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Historical Gender Flip

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Rin: Why are you a woman?
Sir Francis Drake: Well, I started growing breasts when I was thirteen and then...
Rin: Not remotely what I meant!

This character is supposed to be a recognisable figure from history, but diverges in one notable way: their gender.

In-Universe explanations for this vary. Sometimes "Alice" disguised herself as "Aleister" or vice versa, sometimes the details were lost over time or covered up for political reasons, and sometimes it's just an Alternate Universe where the figure is replaced by a Distaff Counterpart or Spear Counterpart. Urban Fantasy has its own variant where history is unaltered, but the character is Reincarnated in the modern day as the opposite sex.

Can be used to "spice up" a historical tale with new possibilities for character relationships, extra challenges for the protagonist to overcome... or just Fanservice. It can also happen as a side-effect of combining the roles of two or more people together. In extreme cases just about everyone in the story is like this, usually for the sake of creating an Improbably Female Cast.

Since a primary advantage of using this trope is its ability to prevent male-dominated Chromosome Casting, as exemplified by most of the examples on this page alone, in published works this trope is almost Always Female, likely due to the vast number of prominent male historical figures. Male examples do exist but they're exceedingly rare.

This is a Sub-Trope of Historical Domain Character and Gender Flip. Frequently overlaps with Beethoven Was an Alien Spy, Historical Beauty Update (due to Attractive Bent-Gender) and She Is the King. Not to be confused with Cross-Cast Role.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • In Fate of the Clans we have Mordred, the clone of the female King Arthur.
  • Fate/Gamers Only: Lampshaded when Rikku meets the female Francis Drake as the third gender flip she's met after Artoria (King Arthur) and Altera (Attila the Hun).
    Rikku: "At this point, I am convinced that there's some kind of malicious entity that is intentionally reaching back in time and genderbending historical figures for its own amusement."
  • Fate/Harem Antics:
    • In addition to the many canon Nasuverse examples, there is a very strange version with Shielder. She is a woman, but is soon revealed to be Sir Galahad, one of King Arthur's most famous knights. The odd part is that in Fate/Grand Order, Shielder is Mash Kyrielight (female), an artificial Servant borrowing the powers and legends of Sir Galahad (male). In this fic, the two are combined so that Galahad was always female, and has Mash's appearance and personality. King Arthur recognizes her on sight, so it's definitely not one of the oddities of the Grail.
    • King Arthur herself is a woman and comments she hid her gender in life, so she's not particularly surprised that historians never discovered the truth.
    • As in canon, Sir Francis Drake is female here, and Rin lampshades the absurdity of it. In particular, Drake was married twice; how did she keep her gender hidden from her wives? Drake smirks and says they knew, but she persuaded them it was in their best interests not to tell.
    • Fiore and her peers are surprised to learn Oda Nobunaga is a woman. As in canon, no real explanation is ever provided. Apparently she openly ruled as a woman and for some reason history recorded her as a man.

