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Discount Lesbians

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It's not gay if she's an alien, is it? note 

"The same-sex love issue is by now well-tread territory for BioWare — most fans know by now that Juhani from Knights of the Old Republic is a lesbian and Jade Empire allowed same-sex romance for both genders. So why should it be different in Mass Effect? Does BioWare think that their audience will clamor for girl-on-alien-girl action while recoiling from man-on-man love? And why is lesbian sex only OK if it involves another species?"
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They look exactly like hot women, and they make out with other hot women. But they're actually aliens/immortals/Body Snatchers/etc. So it's not really gay, right?

Discount Lesbians (or Discount Gays, or Discount Bisexuals, etc.) are canon queer characters who appear to be male or female, but they're either aliens that don't define gender/sex the way humans do, they come from an One-Gender Race, they don't reproduce sexually, they're genderfluid shapeshifters, they're humans that have been magically or technologically altered in ways that affect their sexuality/gender, so romancing them doesn't really "count" as gay. This usually seems to be a device used within the story 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.

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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. Characters used to draw attention to those issues are inversions, although this can still fall into Fantastic Aesop or Space Whale Aesop. If the character is explicitly stated as being homosexual, especially if their race/species has conventional definitions of gender and sexuality, then they're not Discount Lesbians, just a gay person that happens to be non-human.

Basically, they're gay, but not really; much like how a discount brand isn't exactly like the premium name brand (hence the trope's name). Commonly carries Unfortunate Implications (see page quote). It can be considered a subtrope of But Not Too Gay.

Compare Non-Human Non-Binary, a similar concept that explores non-traditional gender identities (vs. this trope's sexuality focus) through non-human characters. Also compare Have You Tried Not Being a Monster?, Lesbian Vampire, Bury Your Gays, and (occasionally) Elfeminate and Flaming Devil. 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.

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Examples:

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    Advertising 
  • 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 
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Shinji and Kaworu have a deeply homoerotic relationship, and the manga is quite explicit that Shinji was in love with Kaworu. However, Kaworu isn't exactly human, bearing the soul of Adam.
  • In Simoun, everyone is born female, only choosing a permanent gender at the age of 17. This automatically puts all teenage characters into the lesbian zone. However, while people usually end up the opposite of their lover's permanent sex, we see some couples that stay together as women and even one that knew each other as teens and hook up after both becoming men.
  • Humanity in Vandread has been segregated into two different races, where Majerans (women) form romantic bonds and two-parent families for their daughters. The men of Tarak are mentioned to raise (test-tube grown) sons together, but without any implications of romance.
  • Blue Drop gives us the Arume, who are a One-Gender Race of lesbian Human Aliens.
  • Creo the Crimson Crises, a Cast Full Of Lesbian, where more than half of the cast are demons (who inexplicably look exactly like humans).
  • In Devilman, Ryo confesses he loves Akira, but he's Satan, and a Hermaphrodite.
  • 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.
  • Sailor Moon: Used as a form of censorship in the anime. Seiya Kou is in love with Usagi, but in the anime Seiya is an alien who presents as male outside of Senshi form and female within it and is blatantly shown shapeshifting from one form to another.
  • In Land of the Lustrous the Gems are literally made of their gemstones and have No Biological Sex, but present as more male or more female to the audience depending on the specific stone and use gender neutral language to refer to themselves. Phos is initially confused by the Admirabilis' sexual dimorphism, suggesting they themselves have no such thing. While the gems all refer to themselves as siblings, Diamond thinks Cinnabar has a crush on Phos. Rutile also has an unhealthy obsession with Padparadscha. As of the Moon Arc, Cairngorm and Aechmea are in an Interspecies Romance and Cairngorm expresses themselves in more feminine ways as a result.
  • The protagonist of Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl is Hazumu, whose is transformed from male to female and becomes the center of a three-girl Love Triangle (and is the crush of an alien Spaceship Girl).
    Although Hazumu completely identifies as female afterward (and may have been transgender to begin with), she's the only girl unambiguously attractive to and generally attracted to other girls: Yasuna's romance with her may have been based on knowing Hazumu since long before the change, while Yasuna has some rather contrived circumstances preventing any romance with boys.
  • Most of the romantic and sexual situations in Ayakashi Triangle are between two females, but they nearly always involve Matsuri, who was originally male (and still considers himself a guy, despite being rather visibly feminine). His primary love interest Suzu is likely bisexual, but only shows interest in Matsuri and fell in love beforehand. However, Reo is explicitly bisexual and even hits on Suzu once.

    Comic Books 
  • In Cognetic the main character is a very long lived Hive Mind that can assimilate anyone and everything and body hop as she pleases. She specifically preffers female bodies and has relationships with women, though its not made particularly clear if this being even identifies as a woman.
  • In 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 their species don't stay the same sex all the time anyway (they 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.) In the 2017 series, Karolina concedes that she made mistakes with her relationship with Xavin due to her inexperience and desire to make the relationship work.
  • The original concept for Teddy Altman in Young Avengers was this, as original writer Allen Heinburg was unsure whether he'd be allowed to get away with writing a gay relationship. The original concept for Teddy, a half-skrull shapeshifter, was that he was a "supernaturally attractive" teenage girl who simply took on whichever form was most convenient for her survival, and thus ends up being "neither female nor male" - Teddy's boyfriend, Billy, starts out as a gay man who questions his sexuality and decides that he accepts and loves Teddy regardless. Heinburg didn't go through with this concept in the end; Teddy Altman is still a shapeshifting alien, but he only found out that he was an alien (and not a mutant, as was assumed) when he was a teenager, and remained a cisgender man throughout.
  • Shatterstar of X-Force 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.

