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Lady Looks Like a Dude

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When boyish good looks go too far.
Owen: Excuse me, miss?
[the bartender turns to face Owen]
Owen: Oh, I'm sorry, I thought you were a woman!
Bartender: ... I am a woman.
[Owen cringes in embarrassment]

An unfeminine female character looks like or is mistaken for a male. Sometimes this is to show that she's as tough as a guy, even One of the Boys, sometimes to show that she's a Butch Lesbian, but frequently just to show that she's (supposedly) unattractive. Often used for comedy, in which case she may be an Abhorrent Admirer.

Supertrope of Bifauxnen, where a woman looks like a Pretty Boy, usually with fangirls (or fanboys) who take obvious notice. Not to be confused with Sweet Polly Oliver, who is a woman deliberately disguised as a man; Samus Is a Girl, where the story is deliberately misleading about the character's gender; or Viewer Gender Confusion, where there's only out-of-universe confusion. Compare Dude Looks Like a Lady for men who look like women, Attractive Bent-Gender for when girls look great as boys and vice versa, and The Lad-ette, for women who act like men. Sometimes involves a Gender Reveal.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • When Sechs from Battle Angel Alita still had her (female) TUNED body, it was easily masculine enough to be confused for male, especially considering the manga's art style. Compare and contrast with the twins, who, despite having the same series TUNED bodies, are easily identified as females.
  • In Cafe Kichijoji De, Jun has a bunch of macho underlings who resemble gorillas. His co-workers were quite shocked when he tells them that they're all girls.
  • Kaori from City Hunter is frequently mistaken for a boy, to the point where other women hit on her.
  • Cowboy Bebop:
    • Ed is a girl, which the rest of the cast doesn't realize until the very end of the episode in which she's introduced. Even when she wears a dress to infiltrate Alles Valley Hospice, the security guard questions if she's a girl. Given that she's young enough to be prepubescent and her personality is halfway between Feral Child and Cloudcuckoolander anyway, it doesn't actually affect her characterization much.
    • VT the middle-aged space trucker.
  • Honey's and Natsuko's classmates in the original Cutey Honey manga, who are all ridiculously ugly.
  • Destroy All Humankind. They Can't Be Regenerated.: During their first encounter at the Shibuya tournament, Hajime mistakes Yakumo for a guy since her hat was covering part of her hair and face. He doesn't recognize her at all when he sees her on a school trip wearing a skirt and no hat, not even after going on to spend the entire day with her. He only catches on once Yakumo leaves and calls him by his nickname Cloud.
  • With her total lack of Tertiary Sexual Characteristics, the fox herald Haru from Gingitsune is mistakable for a young boy. She gets upset when Makoto makes this mistake.
  • In Gunsmith Cats we have the psychotic Russian assassin Natasha Radinov she looks like a tall broad-shouldered young man, she covers her rather large breasts with her trench coat most of the time.
  • Kuu from Haibane Renmei is a young girl with short hair who wears unisex clothes. She's mistaken for a boy by the man she works for but she doesn't feel the need to correct him.
  • HeartCatch Pretty Cure!: Both Tsubomi and Cobraja thought that Itsuki was a male until different circumstances revealed the truth (a servant of Itsuki's called her "Oujo-sama" in front of Tsubomi and Erika/Cure Marine told Cobraja flat-out that Itsuki was a girl). Cobraja was shocked while Tsubomi ended up falling slightly ill from the revelation.
  • Hellsing:
    • Sir Integra, who dresses in a masculine fashion and is referred to as "sir" despite being female. It's explained that this is deliberate on her part, to make people more accepting of her taking the traditionally male role of the head of the Hellsing Organization. Nevertheless, this wasn't as apparent at the beginning of the manga, due to the fact that she had an impressive bust, but started to shrink in later parts of the manga, and became small chested.
    • Zorin Blitz is an even more convincing example, despite having the Boobs of Steel.
    • Heinekel Wolfe is too.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers:
    • Liechtenstein cuts her hair short to mimic her adopted brother Switzerland. When the two go walking while wearing the same military uniform, an old lady compliments Switzerland on having an adorable younger brother. Cue Liechtenstein groping her chest in shock. This isn't as much of a problem when she wears dresses and a ribbon.
    • Hungary thought she was a boy, and so did Prussia until he realised she had breasts. However, she looks a lot more female after puberty, when she has longer hair and is often seen wearing dresses.
  • Hidamari Sketch: Admit it, a lot of people reading or watching the show have mistaken Sae for a guy. She herself is also wary of that and tries to make herself more feminine, even praying for bigger breasts
  • In Laid-Back Camp, both Nadeshiko and Rin are surprised to learn that Minami's partner at Lake Shibire was her sister, and she admits that with the way her sister acts, it's not hard to make that mistake. Up to that point, Nadeshiko and Rin have been referring to said sibling as Minami's brother.
  • Takako Bilda, from The Level 999 Villager, is a muscular behemoth who everyone mistakes for a guy at first. Her ability to deliver a Fastball Special via arm strength alone doesn't help clear things up.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS: The supplementary manga revealed that Otto of the Numbers Cyborgs had such a boyish appearance that most of her own Cyborg family were unsure if she had a male or female body.
  • Hatchin from Michiko & Hatchin is mistaken for a boy by several characters throughout the series due to her androgynous appearance once she cuts off her pigtails and ditches her dress.
