definitely a case of Values Dissonance. I'm just intrigued by the examples, that is all. And really, do we have this concept covered by other existing tropes or pages?

I find it mildly amusing (and very frustrating from a troper's point of view) that people bomb this draft like crazy without explaining why this isn't tropeworthy.

Before Bomb-tossing, you're asked whether you want to remove a hat. This draft has no hats (not that it deserves any, it definitely doesn't because the current state is not by any means launchable).

If you think this is so despicable and uninteresting or insulting, I don't know if it's worth the effort.

Mar 15th 2019 at 5:31:56 AM

^ Can you even understand what the trope's focus is? I don't.

Mar 15th 2019 at 6:02:12 AM

The character is gay or bi, but can't be openly in a same-sex relationship. However, in the setting, becoming trans and changing your gender is acceptable, so the gay character does exactly that to be with their lover.

Mar 15th 2019 at 7:11:10 AM

Webcomic.El Goonish Shive has Justin, who is gay, musing on using the TF Gun for a Gender Bender so he can get dates? Somewhere... 2006-07-03?

Mar 15th 2019 at 7:11:11 AM

^ Hm, could be. Perhaps. Or a subtrope? This is more specific than that.

Mar 15th 2019 at 8:15:35 AM

Anime & Manga

  • Strange Mansion revolves around a gay boy who loved a straight boy so much that he transitioned into a woman to be with him.

Mar 15th 2019 at 8:17:56 AM

"The character is gay or bi, but can't be openly in a same-sex relationship. However, in the setting, becoming trans and changing your gender is acceptable, so the gay character does exactly that to be with their lover."

Changing "inner/mental gender", or sex? (The two are separate things, right?)

Mar 15th 2019 at 8:20:15 AM

  • Homosexuality is punishable by death in Pakistan. However, for decades, it has been the government's official stance to gladly help someone transition to the opposite gender, at least through transformative surgery.

Mar 15th 2019 at 9:08:29 AM

Never mind. I misunderstood the trope description (it's quite confusing the way it's written).

Mar 15th 2019 at 11:11:17 AM

This is just Trans Equals Gay (thinking "trans people are just gay people who want to attract non gay partners" is part of that trope).

It's also a common insult aimed at real life trans people and loaded with Unfortunate Implications. I really don't see a reason to give it its own page.

EDIT: And the current description seems to think being trans is defined by having transitioned medically, rather than...being trans.

Mar 15th 2019 at 11:25:11 AM

Definitely a subtrope of Trans Equals Gay, and maybe not worth splitting. Many examples of Trans Equal Gay are more about people assuming trans characters are "just gay", where this is sort of the opposite: characters who identify as cis and gay are forced to transition or change their gender expression because being trans and "straight" is considered more socially acceptable.

Description and title definitely needs a lot of work. I think the point of this draft is about a character changing their sex and/or gender expression without necessarily identifying differently. So a lot of these characters aren't actually trans as we would think of it, but have medically transitioned anyway due to social pressures.

Does this count?

  • In Bokura No Hentai, Tamura is a young gay teen (who identifies as male). His crush, who considers himself to be straight, is only willing to spend any time with (or sleep with) Tamura if he dresses and acts like a woman. This leads to Tamura dressing like a woman in order to pursue an unhealthy and abusive relationship with the crush, though he still considers himself male and mostly presents as male when not around his crush.

Mar 15th 2019 at 12:40:40 PM

I think this trope is a distinct enough concept from Trans Equals Gay. This trope is where gay people are pressured/forced into becoming the opposite gender because being a straight trans person is more acceptable than being gay.

Another Real Life example

  • Iran carries out more sex reassignment surgeries than any other country in the world after Thailand. Those who have undergone surgery are legally considered that gender, have all official documents re-issued with this gender, and are legally able to marry the opposite sex. In contrast, homosexuality is punishable by imprisonment and even execution, and there have been accusations that gay people are pressured into sex reassignment surgery to avoid homophobic persecution.

Film

  • Be Like Others is a 2008 documentary created by Tanaz Eshaghian on Iran's transgender population. Interviewees include a man who admits to not identifying as a woman but transitions to avoid harassment over his feminine mannerisms, and another is a gay man who seeks to transition so that he can marry his boyfriend. Eshaghian states that the persecution of gay people is the driving force behind many of these sex changes.

Mar 15th 2019 at 1:37:09 PM

Most of the examples appear to be the often cited Real Life example of Trans Equals Gay (a rare inversion of the case in most places, where trans rights lag a long way behind those of cis LGB people) and stories based on that.

The suggested trope is ultimately a combination of the common misconception that being trans is completely defined by transitioning medically note  and the lumping together of being trans or gay, which are just fragments of what makes up Trans Equals Gay. I don't think it can be separated from Trans Equals Gay in a meaningful enough way to form a separate trope because it only becomes a valid subtrope if you filter TEG from the mindset that TEG is an accurate trope (Real Life spoilers: it isn't).

Note that the OP itself already has an example (Absolutely Fabulous) where a character who's clearly just crossdressing as a man to seduce a woman is apparently "trans" for the purpose of this trope.

