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First Law of Gender Bending

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"Once someone has been made female, circumstances will conspire to keep them that way."

Not only are male-to-female Gender Benders a lot more common than their female-to-male counterparts, they are also more likely to stay transformed. One might think that the same Applied Phlebotinum that can change a male into a female should just as easily be able to do the opposite, but that's rarely the case in fiction.

This can be justified by the plot in any number of ways. Maybe the phlebotinum is reversible but a Phlebotinum Breakdown crops up at just the wrong moment. Perhaps our protagonist now has gender-based superpowers and needs them to save the day. Or maybe the phlebotinum works by copying the X chromosome and deleting the Y, and now there's no way to recreate it. Or maybe the person in question decides they would rather stay this way, in which case see the Second Law of Gender-Bending.

Regardless of its in-universe rationale, the way this law comes into effect is tied to the work's status quo: if the show's selling point is that a man has to learn to live as a woman, expect the change to be either permanent or go through repeated but short-lived reversals, at least until the finale. If it's a single episode's plot, expect it to last most of the episode's runtime.

An important but not always stated aspect of gender bending is that becoming a woman is seen as an inherent demotion, punishment, or loss of status, which can be seen even in a lot of feminist works, and watching someone suffer is usually more entertaining than watching them prosper. A typical example is the Handsome Lech having to be on the receiving end of the Male Gaze. In contrast, female-to-male gender benders are not only less common, but are typically resolved quickly and easily, ultimately reinforcing the woman's original femininity because Women Are Wiser. Since Most Writers Are Male, each character is likely to look much more attractive as female than male, giving another incentive against restoring matters. And if they don't change their mannerisms, a girl behaving like a boy will usually be more popular than a boy behaving like a girl.

This trope may also reflect the fact that, historically, trans women seeking treatment were more common than trans men seeking treatment, so trans women had comparatively more visibility.

Before you ask, there is indeed a Second Law of Gender-Bending, and even a Third Law of Gender-Bending. They may or may not overlap with the First Law.