    Film — Animated 

  • The Ambition of Oda Nobuna involves a Sengoku Period universe where equal primogeniture was widely used. Because of this, many, but not all, of the big names of that era are female in this series, for example Oda Nobunaga (i.e. the titular Nobuna), Tokugawa Ieyasu, Akechi Mitsuhide, Date Masamune, etc.
  • Boku to Tsundere to Heidegger depicts famous European philosophers as high-school girls.
  • The Grace of Kings and its sequels are made up of characters who are mostly counterparts of historical figures connected with the founding of China's Han dynasty, with the first book being about the Chu-Han Contention, and the second about the aftermath of Liu Bang, called Kuni Garu in the novel, gaining the throne. One of Kuni's allies is the street rat turned general Gin Mazoti, who is a gender-flipped version of Han Xin, whose backstory is essentially identical to that of the historical figure (or at least legends about him), except for an added element of Sweet Polly Oliver.
  • "Once and Future" by Terry Pratchett is about a time traveller called Mervin realising that he's at the beginning of the Arthurian era and in the perfect position to be Merlin. It ends with the youth who pulled the sword from the stone (an electromagnet controlled by Mervin) removing her hood, and Mervin frantically trying to remember if Nimue ever actually told him the sex of Uther's lost heir. (She didn't, probably on purpose.)
  • Once and Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy is a Space Opera in which refugee Ari Helix discovers she's the 42nd reincarnation of King Arthur, and Merlin is utterly bewildered because Arthur has never reincarnated as female before. As it turns out, this is plot relevant: The first step in breaking the cycle is Ari talking Morgana into a Heel–Face Turn by empathizing with her over Uther's rape of her mother. Previous Arthurs were utterly dismissive of her claims or else didn't care, but she took the chance with Ari because she believed that another woman might listen to her.
  • Samurai Girls is a "Jidaigeki figures reincarnated in the modern world" example... but it's an Alternate Universe where modern Japan still looks like Jidaigeki.
  • In Ulysses: Jeanne d'Arc and the Alchemist Knights, Arthur de Richemont, Philip of Burgundy, La Hire and Charlotte de Valois are all gender flips of characters from The Hundred Years War. Considering it is from the same author as The Ambition of Oda Nobuna above, is no surprise.
  • Santiago Posteguillo's Africanus Trilogy changes King Gaia of Numidia into Queen Gala of Numidia. The flip is minor, as Gala is effectively The Ghost in the story, but it still stands out.
  • The Conquerors Saga is Alternate History where Vlad the Impaler was a girl. The misogyny of her time adds considerable difficulties towards her journey to the throne of Wallachia, which she tends to overcome through sheer brutality.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Blackadder:
    • In the third series, Blackadder writes a novel under a female pseudonym and mentions that most of the famous "female" authors of the period, including Jane Austen and Dorothy Wordsworth, are doing the same: "James Boswell is the only real woman writing at the moment, and that's only because she wants to get inside Johnson's britches."
    • The fourth series includes a sexual-orientation version: Oscar Wilde is mentioned as being a huge, bearded man, the father of hordes of illegitimate children and the author of a treatise called Why I Like To Do It With Girls. It was only down to an Amoral Attorney that he was convicted for homosexuality.
  • Doctor Who: "Extremis" reveals that Pope Benedict IX was actually a woman, who the Doctor claims could do naughty things with castanets, in a clear reference to the legendary "Pope Joan". However, the episode is revealed to be almost entirely a computer simulation. But, as the simulation's creators tried to make it as realistic as possible, the claims about Benedict IX could still be true In-Universe.
  • Drunk History has Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr being portrayed by females, with no attempt to hide it. This is of course primarily Rule of Funny as it makes the circumstances of Aaron Burr's death about ten times more ridiculous than they already were.
  • In Legends of Tomorrow "Camelot/3000" has two of these. Stargirl having traveled back to Camelot is revealed to actually have become Merlin. In addition, while most of the Arthurian figures are present, there is a noticeable absence of Lancelot, that is until Guinevere says to Sara "I enjoyed meeting you, Sara Lance-a-lot", revealing Sara to be the inspiration for the legendary knight who wooed Arthur's wife.
  • In the Red Dwarf episode "Parallel Universe" the protagonists come across a gender-flipped reality where the first person to walk on the moon was Nellie Armstrong, the most famous writer was Wilma Shakespeare (whose plays included Rachel the Third), and an influence on the "masculist" movement of the '60s (when they burned their jockstraps) was Jeremy Greer, who wrote The Male Eunuch.
  • Warehouse 13 does this with H.G. Wells. Not only is the famous writer made female, but she is also a Mad Scientist who actually invented quite a few of the devices featured in the books, with her brother Charles acting as H.G. Wells in public.

    Theme Parks 
  • Disney Theme Parks: Invoked in The Muppets' Great Moments in American History show. Miss Piggy is incensed that there isn't a female role for her, so she takes on the role of King George (or, rather, Queen Georgette).