Mar 15th 2019 at 3:40:48 PM

We could expand the trope to include any instance where a character changes their gender expression for the purposes of a relationship:

  • This can include changing gender to get around Incompatible Orientation (like Pichukun's example, the Absolutely Fabulous example, and also that episode of the Simpsons where a man pretended to be a lesbian to date Patty)
  • and changing gender so you aren't Mistaken For Gay or outed as gay (like the IRL Pakistani and Iranian examples).

It would be distinct from Trans Equals Gay because that trope would be about real trans people being mistaken/accused of being gay but this trope would be about people expressing a gender identity that they don't identify with (so not trans).

Mar 15th 2019 at 4:24:48 PM

It still relies on Trans Equals Gay because it relies on conflating being gay and trans or GNC:

  • The AbFab example is just crossdressing/impersonation. It's not changing gender by any stretch of the imagination (it's a nod and Gender Flip to Some Like It Hot). Same with the Simpsons example (which, incidentally manages to blunder into incredibly transphobic tropes while trying to be LGBTQ+ positive). It's got nothing to do with being trans and it's covered by other crossdressing tropes.
  • The second case still falls under my previous argument (for it to work logically you need to simultaneously accept that a trans person is their identified gender and not their identified gender at the same time; the fact that it doesn't work is already covered by TEG and wouldn't get anything as a new subtrope). The IRL examples rely on the assumption that the only reason someone would transition is attraction to the same sex, and that gay people are somehow internally the opposite sex (i.e. the Trans Equals Gay trope wearing it's "Ray Blanchard's theory of Transsexual Homosexuals and Autogynophiles" mask).

Mar 15th 2019 at 5:09:37 PM

Just to see if I'm getting it... This describes a cis gay/lesbian who is forced to transition in order to be with their same gender lover because they live somewhere where homosexual relationships are considered taboo. Right?

So... this could be summed up as Forced To Transition?

Mar 15th 2019 at 5:19:08 PM

^ That's essentially how I read the trope. (I haven't read all the later longer comments yet.)

Mar 16th 2019 at 6:10:59 PM

I'm going to go ahead and suggest this be a No Real Life Examples Please trope. Even though the examples given already are fine ON THEIR OWN, I just see the potential for it to attract huge amounts of flame bait.

Mar 16th 2019 at 9:16:25 PM

No NRLEP is never applied when there is no actual problem. The thread has a long-standing "if it ain't broke, don't 'fix' it" policy.

Mar 16th 2019 at 9:30:57 PM

I'm still not being answered: By "trans" here, does it mean "changing your gender mentally", or physically? Or would it count both?

Mar 17th 2019 at 3:27:53 AM

I'm still not being answered.

I'm troping almost all my weekend. I need to sleep, too, you know. :-D

By "trans" here, does it mean "changing your gender mentally", or physically? Or would it count both?

The examples suggest it can be both. Most often I think the one forced to transition would only pretend.

Mar 17th 2019 at 4:24:49 AM

^^ I think "trans" here means: change your gender via surgery so you can appear to be, say, male, while you self-identify as female, i.e. the same gender you were assigned at birth (and vice-versa, obviously).

Mar 17th 2019 at 5:00:59 AM

Say, Alice is a female and a lesbian who likes someone called Bella. Would it be a "gay" relationship if:

  • Bella is a cis female?
  • Bella is a trans (i.e considering "himself" a man in a girl's body)?
  • Bella is a genderflipped male (whether in a mundane way, i.e surgery or a supernatural way)?

Mar 17th 2019 at 5:26:24 AM

^ You might be overthinking this. As far as I can tell, the answers to your questions are:

  • Prohibited; both are female.
  • Prohibited; both are biologically female.
  • Edit: need clarification. Genderflipped male = a man currently in a woman's body? (sorry, my head started to hurt with all the gender identity minutiae)

Mar 17th 2019 at 6:59:57 AM

Probably not salvageable; the few fictional examples we have can go under Trans Equals Gay.

Mar 17th 2019 at 8:19:52 AM

A couple of things:

  • Assuming 4tell0life4 is referring to Bella being a trans man (that is to say an Assigned Female At Birth individual who identifies as a man), it's quite rude to put himself in quote marks (while, of course, this is a hypothetical trans man, it implies it's the case for actual trans men).
  • Trans men are biologically male (describing a trans man as "biologically female" or a trans woman as "biologically male" can be quite offensive, and would actually be disputed by the majority of biologists).

If we can't get on the same page with all of this (that page would probably be everything on UsefulNotes.Transgender), there isn't much to talk about. As I've said, this TLP doesn't seem to have been written with a through understanding of trans issues, which would make it difficult to dissect the idea in the first place.

That said, "Forced to present as the opposite gender" probably is a trope (but probably one that we'd be better off starting with from scratch).

Mar 17th 2019 at 10:02:26 AM

All right, I give up. Let's discard this. I just think this thing was interesting and tropable and page-worthy. Yes, there is strong values dissonance and yes, it comes off as offensive. But many tropes are offensive (Mighty Whitey And Mellow Yellow, anyone? Heck, even Spirited Young Lady is classist as hell). We list those tropes and analyse them and that may help others see why the trope is problematic and offensive in the first place.

Best if someone would want to start fresh, but I don't think it's very likely, unless new examples start popping up in a popular works (and hopefully, they won't).

Mar 17th 2019 at 1:28:03 PM

Okay, I guess I'l do the honors.

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