This trope was originally named "Mandy's Law of Anime Gender Bending", after the person who first promulgated it and the source of her inspiration.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ranma ½ observes the law in more than one way:
    • Once Ranma acquires his gender-changing curse, no attempt at curing it works, at least not permanently. However, multiple situations where Ranma could be rendered permanently female are also undone, so the Law is still overruled by Status Quo Is God.
    • The "rules" of Ranma's curse are biased in favor of the Law. "Cold" water will turn Ranma into a girl, but pretty much any temperature below body temperature will suffice. Turning back into a boy requires genuinely hot water. Simply warm water won't do it, so she is usually limited to two options: taking a hot bath or obtaining a kettle of just-boiled water. Ranma will generally attract whichever temperature water is the most troublesome at the moment, and since Ranma was born male, this usually translates to cold water and this Law.
    • Among many supporting characters with their own curses, one other (Herb) has the same curse as Ranma, but no female is known to have a curse that makes her male.
  • Megumi in Cheeky Angel has spent six years as a girl at the start of the series, dressing and grooming herself in a very feminine manner. The end of the anime implies (and end of the manga confirmed) that Megumi always was female and was merely given Fake Memories of once being a boy.
  • Mizuho in Otoboku - Maidens Are Falling For Me not only gets to stay at the girls' school after being discovered, but volunteers to do so. Except for an obscured view of his face early on, we never get to see him in a 'male' persona. The manga shows his face in his 'male' persona, and he still IS cute.
  • Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl invokes this trope in chapter one, as the aliens who transformed Hazumu specifically stated that the transformation was irreversible when they returned her to her family. Fortunately for Hazumu, it's strongly implied that "he" was a transgender girl all along without realizing it, and that may have been the reason behind the Gender Bender in the first place (and the aliens could have even been lying so Hazumu wouldn't feel pressured to change back). With the first law promptly disposed of the series trips off to explore Jumping the Gender Barrier, Gender-Bender Friendship and If It's You, It's Okay, barely stopping to nod at Different for Girls along the way.
  • Inversion: The Sailor Starlights from Sailor Moon they spend significantly more screen time in male identities, to various degrees, with the handwaving that this makes their act of posing as pop idol singers looking for a (female) lost love more convincing. They may or may not have abandoned their male identities in the finale when they left Earth for their home planet. Of course, the show is aimed at girls... This is, however, only present in the Italian dub of the anime; in the manga and original Japanese voiceover, they're just cross-dressing women and much less prominent characters.
  • Vampire Guilt-Na-Zan of Vampire Doll seems to be doomed to be stuck as a girl because the person who transformed him has no interest in reversing it. He ultimately does in the end. Lampshaded in one of the omake comics:
    Kyoji: Thus Guilt-Na obtained the treasure of "friendship", much more precious than becoming a man.
    Guilt-Na: You're not going to change me back, are you?!
  • Gacha Gacha Secret has a more understandable case, as the guy is turned into a girl whenever he sneezes, but never even tried to cure it; he just used his girl-form to make friends with the girl he likes to get to know her better. In the end however, it's played straight, as the people that were hired to change him back screwed up because he tried to leave half-way through the treatment so the girl wouldn't lose her friend. This ends up not curing him of the changing, but did cure the condition that would have killed him if he changed too much.
  • Inverted in Ouran High School Host Club: Haruhi is a Bifauxnen girl who's required to pretend she's a guy in the host club to Work Off the Debt, and has androgynous tastes in clothing anyway, so it's actually quite rare for her to be dressed like a girl.
  • The fake Mashiro in the My-Otome manga is guy forced to take the identity of a princess he greatly resembles. He's rarely out of drag, perhaps to placate fans with generous dissonance.
  • Slightly downplayed in the NEEDLESS manga. Cruz Schild disguises as a student to hide in the all-female St. Rose Academy: he never gets out of the disguise again for the rest of the series, and is eventually fully turned into a girl in the finale when Blade briefly acquires godlike powers.
  • Played straight in Pretty Face. After regaining his original face Randou learns from the real Yuna that he'll need to continue posing as Rina's twin for another year, only to be told by Doctor Manabe that if he had another face-changing surgery he'd be stuck with a girl's face for the rest of his life. I Want My Beloved to Be Happy says he'll go along with it. Then the doc pulls off the mask Randou didn't even realize he was wearing, revealing that he actually still had Rina's face. It was a test set by Yuna to see if he was really worthy of Rina. The doctor couldn't bring himself to return Randou to his original appearance in the first place, and instead glued a mask of his original appearance to his face, and continually re-glued it while Randou was sleeping. So, in the long run he ends up spending more time with the eponymous pretty face. Though he now has the ability to glue the mask back onto his face if he wants to spend time as a guy again.
  • Space Pirate Mito: Poor Aoi. After losing the Power Limiter that was keeping him fully human in the final episode of the first series he learns that his gender has become unstable because his mother's species doesn't settle on a gender until puberty. Worse, his body is becoming disturbingly girlish just when his gender has to be stable in order to control the galaxy-saving Phlebotinum. Just as the credits begin to roll it's revealed that despite his best efforts to remain male his body had stabilized as female and she remains female from then on. Over the next series, the only hint of a chance to turn back is a mention by an Ax-Crazy goddess that she'd be male again upon submitting wholly to her (which, although Aoi says she'd prefer to turn back, doesn't present much of a dilemma).
  • Mashiro Ichijo of After School Nightmare was born male above the waist and female below. Mashiro starts out identifying as a boy but struggles with their femininity. Towards the end of the series they accepts their femininity and choose to be female. The series ends with the revelation that Mashiro's male and female "halves" were actually a pair of Half-Identical Twins struggling for survival in the womb; the female twin lives.
  • In Birdy the Mighty, Tsutomu is accidentally killed and has to share Birdy's body, although it can change appearance between the two of them. The Decode remake takes it a step farther, when at the end of the first series he gets his own body back, it is destroyed almost immediately.
  • Kämpfer's Natsuru is a boy who is forced to go through a temporary transformation to take part in a secret tournament of female-only fighters. He is the only character who changes sex, while the others merely transform into violent alter-egos. The change is triggered in the presence of other fighters, and later he takes control of it, but Natsuru is very often forced to maintain his female persona.
  • Played straight on Vandread with Nirvana sub-commander BC, aka Tenmei Uragasumi, Commander of the Taraak Intelligence. After he is forced to reveal "her" true identity to save Nirvana, he does not automatically revert to a male body—since their gender-bending is surgical (among other things)—and before he can have the reverse-surgery, he has a Becoming the Mask realization and decides to stay with the crew. They are allowed back in by The Captain under condition that she fully becomes a she once again—with which she is only too happy to oblige.
  • Discussed and explained in No Game No Life's light novel. Sora realizes that the Elves' gender changing magic pretty much substitutes the Y chromosone with a clone of the X chromosomenote , so changing back is impossible since the Y chromosome no longer exists.
  • In The Vision of Escaflowne, Dilandau started off as a girl (actually Allen Schezar's long-lost younger sister), and was kidnapped and turned into a boy through a series of horrific Magitek experiments by the Zaibach Empire. Later, he turns back into a girl...and it's implied that she stays that way. This plotline was Adapted Out of both the manga and the OVA, where said character was a girl and boy, respectively, and never changed sex.
  • Boku Girl tends to tip the scales in favor of Mizuki's female form, with him spending more time and seemingly getting more fulfilment than he did as a male. He ultimately decides to stick with the change by the end. There is strong evidence that Mizuki was a transgender girl even before the change, albeit very closeted because of their father's influence.
  • Ayakashi Triangle begins with the evil spirit Shirogane turning Matsuri female just before having most of his power sealed away. Reversing this becomes a Series Goal whose requirements change several times: First they need to convince Shirogane to reform and change Matsuri back. Then Suzu needs to master her own power to restore Shirogane's. Finally, for the series latter half, it turns out Suzu doesn't just more training, but the consent of her past life's Enemy Without. Ultimately, Shirogane's power is restored after about a half year in-series... by which point Matsuri realizes they've gotten attached to their life as a girl, and so elect to stay that way for at least the rest of high school (another two-and-a-half years). What they'll decide then is left to our imagination.
  • One of the reincarnated souls in So I'm a Spider, So What? is Katia, who in her previous life was the Closet Gay male student Kanata, and is initially distraught that out of every person in his class to reincarnate, only he switched genders. Since the gender-swapping came about via reincarnation there's not much to be done about it, and while Kanata does initially experience some dysphoria and continue to identify as male for a time, eventually he fully assumes the persona of Katia and identifies completely as a girl, literally losing the last semblance of his male identity during a plot conflict. Being able to more openly express his sexuality as a heterosexual woman is one motivator for accepting the change, especially since he lucked out enough to reincarnate in the same time and place as a male classmate he'd had a crush on.
  • ONIMAI: I'm Now Your Sister!: The story is focused on Mahiro being turned from a college-aged man to a middle school-aged girl, courtesy of his Teen Genius sister's mad science. The effects of the drug that transformed him are temporary, however every time they would start to wear off it's at a moment that would be horrifically inconvenient for Mahiro and requires him to take another dose to stay a girl for longer. The first time it happened was when he, his sister Mihari, her friend Kaede, and Kaede's younger sister Momiji, were in a hot spring together. The series' Japanese title translates to Big Brother is Done For, lampshading how Mahiro will be stuck as a girl for the story's duration.
  • Zig-zagged in Osananajimi wa Onnanoko ni Naare: The fairy Sylphie feels obligated to make the protagonist Iori be a girl. However, by total coincidence, Iori is uncommonly Resistant to Magic, enough to change back so long as he can will himself to. What ensues is a bitter stalemate of Iori changing back and forth, with neither able to settle the issue permanently. After an Enemy Mine to prevent Sylphie's mother from put the Law in effect via extreme measures, the story ends with Iori and Sylphie continuing their rivalry indefinitely.
  • Happens to Danblf in She Professed Herself Pupil Of The Wise Man. One night he messed around with a cosmetics case he bought for his in-game character, creating a female avatar that fit his tastes, and fell asleep before he could cancel and log out. Next thing he knew, he woke up in the game, in standard Isekai fare, as the girl he designed, instead of the old wizard he had played as for the longest time. Of course, now that the cash shop is closed, and he can't take anyone else's cosmetics cases (they're bound to the player), he's stuck as a girl, going by the name Mira, learning how being a lady works (with endless jokes about bathroom trips), and trying to keep people from finding out about his humiliating fate. Those who do find out tend to find this utterly hilarious.