    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 
  • Eiyuu Senki: The World Conquest and its sequel apply this trope to all sorts of famous generals and rulers in history all over the world. Notably, all the mooks are also female, implying that women fighting and leading is seen as more "natural" there, though the protagonist doesn't face much discrimination for being a man, and it's generally pretty silly and lighthearted anyway. Things don't necessarily make much sense because Nyarlathotep didn't put much thought into her "toybox" while stringing it together.
  • Fate/stay night has the most famous/notorious example of this, wherein the female Saber's (now very well known) true identity is a gender-flipped King Arthur, commonly known as Artoria Pendragon. The success of the VN led to the sprawling Fate Series, encompassing various media, and gender-flipping famous historical and/or legendary figures has for better or worse become one of the series's hallmarks.
    • Saber's character is thoroughly explored in different ways in Fate/stay night and the prequel Fate/Zero. It should be noted that she is quite insistent on being called "king," and spent most of her life doing everything she could to ignore or hide her female gender. Due to sexism, she didn't have much choice. A relatively small core of her inner circle knew the truth, including Merlin, Lancelot, Gawain, Guinevere, and her older foster brother Kay. Certainly puts a different spin on Lancelot and Guinevere's affair, doesn't it?
    • Fate/EXTRA features a gender-flipped version of Nero as the playable Saber. It also has a female Francis Drake as the Pirate Girl Rider, originally implied to be Queen Elizabeth in disguise, though later games have dropped that interpretation. Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star, the spin-off, added a female version of Attila the Hun (who was more notably an alien superweapon).
    • In Fate/Apocrypha, Assassin of Black is gender-flipped Jack the Ripper (though justified as Jack's true identity is unknown, and while Assassin of Black killed prostitutes, she doesn't know for certain if she was Jack due to her vague memories) and Saber of Red is a gender-flipped Mordred (created through a bizarre set of circumstances involving sorcery who, like her "father," insists on not being treated as female). Non-historically, it also has a gender-flipped Frankenstein's Monster, because Victor Frankenstein always intended to make a pair (instead of being blackmailed by The Creature to make a mate) but just made "Eve" first and was turned off after seeing how she turned out with her wanting him to finish the job. Amusingly, it also features a subversion with Astolfo, who several characters in-universe originally mistake for being female due to both looks and personality, but he's still a guy, as Jeanne finds out first-hand when he comes out of the shower naked with his privates exposed. Worth noting is that Astolfo's existence as a gender neutral character is what lead to Modred being made female, so as to avoid having two amibigiously gendered characters.
    • Fate/strange fake changes genders without flipping the male/female binary. Enkidu gets changed from being male to having No Biological Sex and an androgynous appearance (depending on the translation, they're given "he" or "they" pronouns). There's also another iteration of Jack the Ripper, this one a personification of Jack's legend; they have no fixed gender, and are able to take the form of anyone or anything that's been identified as Jack, including Assassin of Black.
    • Koha-Ace features a genderflipped Oda Nobunaga and Okita Souji. The rest of the cast retain their historical genders until the introduction of Nagao Kagetora. Since it's a gag series, it isn't treated particularly seriously, but Nobunaga has actually been fleshed out a bit more in later, more serious works, where she crushed all dissent through force and ruled openly as a woman, and her downfall came when one of her retainers, Akechi, who was in love with her and jealous of her seemingly favoring others, assassinated her out of mad jealousy. It also introduced well in advance the idea that Sun Wukong has the power to change his physical gender along with his shape.
    • Fate/Grand Order, having a huge cast compared to most other entries in the franchise, has naturally added many more examples, such as Minamoto-no-Raikou (Yorimitsu) and her descendant Ushiwakamaru (Yoshitsune). As early as the first event, the developers had already begun to parody the trope with Artemis, who originally pretends to be a gender-flipped Orion, and the cast buys it before the real Orion, whom she's trapped as a stuffed animal, starts to speak up. In fact, gender-flipping historical figures has gotten so common that the franchise has begun to try to be clever about it. Miyamoto Musashi is a woman, but she actually comes from an Alternate Timeline while the "main" Nasuverse's Miyamoto Musashi is explicitly referred to as male. Leonardo da Vinci appears as a woman, but is confirmed to have been male in life; his obsession with aesthetics and the Golden Rule (Beauty) skill altered his appearance and gender into that of the Mona Lisa (not that da Vinci seems to mind). And the original Katsushika Hokusai takes the form of a tiny octopus that floats near his daughter Oui (the "Servant Hokusai" is both of them, since Oui produced some of her own art under her father's name). Xu Fu is a woman and comments that some bureaucrats hated her seemingly for being a woman given the important task of discovering immortality for the emperor and thus wrote her as being a man just to spite her (her own androgynous looks combined with her