  • Both Tohru and Ilulu mistook Kobayashi for a man when they first met her in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid. This is helped by her wardrobe containing a grand total of two feminine outfits (a women's kimono and a maid outfit), neither of which she ever wears during the course of the anime (she does wear the maid outfit once in the manga, but she had to pretty much be forced into it). She even undergoes a Gender Bender at one point, and absolutely nothing about her outwards appearance changes.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED: Cagalli is introduced this way, though she wasn't specifically disguising herself as male. People assume she is until it's revealed otherwise, save for Kira who easily figures it out.
  • Nagi Ichinose from Nyan Koi! is an interesting case. She sounds like a gruff-voiced woman, but most assume her to just be a feminine-sounding man. So much so that every guy she attempted to flirt with turned her down, saying they didn't "swing that way." She eventually moved on to chasing girls, not because she turned lesbian, but because she wishes to "chase the beauty that [she] so wishes to have." She eventually falls in love with Junpei, after he tells her that he doesn't care that she looks like a boy, and she defaults to chasing after him.
  • Ouran High School Host Club:
    • Very early on in Ouran High School Host Club, where Haruhi is assumed to be male because of her very unflattering appearance. This continues through the rest of the series, though a proper clothing upgrade makes her into more of a bifauxnen.
    • Under similar conditions, Benibara of Lobelia has a rather masculine face despite dressing more effeminately. Ouran: The Vaguely Abridged Series parodied this by giving her a craggy man's voice.
  • Project A-Ko:
    • The Alpha Cygnans are an all-female race of fighter pilots. Most look like normal females from Earth, except for their captain, Napolitalita, and Spy D, who both look and sound like men in drag.
    • Among B-ko's henchmen is Mari, a giant muscle-bound girl who's clearly a parody of Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star.
  • Ryuunosuke Fujinami's spiritual successor Ukyo Kuonji from Ranma ˝ is introduced as yet another vengeance-seeking old male friend of Ranma's; Ranma never realized she was a girl when they were last together, and she has been pretending to be a boy since then as part of her vows of vengeance. Like Ryuunosuke, she binds her breasts, wears very masculine clothes, and speaks in a masculine manner, although unlike her, Ukyo still wears her hair long and acts girlish even when actively trying to be a boy. Despite the long hair, which to fans in the know makes her look more like a girl pretending to be a very pretty boy, in-universe she's convincing enough that Ranma doesn't finally realize Ukyo is a girl until he unwittingly cuts her sarashi and ends up copping an accidental feel of her now-freed bosom, whilst in the very next story, Ryoga Hibiki initially refuses to believe it when told that Ukyo is a girl until Ranma flashes her breasts at him.
  • Invoked with Ryuunosuke Fujinami from Urusei Yatsura; her dad Wanted a Son Instead. Really Wanted a Son Instead. So he forces Ryuunosuke to wear a sarashi (even claiming her breasts are "temporary swellings" that his "special bandages" will eventually cure), cut her hair short, speak in the roughest, most stereotypically masculine Japanese dialect possible, and dress in boy's clothes. The result is that Ryuunosuke makes such a Bishōnen at first glance that, even after she comes out about her true gender, the rest of Tomobiki High's female population swoon over her and consider her the most desirable guy in school. The hilarious irony of it is that 1) Ryuunosuke would give anything to be more recognizably female, and 2) Ryuunosuke is actually one of the bustiest girls in school without her sarashi.
  • Waratte! Sotomura-san: In a flashback from when the Sotomura siblings went to a store to buy yukatas, each one was given something for the other's gender.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns: Carrie, the new Robin, is mistaken for a boy by the police and the media.
  • Blue Is the Warmest Color: Sabine, especially when she's confronting Clémentine, is hard to distinguish from a man by her looks.
  • Jubilee has been hit with this a few times over the years, much to her chagrin. Notable incidents include when she had to go undercover at a boat party with Psylocke and the Black Widow. They went as partygoers in slinky dresses; Jubilee was disguised as a delivery boy. A little while later, on a visit to the Savage Land, she encountered a local tribe of dinosaur riders; after she defeated one of them in combat, they welcomed her as a male warrior and attempted to marry her to one of their young women.
  • Ninja Highschool: Sammi is a girl who's forced to disguise herself as a male while living with her uncle, because of a wager her father made.note  Unfortunately, her look is so convincing that it's made any hope of having a love life virtually impossible. She briefly dated Lendo, but finally broke up with him due to the problems it created in keeping her gender hidden. Later, she falls for an alien transfer student, only to have her hopes crushed again when he turned out to be gay and assumed she was a gay guy too. And then there was the time a girl mistook her for a guy and fell in love with her... up until Sammi got so sick of her antics that she confessed, at which point the repulsed girl beat Sammi up for "leading her on".
  • Wonder Woman (1987): In Cassie Sandsmark's earliest appearances she was a geeky tomboy who wore baggy clothes and had her hair cropped short in messy spikes, DC editorial even joked about her non-feminine appearance. Her later appearances did away with this, and in Teen Titans Geoff Johns gave her a moody prom queen aesthetic and attitude.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Peanuts, Peppermint Patty wants to get her hair fixed up for a skating competition, and remembering that Charlie Brown's dad is a barber, decides to go to his shop. However, he apparently didn't realize that she's a girl, and ends up giving her a boyish haircut.