    Comic Books 
  • In Knights of the Dinner Table, the gaming group is forced by their female fellow player-turned-DM to play as characters opposite their normal gender, causing a great gnashing of teeth by the conservatively oriented, hack-and-slash males of the group. When they finally begin playing, most of the players begin "rolling johns" and otherwise using their new gender as a tool for their usual larceny. However, Bob starts to have a deep affection for his character, to the point of preening his character figure. When the group comes across an artifact that would allow gender reversal, everyone leaps on the chance to have their characters switched to males, except for Bob, who states that he would like to have his character remain female. Within a few panels Sarah kills the character off and later admits to the rest of the gang she did it only because he was starting to creep even her out.
  • Mantra, the title character of the Malibu Ultraverse comic, was warrior knight Lukasz, reincarnated in the body of a woman for the first time after centuries of reincarnating into male bodies.
  • Marvel Universe:
    • Alpha Flight demonstrates that while The First Law is powerful, it can't withstand the power of Status Quo Is God. Near the end of John Byrne's run, the body of Walter Langkowski (a.k.a. Sasquatch) was destroyed. Under new writer Bill Mantlo, his spirit eventually ended up merging with the body of the shapeshifter Snowbird, who died while in the form of a white-furred Sasquatch. Walter soon discovered that Sasquatch's new "human" form was, like Snowbird, female, and she lived for several years as Wanda Langkowski. Wanda's sex change was only one of several major changes to the Byrne-era status quo, most of which were reverted when he was off the book, and Sasquatch regained both his manhood and his original orange fur.
    • In Gambit (1999), during a Time Travel mission in the 19th century, Gambit's shapeshifting ally Courier took a female form to investigate the villain Mister Sinister. Sinister caught him and disrupted Courier's powers, reducing him to a blob. Gambit's intervention persuaded Sinister to restore him, but as Sinister hadn't realised Courier was male, he was restored to the female form he'd been using. Courier retained his shapeshifting powers, but his default form was physically female. Even after returning to modern times, none of their allies seemed able to undo the effects of Sinister's relatively primitive machinery.
    • Mister Sinister himself became subject to the First Law later in the X-Men comics. After trying to bodyswap with Professor Xavier unsuccessfully, the only available body was a female clone of himself. "Miss" Sinister has since had a fling with Wolverine's son Daken, and is disturbingly attractive considering her origin. However, this character doesn't share Mister Sinister's memories, so it's debatable whether she is "really" him.
  • Shade, the Changing Man had to take over the body of a drowning woman in order to stay alive himself. Overnight, it reverted to female form and could not be changed back until he found the person responsible for the woman's death. Even after solving that mystery, his female features would re-emerge from time to time until he abandoned the body to fight death on its own terrain.
  • Played straight for a while with Arcee in The Transformers: Robots in Disguise. Originally the male-coded victim of a forceful, traumatic sex change, it's made abundantly clear how thoroughly life ruining this was, yet the possibility of reversing the procedure never comes up. It's soft retconned near the end of the series' run and hard retconned in the final issue into a consensual sex change. The in-universe explanation for why she'd believed it was forced was that the Mad Scientist who she'd gone to for the change had tortured her during and after the procedure, and the lingering trauma and hatred from the torture caused her to forget that she'd wanted it done to her.
  • A couple of mid-2000's issues of Dial H for Hero focuses on one that is entirely Played for Drama. Chauvinist construction worker Joe accidentally happens upon the dial and turns into the superheroine Shocking Suzi. He not only loses the dial (thus locking him into his new form forever), but the transformation also caused all the identification on his person to disappear. Unable to convince his best friend or his girlfriend about his true identity, or even return to his former place of work (or any legitimate work) due to the lack of any proper documentation, he is forced to spend the rest of his days as a stripper named "Jo", with his former electricity-based powers having disappeared as well.