    Fan Works 
  • 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 MPreg fanfic is the male side of this trope - basically, one of the gay men is from a species where it is normal for males to get pregnant, by other males, no less. A similar concept can be found in Omegaverse fic, though expanded to all parties involved.

    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. Though, there is the possibility that in the sequel where Hugo having a crush on Djali is more prominent, that the writers didn't even realize Djali was referred to as a male in the first movie.

    Literature 
  • 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 asexual hermaphrodites 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."
  • An in-universe version in Discworld, where dwarves have no sexual dimorphism (that is, males and females have big bushy beards) and courtship mostly consists of carefully finding out the other dwarf's gender. Vimes once makes the mistake of asking the gender of a pair of famous dwarven lovers and gets quickly rebuked. As the series goes on, some dwarves start wearing Tertiary Sexual Characteristics as a result of hanging out with humans, and some even start having interspecies relationships.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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, one of whose symbiont's previous hosts was married to one of the Dax symbiont's own previous hosts. 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. This was intended as an allegory for homophobia. Jadzia would go on to marry Worf.
    • 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.
    • Both times an attraction between women was clearly depicted in Star Trek: Voyager, it was because one of the women was mind-controlled by a male entity: Kes, controlled by Tieran, tries to revive his relationship with Nori in "Warlord," and Seven, controlled by an assimilated Klingon warrior, tries to assault B'Elanna in "Infinite Regress."
    • Star Trek: Discovery specifically averted having a Discount Non-Binary character: Adira is a human joined with a Trill symbiont, but Blu del Barrio has made it clear that Adira was non-binary to begin with, not because of being joined.
  • 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.
    • Since we also see Evil Vampire Willow enthusiastically making out with Evil Vampire Xander, and real-world Willow did seem to have the genuine hots for both Xander and Oz at various points in the series arc, some fans insist that Willow was actually bi, and the character was a victim of Bisexual Erasure.
  • Torchwood:
    • 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.
  • Bortus and Klyden in The Orville count, as they are technically a same-sex couple since their species only has males,note  and are Moclan, not human.
  • In Good Omens (2019), Aziraphale and Crowley are portrayed a lot like a married couple and Neil Gaiman confirmed in interviews that they love each other. However, he also said that they shouldn't be considered a gay couple because they're an angel and demon who don't have a true gender or sexuality like humans do, despite them looking and being treated by all other characters as male.
  • In the third season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, aunt Zelda enters a relationship with voodoo witch Mambo Marie. In the fourth season, it's revealed that Mambo Marie is actualy Baron Samdi, the male loa of death.

    Music 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering spent several years in a Ship Tease between the human Chandra Nalaar and the elf Nissa Revane. The relationship was ultimately Jossed in one of the novels, and so clumsily that it caused a fan outcry.

    Theater 
  • Done a lot by William Shakespeare because of his fondness of crossdressing plots. Therefore, when (for example) Duke Orsino falls in love with the handsome Cesario in Twelfth Night, it's okay because Cesario is really the very female Viola in disguise.

    Video Games 
  • 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 a returning character 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. Additionally one line of dialogue reveals some Asari identify as male or non-binary, putting into question how mono-gendered they actually are.
  • Guild Wars 2 has the sylvari, Plant People who don't reproduce sexually (they all grow in pods from the same mother tree), and to whom gender is completely irrelevant. They definitely have gender in that there are defined male and female sylvari, but it holds no biological relevance and is treated with roughly the same gravitas as one's hair or eye color; they find the focus other races place on gender roles more than a little bemusing. Likewise, Word of God states that gender simply does not factor into romantic attraction for sylvari. Caithe and Faolain, two significant female sylvari NPCs, were lovers prior to the events of the story. That said, the game also features same-sex relationships between members of various other races, including a human lesbian couple among the main characters, to whom this does not apply.
  • 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.
  • Fallout:
    • 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).
    • The Fallout 4 expansion Far Harbor adds Keith McKinney, a male robot who is in love with another male robot. While he was a man before the events of the game began, the player never knew him when he was human, and is introduced to him and the object of his affection after they'd been through Brain Uploading into robotic bodies.
  • 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 being a lesbian relationship even if both look female.
  • League of Legends: Oovi-Kat Neeko flirts with women and finds men unpleasant. But she is also a shapeshifting lizard-human hybrid who intermingles her spiritual energy with other beings and views gender as an odd and foreign social construct. Her distaste for men is mostly because they spend less time on personal hygiene, and she is perfectly content with "pretty" men like Ezreal.

    Visual Novels 

    Webcomics 
  • 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. However, there are also gay and bisexual humans. Also, Kanaya is specifically only attracted to females, which is considered unusual but not extraordinary.
  • 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.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: Shadow and Robot. Both are non-humans with No Biological Sex who use male pronouns and apparently identify as male. They were best friends first and later became a couple.

     Web Original 
  • Discussed and ultimately deconstructed in the Jimquisition video about the homophobic backlash towards Mass Effect 3 arguing that the "Liara doesn't count!" arguments are invalid because she's still coded as female even if the game considers her gender neutral. Comparing it to how a dildo is considered a genderless object, but it's still reasonable to assume a guy might not be straight if you saw him using one because it's still associated with the male genitalia it is modeled after.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • Solar Opposites: Korvo and Terry’s relationship is from first glance that of a gay couple but it was explained that as Shlorpians they technically have no gender and that they choose their genders they want to be perceived as in their lives.
  • Steven Universe

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