clothing doesn't hurt either). Van Gogh claims to be a female Vincent van Gogh, but it is noted that the real one was male, with lots of evidence to counter her claim; she is eventually revealed to be an artificial mashup of Van Gogh's memories and the body and soul of Clytie, created by an Eldritch Abomination after the real Van Gogh refused to serve its plans to the point of killing himself. Meanwhile, Kiichi Hougen appears to be another genderbent servant, but it turns out that Hougen has the ability to shapeshift into different genders (in which their gender is listed as unknown instead). Lostbelt 6 introduces Gender Flip and Fairy versions of Lancelot, Gawain, and Tristan that serve Morgan le Fay. However, they are revealed by the Tristan from Proper Human History to actually be Fairies that have stolen the identities of the real knights. Russian folk-hero Dobrynya Nikitich appears as a woman rather than a male, though it's revealed that like Artemis with Orion, it is actually Dobrynya's wife Nastasia taking over his Spirit Graph when summoned. Don Quixote's squire Sancho Panza is a horsegirl, but rather than being gender-flipped, she's a composite of Don Quixote's supporting cast, including Sancho, Dulcinea, Altisidora, and his horse Rocinante.
    • While she was alluded to and had a voiced cameo prior to her official reveal, Fate/Grand Order Arcade introduces Merlin Prototype, who is a gender-flip of both her male counterpart Merlin from the main game, and also of the mythological figure Merlin who himself was an amalgamation of different historical and mythological figures; in her native universe, Arthur and Mordred are male, and she's the one who got gender-flipped.
    • The mobile and arcade versions of Fate/Grand Order are basically Alternate Timelines, with one of the differences at first glance being that Jacques de Molay is a male Saber in Arcade and a female Foreigner in Mobile. However, Foreigner Jacques was a man in life, who changed genders post-mortem due to the influence of his patron Outer God, which would point to them actually being different classes of the same Heroic Spirit... if it weren't for the fact Foreigner Jacques asserts she wasn't strong enough to become a Heroic Spirit by herself, and dismisses the idea of her Saber counterpart's existence. What's actually going on with them is currently unknown.
    • The practice in Fate/Grand Order is Justified (and mocked) in the parody manga Learning with Manga! FGO, where the implied reason for the genderflips among the original Servants' ranks is due to the protagonist being a lesbian with a "no boys" policy. This is the origin of the Paul Bunyan servant in the game, who doesn't understand how on earth she became a small girl.
    • Fate/Requiem: Erice Utsumi ponders on the series' tendency to have men in history and myth actually be women, using Francis Drake as an example, as all of her contemporaries remember her as either male or female. Erice concludes that Drake's actual gender doesn't really matter, compared to the great feats achieved. So far, the Greek mathematician Euclid has been revealed as a woman.
  • ChuSinGura 46+1 is a retelling of The 47 Ronin with most of the ronin as women. It has a fair amount of Fanservice, but it's also a faithful and accurate depiction of the Ako Vendetta.
  • Kamigami no Asobi: Amaterasu, better known by pseudonym Akira Totsuka, is a Dude Looks Like a Lady who gets upgraded to selectable love interest for the female protagonist in the second game.
  • Koihime†Musou is an all-female version of Romance of the Three Kingdoms. The only historical female-to-male flips in the franchise are Chousen and Himiko, both of which are extremely beefy deep-voiced men in microbikinis. That said, it's also an Alternate Universe and involves travel across time, space, and parallel realities.
  • In My Vow To My Liege, the protagonist Fuchai is not actually a genderflip of the historical King Fuchai of Wu—she's actually his sister Tengyu, an obscure princess who gets exactly one line of mention in the history books for having committed suicide in a rage at the insult of her father offering her a fish dish he'd already eaten half of. In the game, however, it's the original Fuchai who's dead after their father's attempt to kill a god went horribly wrong, forcing the Sole Survivor Tengyu to inherit the throne under his identity. Her love interest Shi Yiguang (better known as Xi Shi) and high priest Zheng Dan are genderflips of Fuchai's historical lovers, however.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY:
    • Team JNPR is composed of gender-flips of four historical crossdressers: Jaune is a male Joan of Arc, Nora is a female Thor, Pyrrha is a female Achilles, and Ren is a male Mulan.
    • Mantle's Happy Huntresses are obviously gender-flips of the Merry Men: Robyn Hill is Robin Hood, Joanna Greenleaf is Little John, Fiona Thyme is Friar Tuck and May Marigold is Maid Marian.

     Web Original 
  • The Mutants & Masterminds fan setting A World Less Magical (But No Less Fantastic) zig-zags the trope with regard to Uesugi Kenshin, mentioning the (real) theories that Kenshin was a woman, and saying that conventional historians are right to dismiss them; Kenshin was a man. A transgender man who was assigned female at birth.

    Western Animation 
  • In the retelling of the story of Moses on Rugrats, Angelica plays the Pharaoh.
  • The Simpsons occasionally does this, for instance, portraying Lisa as "Connie Appleseed" (Johnny Appleseed).
  • Gravity Falls: In "Irrational Treasure", while investigating about the town's foundation, Dipper and Mabel find out about a few ancient national secrets, including that Benjamin Franklin was a woman.