    Fan Works 
  • Diaries of a Madman: This is initially averted, with Nav being able to freely switch genders thanks to his artifact. Later on they break, resulting in him being trapped as a female. It doesn't go down well.
  • Dragon Lady of Macross: Ranma Saotome elects to play this trope even straighter than the source material did. Due to the requirement of scalding water, Ranma comes to the decision that it would be much easier to just live as a female instead of trying to go back to being a male.
  • Evershade: Karen, formerly Kyle, can't return to being male as her regeneration forces her into a female form too fast for any surgical changes.
  • Happy Daze: Fonzie becomes a woman named "Francie" because of Mork from Ork. She stays as Francie.
  • In Flight: Unlike canon, Homura makes a full transition from male to female, it eventually overlaps with the second law and the third law.
  • Irreversible Damage: No antidote for the potions is known to exist, thus making the various gender swaps entirely permanent.
  • When a Pony Calls: Soren, the male human protagonist, starts off getting body-swapped with Lyra, a female unicorn, then through an accident on Lyra's part, his human body gets gender bent, and then he realizes that Equestria's natural magical energy isn't reacting well with his human body, causing it to morph into a pony body instead. While the body swapping is undone at the end, the gender bending and species change are not, and in the sequel, The Alchemist's Heart, where Soren, now the pegasus Silver Script, does discover a way to reliably change a pony's gender, she doesn't change back. This is justified in that, at this point, Soren's old life on Earth has been completely ruined with no way to repair it, so instead she decides to just accept her new life in Equestria as she currently is.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Goodbye Charlie: A male chauvinist lady killer is killed by his latest conquest's husband, and returns as Debbie Reynolds.
  • Switch (1991): A male chauvinist lady killer is killed by his ex-lovers and returns as Ellen Barkin.
  • In La piel que habito, a would-be rapist is captured by the father of one of his victims (who happens to be a plastic surgeon) and turned into a woman as revenge.
  • In the Italian movie Le Comiche 2 a male individual accidentally undergoes an undesired breast augmentation. Later he has a second accident and undergoes a sex reassignment surgery.
  • Sam: Once the change happens Sam seems to be stuck as Samantha: the shop has vanished into thin air and there is no other way back. Samantha does consider gender reassignment surgery but after Doc reveals what that would actually involve she's sufficently shaken to decide against it, at least for now. Eventually the shop does return and Samantha is offered the chance to go back to being male. She turns it down.

  • In Virginia Woolf's Orlando, Orlando transforms into a woman and stays a woman.
  • In Mercedes Lackey's Vows and Honor series, the sorceress Kethry puts a rapist under a visual (and tactile) illusion of a woman's body and sends him back to his rapist buddies. Later, a demon puts an end to this illusion — by changing him into a real woman.
  • Jack Chalker (of course).
    • He lampshaded this trope even before it was a trope in Downtiming The Night Side. Once the timestream finds a niche for a nightsider, they become that sort of person in whatever time they leap to. (In the hero's case, a prostitute.)
    • The River of Dancing Gods series has the hero temporarily genderbent a few times as a result of various magical shenanigans, but at the climax of Songs of the Dancing Gods he winds up permanently stuck in a female body after his own body is destroyed in a Heroic Sacrifice.
    • In The Identity Matrix, various characters end up wearing each other's bodies. The narrator, a man, finds himself first occupying the body of an Amerindian girl, then occupying the body of a Canadian college student. Since the authorities can't return him to his original body they decide to rewrite his memory to turn him into a stripper and a prostitute. It Makes Sense in Context.
  • David Weber takes this on in his Safehold series, where the primary protagonist is a robotic duplicate of a young female space-navy officer. When she has to deal with the primitive, male-dominated society that dominates the remains of the human race when she wakes up, she uses the robotic body's nanotech capabilities to turn herself male. And has so far stayed that way through 5 full books. (An amusing moment lampshades the usual Gender Bender trope when she finds herself with a disturbingly physical reaction to what the originally straight, female character sees as several attractive young men... while skinny-dipping...)
  • In The Wheel of Time, the Dark One intentionally gives the formerly male Balthamel a beautiful female body as Aran'gar. Getting a body for reincarnation is difficult in the Randland universe, so Aran'gar's choices were either to remain stuck with a woman's body, or die. Again. Being a Depraved Bisexual, Balthamal / Aran'gar was more startled than upset by her change.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's I Will Fear No Evil, the rich old cotter protagonist pays to have his brain implanted into a fresh young body in order to cheat death. The first matching donor to come up is a woman. When he comes to after the surgery, he thinks about this a bit and decides it's worth it to see how the other half lives. Seeing as how his surviving the first transplant was a miracle, his situation is pretty permanent.
  • Invoked and Played for Drama in Judith Tarr's A Fall of Princes: The two male characters are more than half in love already, the best solution for solving the conflict between their nations is a Perfectly Arranged Marriage, same-sex marriage is not an option, and the required magic ritual is explicitly irreversible. Hello, Sevayin.
  • Played straight and justified with a female-to-male Gender Bender in S.L. Viehl's Dream Called Time: While Duncan seemed to be more-or-less okay with the idea of the Gay Option, Cherijo did not want to look like her utterly horrible father, and switched back to female as soon as an opportunity arose.
  • K. Lynn's His Womanly Ways employs the body-horror route with a gradual genderswap for the main character. Womanizer gets cursed to know what it's like for a woman, and he slowly starts turning into one. The change is found to be permanent, but the novel subverts the typical genderswap tropes by utilizing an underlying transgender theme.
  • In the novel Girl by David Thomas, Bradley Barker (the main character) goes into hospital to have his wisdom teeth removed and is given a sex-change operation by mistake. Change is permanent and the main character does get used to being a woman through typical dress and actions, but the novel is surprisingly respectful of the transgender topic despite the comedic plot set-up.
  • In Princess Holy Aura, after Steve makes the choice to become Holly, he consciously makes the choice to live his daily life as a girl over the months of summer vacation, so he will be fully acclimated by the time the school year comes around and he has to spend time around and among other people.
    • At the end of the story, when Holly sacrifices herself to kill Azathoth and is subsequently brought back, she discovers she has lost the ability to change back into Steve at all.
  • Played with in the first sequel to The Wizard of Oz. While the protagonist Tip was born as a female, they were transformed into a boy shortly after birth and raised as such. At the end of the story, their true gender is revealed and they're transformed back into a girl, which is how they remain for the rest of the series. The backstory explaining this is revealed at the same time as they're transformed, meaning that, from a narrative perspective, the trope is played straight (a character who was previously only identified as male becomes female and then stays that way). Also, in a more meta sense, the author's disinterest in continuity means that the character's backstory was rewritten a few times, with only the original version mentioning their time spent as a boy.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Averted with the Master in Doctor Who. After introducing a female incarnation for the first time, she is followed by a male one a season after her last appearance.
  • This is the premise behind the toku series Seishoujo Senshi Saint Valkyrie, as well as the webcomic that it appears to copy, Sparkling Generation Valkyrie Yuuki. (See this SGVY blog post for a discussion and video.)
  • La Lola is a telenovela that originated in Argentina, and has been adapted in many other markets. Most of them deal with this trope:
    • In the Argentinian and Spanish versions, Lalo tracks down the witch who turned him into a woman, and she agrees to turn him back (after laughing for a while). They hold hands, she starts her mystic chanting... and promptly falls backward, dead.
    • The Chilean version gets way more convoluted, as both Lalo/Lola and Pepa/Pepe can't get back to normal and when that happens it's just for a few episodes. In later episodes, there are two Lalos or Pepas thanks to the later-added conditions to the spell.
  • In the Wingin' It episode "I, Carlie", Angel-in-Training (AIT) Denise agrees that Carl, now Carlie, has learned her lesson, and agrees to turn her back into Carl, but finds she can't. The AIT handbook explains that he cannot go back to being a boy until he truly understands girls.
  • Goodbye Charlie, a sitcom adaptation of the movie of the same name (which was itself based on a play) starring Suzanne Somers as 'Charlie'.
  • Subverted in Degrassi when Adam, a transgender man already living as a male when introduced, detransitions once before reverting to his male persona within the episode and burning his last remaining girl clothes.
  • Averted in Wizards of Waverly Place: Max spends a few episodes as Maxine, but returns to normal eventually.
  • Reversed in an episode of Two and a Half Men. Charlie goes to the bar to meet up with an old girlfriend whom he hasn't seen in years. The individual is played by Chris O'Donnell, who then begins a sexual relationship with Charlie's mom.
  • Defied in the "Identity" episode of Law and Order: SVU. A pair of identical twin boys were born and one was injured during circumcision, making his penis unrecoverable. His parents sought guidance from a doctor who was convinced of this trope (well, convinced that gender-identity was entirely socially-determined) and told them the best thing to do was to raise the boy as their "daughter," performed a sex change procedure, and started "her" on a hormone regimen at a young age in order to prove it. "She" eventually found out the truth after being raised as female for fourteen years and immediately declared that he'd always known it felt wrong and transitioned (back) to male. Strangely enough, this episode was Ripped from the Headlines (the David Reimer case).

    Myths & Religion 
  • Averted by Tiresias in Classical Mythology. He angers Hera after hitting a pair of copulating snakes with a stick, so she transforms him into a woman for seven years. The myths give several varying reasons as to why he is turned back (including such contradictory reasons as leaving the next pair of mating snakes alone to killing them as well). Later, when Zeus and Hera are having an argument about as to whether men or women get more pleasure out of sex, they go to Tiresias due to his unique experience. He says that it is women, which Zeus claimed (as part of his All Women Are Lustful argument), again angering Hera who blinds him. Zeus consoles him by giving him the gift of prophecy, making him the Trope Maker for Blind Seer.

  • The movie and television versions of Goodbye Charlie were both based on the 1959-1960 play of the same name. With Lauren Bacall as Charlie.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the adventure Tomb of Horrors, there is a hallway filled with mist that reverses gender and alignment when you pass through. If you try to step back through it to reverse the effect, your alignment is changed back to normal, but not your gender, and you take minor damage. Passing through a third time will change your gender back to normal, and also teleports you outside the dungeon — without your clothes or equipment.

    Video Games 
  • Both played straight and inverted in the Dating Sim Kuru Kuru Coeur, in which the three originally female love interests all become male at some point, two staying that way half the game, and all four datable characters have one ending for each gender with the main character changing to match. On the other hand, the originally male main character and his (dateable!) best friend spend 90% of the game as girls and have disturbingly large male fan clubs to boot.
  • In Fable II, there is only one gender reassignment potion in the entire world, and it's permanent and irreversible.
  • Baldur's Gate 2 has a few examples:
    • Smug Snake Edwin Odesserion ends up as a woman after using a scroll he thought would turn him into a lich. While he does manage to turn back in a guy later in the game, in the epilogue an encounter with Elminster turned him back into "Edwina", who's now a barmaid (In Waterdeep) and a "bitter, bitter woman".note 
  • Played with in Disgaea Dimension 2 with Laharl;
    • In episode 4, he gets turned into a woman, but it's explicitly said to be temporary and he regains his manhood after the episode. ... Unless you lose to Hoggmeiser during the fourth stage, which results in the episode's Bad Ending where Laharl is forced to become an idol; he only agreed to the deal because he fully expects to turn back into a guy soon anyway and thus null the contract, but he winds up remaining a girl for longer than expected... Probably forever.
    • Later on in the Postgame, one can pass a bill in the Dark Assembly to change Laharl back into a woman. Having done so, the bill to change him back into a guy is far more expensive to suggest and is met with near universal opposition... Though this is probably justified because the bill to turn Laharl female again is essentially called "I want to be popular again!", implying Laharl is way more liked as a woman.
  • All the gender swaps seen in Max's Big Bust: A Captain Nekorai Tale (and there are a lot due to how the magic system works) are male to female and are almost always permanent. Those with a high manliness index, however, can transform back into men for a short time, with the max being somewhere around 12 hours a day. Most of them start off horrified but eventually get used to it.

  • In Misfile, not only does Ash seem to have a better life as a girl, nearly everyone he and the angels have come in contact with since the misfile seem to have had their lives improved in some way. Which hasn't stopped him from wanting his male body back, but as things stand, it's going to be a looooong time before that happens. By the end of the comic, Ash does indeed subvert the law and regain his male body after Rumisiel tweaks the system in a way that appeases everyone. By creating a duplicate of Ash that can stay female and marry Ash's male friend and driving mentor while Male Ash stays with Emily.
  • Sailor Sun. Despite Transformation Rays being mundane (albeit prohibitively expensive), the Kid from the Future has a tendency to call the main character "Mom," suggesting that she never changes back. The author has theorized that these tropes appeal to people due to the humbling effect inherent in a male-to-female transformation in our male dominated society.
  • The Wotch: how much Anne loves to turn her male friends into girls is lampshaded frequently but the tendency seems to extend to everyone with the appropriate powers. Over the course of the strip many, many characters get their gender bent but it's only the formerly male ones who fail to get restored. (Even the straw feminists of D.O.L.L.Y., who arguably earned karmic punishment, get turned back into girls in the end.) The strip seems to delight in finding reasons why former men can't or shouldn't be turned back, even though given Anne's powers and general benevolence it ought to be easy. There's even a spin-off (The Wotch: Cheer!) comic about four of its permanently genderbent characters.
    • Also, in the years before the DOLLY arc, though, as stated, male-to-female changes were constant and many were permanent, female-to-male changes never happened except for an oft-bodyswapped couple. One time we thought Anne and Miranda had become boys, but it turns out Wotches cannot be male and so Anne and Miranda are immune to genderbending.
    • Lord Sykos shows up and goes on a gender-changing spree across town, happily encouraged by his first victim "Aimee". At the end of the story arc he turns all his victims back to normal except Aimee who decides she prefers being Sykos' Perky Female Minion to her former existence. As we don't get to see much of "his" life before the transformation we're given no real motivation for this decision.
      Aimee: "Seriously, Anne, don't ruin this for me."
    • There was also one unnamed "maiden" whom Lord Sykos sent to get tacos who had the misfortune of failing to return before Lord Sykos restored everyone else and returned to his home dimension, leaving her with no memory of the incident, and a lot of unanswered questions.
      Where am I? Why do I have tacos? ...and why am I a girl?
  • El Goonish Shive: According to the rules governing the comic's main sex-changing phlebotinum, only male-to-female sex changes can be made permanent (via pregnancy); female-to-male sex changes, even of someone trapped by pregnancy (for whom it's only even possible afterwards), cannot exceed a 30 day time limit.
    • The second time a boy — the main character — is turned into a girl the device breaks, leaving "her" stuck for the full thirty days, and the attempt to get around this leaves him with an Opposite-Sex Clone and the permanent ability to change sex at will, something the rules of magic eventually force him to do on a regular basis.
    • Also, a "seyunolu" (chimera) member of the Quirky Miniboss Squad, Vlad, is hit with a Transformation Ray and is turned female, but more importantly to her, human. "She" has no desire to change back, and since Bizarre Alien Biology overrides the time limit (and, implicitly, gender identity), Vladia, as she is now called, is treated as a woman from then on. She actually could change back, but because her original form was hideous, and transforming was unimaginably painful, she has no incentive to ever do so.
    • Tedd is ostensibly genderfluid, and has been shown tending towards a male or female preference. However, story arcs that take place in Tedd's house are far more likely to show them in female form. Take this arc where Tedd is a Cat Girl the whole time, vs. this one where they spend an even amount of time male and female. That even extends to non-canon appearances. They're also practically giddy anytime they can be female in public or without their dad judging them. Also, whenever a mental projection of Tedd is separated from their body, they've always been female even if their physical body is male.
      • The "Squirrel Prophet" storyline has Tedd experience their first involuntary gender change, when their great godmother decides to try doing them a favour, with unexpected results. It turns out that they were given a Magic Mark that lets them change their default sex with no time limit.
      • And just to twist this trope even further, when Tedd considers which gender they'd rather be if they had to pick one, they settle on male. However, they pick it because it would raise less questions, not because they strictly prefer being male.
  • Sparkling Generation Valkyrie Yuuki. (See also Seishoujo Senshi Saint Valkyrie, above.) goes the gender-based superpowers route.
  • Abstract Gender: The guy who has no problems gender changing can change back and forth at will, the guy who hates it is stuck permanently.
  • Triquetra Cats started the comic this way, but soon delegated it into a minor plot point in favour of a more complex storyline — a new reader not starting at the beginning might take some time to realize they were ever boys. Though to be fair, technically the three main characters were girls to begin with. They were turned into boys as children by the secret organization their mother had worked for to hide their true identities. When said organization found them again several years later, they were restored to their original gender.
  • In Discordia, it's established that anyone transformed by a virgin winds up the virgin's gender; this is true whether they started out that way or not (for instance, a man neutralized via Fountain of Youth ends up as a little girl). Since the only character with such powers is a prepubescent girl, the male cast members had better watch their step. Furthermore, the formerly male main character can't be transformed again at all.
  • The Order of the Stick introduces The Belt of Gender Bendingnote , which once put on, can't normally be taken off. It requires a Remove Curse spell to get rid of it. And of course, Roy is the only main character to ever wear it. It's a fairly mild example, though, since Roy's best friend is a Cleric who manages to remove it soon enough. The trope is lampshaded when Durkon asks whether Roy is sure he wants to change back, and Roy irritably tells him he's been perfectly comfortable with being a man all his life — why wouldn't he want to stay one?
  • Narbonic examples:
    • Averted in the "Gender Swap" storyline, where Helen spends a full week of strips male before Dave is turned into a woman, and they switch back simultaneously.
    • But once that can of worms was opened, they never could close it again. Dave may not remain a woman permanently, but they transform on many occasions, particularly after Helen and Dave fall in love and start having sex a lot.. It is treated less as a plot point and more as a "thing mad scientists do", along with drugging the coffee and breeding super-gerbils. Also, Dave gives birth to their child. He works it out beforehand, given that Helen's a mad scientist.
  • Jayden And Crusader referenced, and subverted, this trope twice, and eventually did swap the gender of its most masculine character. However, that was reversed moments afterwards thanks to his exceedingly violent nature. As the entire event was designed for the purpose of gaining readers the trope has only ever been jokingly entertained.
  • The Dragon Doctors opens with the eponymous doctors, three men and a woman, encountering a curse that irreversibly turns men into women; the male doctors fall victim, and in stopping the spread the female one is similarly irreversibly turned into a man. All four are ultimately cured, but while the woman goes back to being a woman, the other three each come up with a different reason to stay a woman. Even a nurse who opts to stay male soon falls prey to a magical accident that makes it unsafe for her to do so. It's important to note also that the cure isn't generally available, so countless others are still stuck.
  • In DDG Netta seems to enjoy keeping Zip a girl far too much to let him ever change back.
  • In MSF High and High School Changed Me:
    • Nurse Keiri seems to have made it her mission to warp the gender ratio as much as possible. Everyone who gets more than bandages from her leaves female. At the end of the day, anyone who's been transformed in any way can change back totally or keep all aspects of the new form, forever; with this in mind, she also tends to give incentives not to change back. There's nothing to stop people who have been changed from being changed again, but (other than the daily Reset Button) female-to-male is rare, with no known permanent instances in either comic, in which so far at least three significant male characters (Urk and Victor/ia in MSF, Colin/Colette in HSCM) have become female for good.
    • Also, the Legion are a fairly benign version of The Virus; the victims, who seem to have been mostly male, keep most of their personality, but become unquestioningly loyal literal Green Skinned Space Babes. In the main setting, this is as temporary as anything else (although like Keiri, they put some effort into retention), but in most of the galaxy, it's irreversible. (Note that Legion TFs are only irreversible outside of MSF High because of the lack of transformation magic in Mahou Galaxy. Tends to be all over the place in the Forum RP, as well.)
  • In the first comic of I Dream of a Jeanie Bottle, the main character Jean is turned into a female genie that looks very similar to Barbara Eden from the TV show. While Jean (aka Jeanie) attempts to understand her new powers, she has yet to find a way to turn herself back into a male, and her mentor has told her it's either impossible or forbidden (a typo making it ambiguous) to do more than disguise herself as a man. She also, possibly as a form of quietly ironic revenge, has a habit of doing the same to men and boys around her, with some apathy to their restoration - three men and a teen boy are now two woman, a little girl, and a teen girl respectively, and unlikely to encounter her again. Her "master" Neil is also being forced by circumstances to spend significant stretches female.
  • In Exiern, the main character is a barbarian warrior who is turned into a woman by a misfired magic spell. All his attempts to get turned back to his original gender fail or backfire. At one point, the clerics who were attempting to undo the spell end up turned into women themselves. Surprisingly, the latter part turns into an aversion of the trope. The clerics perform a reversal spell, and it works... for all of them except the one who obviously loved being a girl, and she obviously refused to reverse her own gender. Though one of the clerics that became male again, turned female again after sneezing, probably implying that their return to manhood is short-lived. Later, when Tiffany consults of consulting a magic encyclopaedia about a cure, the result is just three pages of mocking laughter, in text.
  • In the Jet Dream remix comics, the biological weapon Virus-X changes the T-Birds of Thunderbird Squadron into the T-Girls of J.E.T. D.R.E.A.M. The T-Girls are able to de-feminize the male population of Miami Beach after a terrorist attack, but the antidote is ineffective after 24 hours, and thus cannot help them personally. Only one person is shown to believe Virus-X to be potentially reversible, and she's an insane Psycho Ex-Girlfriend. A voluntary treatment based in some unspecified way on Virus-X is also portrayed as irreversible.
  • In the photographic novel, Little Worlds, the part of Lev (a male character) is played by a female actor, leading to questions about Lev's gender identity.
  • When Blair runs amok with the Tiresias Orb in Eerie Cuties, the only major male character affected is outside getting an unconscious boy some fresh air when the orb is destroyed, unleashing a World-Healing Wave on everyone inside the school, and he remains a girl for several chapters, with no suggestion of how it might be undone until it actually happens (leading to another important boy being transformed, albeit with much less of a sense of permanence).
  • In Ballerina Mafia, a character's friends give him an Easy Sex Change in his sleep as an April Fool's day prank. He decides to just start living life as a girl now, and was more annoyed than anything by it at first; ultimately, when she's given the chance to change back with no strings attached, she declines. Later, when Joel screws up the timestream the powers that be have to make BM an alternate timeline from Concession, and one of the differences is that BM Joel is actually Julia.
  • In The Bend Loro swaps genders somewhat randomly. As a girl, she's a great inventor. As a boy, he's lazy and pretty useless.
  • A rare female to male example happens in Foxy Flavored Cookie when Luna, who is a shapeshifting succubus, suddenly finds herself turned male and isn't able to change herself back even with her shapeshifting powers. Since she has never met another succubus in her life and wasn't allowed to learn about her kind while growing up, she has no idea why this has happened. She goes to Tammy for help and they decide to summon another succubus to ask them what is going on. It turns out that her body is confused because succubus' involuntarily adjust their gender to be the opposite of whomever they sleep with (even in a non-sexual way) and she is magically connected with Pucho, who spent the night with Pituka.

    Web Original 
  • The Whateley Universe:
    • If someone is turned into a girl by the Exemplar power, and used to be a guy, no force on Earth can fix it, and such attempts have never been successful. Possibly literally so, as there's a goddess involved. Maybe. It has been hinted that the scientists that came up with this theory — that there's a force of evolution forcing mutants to out-breed humanity — may or may not have been wrong. On the flipside, the few characters turned into guys also have trouble fixing it, or don't try. It's just about standard to say that it's easier to cause a transformation than fix it. (See The Big Idea, A Single Fold, and all of the stories with Exemplar protagonists.)
    • Subverted in the character of Jade. She has trouble finding a way to transform herself in the first place! And once she does, failure is the only option... until she resorts to 'traditional' means. Professional surgery that works!
    • Even appears to be occurring to Phase, who is resisting with all his might the other two. However, it's not certain that it will end up like this, as Phase is still looking through 'outs'.
    • Subverted in "Ayla and the Mad Scientist": Belphegor gets transformed, and it only lasts long enough for him to dash into the girls' showers to ogle hot babes, whereupon he is restored to his old self... and gets in massive trouble with a bathroom full of superpowered women.
    • There are a number of aversions as well, with some involving people temporarily changed by Mad Science or Functional Magic, or SexShifters who can (voluntarily or involuntarily) shift back and forth. One character, Roulette, had been transformed by her mother when she was nine, then changed back, but later manifested as a female Exemplar; this time the change was permanent.
  • Two of the first main characters on The Trading Post were hit with this with different results. Not long after becoming Ashlyn, Jake realized she would not be getting her original body back. Arthur/Liz, on the other hand, thought she was, only to transform into Penelope instead. There have been a couple notable aversions, including Todd and Bryan.
  • In the Paradise setting, humans are randomly, permanently changed into Funny Animals (with some experiencing a gender-change at the same time). Except for the very few who experience additional changes once per year (and thus have a chance to change genders again), these changes are permanent.
  • Very common on Literotica when a sex change is involved.
  • Expect the vast majority of stories on sites specializing in Gender Bender and/or Crossdresser stories (e.g. Fictionmania, Crystal's Story Site, and Bigcloset TopShelf) to follow this trope.
  • Spells R Us stories typically involve the purchase of items that change a person's sex from the shop's wizard proprietor. Invariably, the change ends up being a permanent one, because SRU is The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday.
  • In Magical Girl Policy, Rob is not only told that he is destined to be a magical fighting cheerleader, but once he powers up for the first time, he will be stuck as a girl.
  • AFK: We see three apparent male-to-female gender switches in the show against one female-to-male, and the only attempt at changing it back fails because of a neglectful wizard.
  • Tales of the Eerie Saloon: The potion's gender-changing effects are permanent, and impossible to reverse. Wilma Hanks tries drinking it in vain to reverse the effects, but it only makes them stronger.
  • SCP Foundation:
    • SCP-113 can switch the genders of whomever touches it through a quick but somewhat painful transformation, but it seems to be unable to change them back to their original gender. When a D-Class who had just gone through the transformation was given SCP-113 again, they ended up suffering liver and kidney failure and died after the fact. Subjects who had much greater gap between exposures managed to survive the re-exposure, but the transformations they experience are random and don't always have to do with their sex.
    • Through a series of convoluted nonsense and personal incompetence, Agent Diogenes ended up exposed to 113 multiple times and as a result their physical sex is currently completely unknown. This has unfortunately resulted in several other staff members becoming attracted to them, and many more attempting to figure out what's going on in Diogenes's pants. When someone thought to just ask, Diogenes simply remained silent, and seems to have always identified as nonbinary and asexual regardless. Any offers to reverse the situation have been rejected, meaning even if someone could figure it out, Diogenes doesn't want to change back.

    Western Animation 
  • Subverted in the French short film Geraldine (NSFW for cartoon boobies). The main character is a man who turns into a woman. It seems like it's going to stay that way, and as soon as he figures out how to live as a woman, he turns back into a man.
  • Subverted in Futurama in the episode "Neutopia". At the very end, Scruffy appears to be irreversibly trapped as a woman, but in the next episode he is back to normal. Earlier though, when the group asked the alien who reversed their genders to fix things, he's ready to go along with it... except Zapp Brannigan chooses that moment to leap in and melt the alien into a puddle, trapping everyone in their swapped genders until the alien's friend comes at the end of the episode to make things right.
  • In South Park. In the first episode of season 9, Mr. Garrison had a sex change to become a woman, then felt regret and wanted to go back, but his balls had already been used in Kyle's surgery to become tall and black, and were destroyed when Kyle tried to play basketball in his new body. It took three whole seasons before the now-Ms. Garrison was able to get another sex change to become a man again.

    Real Life 
  • Male-to-female gender-affirming surgery is easier to perform, and more closely matches the target sex, than female-to-male gender-affirming surgery. From a tissue-manipulation perspective, it's simply easier to make a convincing vagina out of a penis than the other way around. Inverted by the hormonal side of gender-affirming: While male-to-female hormone replacement results in a softening of the skin, the development of breasts, fat redistribution resulting in a more feminine figure, thinner body hair and sometimes a change in emotional outlook, most of these can be reversed with female-to-male hormones. (Well, except for the breasts. They usually require surgery to remove.) Female-to-male hormonal replacement, on the other hand, includes many permanent changes such as beard growth, baldness, development of the adam's apple and deepened voice; similar to the permanent changes a male experiences in puberty. Male-to-female hormonal replacement cannot reverse any of the aforementioned effects.
  • Subverted when it comes to sequential hermaprhoditism. While Protandry (male changing to female) is permanent, Protogyny (female changing to male) is also permanent.

Alternative Title(s): Mandys Law Of Anime Gender Bending, Girls Stay Girls, Once A Girl Always A Girl, Genderbending Trends Female, Law Of Conservation Of Femininity