    Fan Works 
  • The Boy Who Cried Idiot: While they don't really look like boys, Martin, due to his low intelligence, mistakes the Loud sisters for boys.
  • Parodied in Heroic Myth. Due to Jack's insistence on calling Bell "Mommy", Ais is led to the conclusion that she had mistaken Bell for a boy. Bell, who wants to be seen as a manly hero, is mortified and sobs while the others laugh at him for it.
  • In A Knight's Tale as Inquisitor, Arturia comes across to others as handsome rather than beautiful more often than not due to using Merlin's magic to pull off being male for the vast majority of her life in her original world and era.
  • In the Lady and the Tramp one-shot Just A Little Walk, Lady gets rescued by a large Samoyed and Golden Retriever cross with a blue bandana tied around her neck. Lady mistakes her for a boy until she hears her voice. She's a female named Sam.
  • The New Adventures of Invader Zim: In the non-canon spinoff New Adventures: Mature Edition, it's established that as a teenager, Gaz is so flat-chested and lacking in any other significant curves that she's repeatedly mistaken for a boy. This really pisses her off.
  • Charlie, the resident fox of Pack Street, has the physique of a guy, dresses like one, and she doesn't act exactly feminine. None of that stops the Ship Tease between her and Remmy.
  • Son of the Sannin: During the Takigakure invasion arc, Hidan and Kakuzu respectively compare Fu to a boy, possibly due to her height and muscular frame. Naturally, she's not happy about it.
  • Twenty Years Late: Adam the "Thin Man" admits to its interrogators that, despite looking like a (creepy parody of a) human male, it's actually biologically female, as are all of its species.

    Film — Animation 
  • Kung Fu Panda has Master Tigress who, unlike Master Viper, lacks Tertiary Sexual Characteristics to indicate any femininity (even her voice actress was initially confused), in addition to a low voice. In the animated series, her being mistaken for a man (despite her name obviously indicating otherwise) is a Running Gag and she is often subject to Femininity Failure.
  • Done in The Lorax (2012). The title character is about to open a can of fury on a relative of The Once-ler's, who objects saying:
    The Once-ler: You wouldn't hit a woman, would you?
    The Lorax: That's a woman?!
  • Madame Gasket in Robots is mistaken for a man, even down to the voice. The Reveal that she is, in fact, a woman has some pretty hilarious reactions (including the glass that helps protect the eyes shattering).
  • Shrek:
    • Shrek has Dorris, one of Cinderella's ugly stepsisters. Emphasis on ugly. She can easily be mistaken by a man on a drag and has a deep, masculine voice. Fiona even once remarks "You go...! Girl...?"
    • Puss in Boots has Jill who, in a case of Lookalike Lovers, looks very much like Jack — just with less body hair and no Perma-Stubble.
  • In Strange Magic one of the Bog Kings minions is revealed to be a female, much to the surprise of the other minion who had bumbled through the movie with her.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Below Her Mouth: Dallas could be easily mistaken for male from a distance and in dim light as a result of her short hair with very masculine clothing.
  • In Bound, Caesar walks in on his girlfriend having an intimate conversation with a Butch Lesbian, Corky. He's about to get angry when Corky turns around and reveals herself to be a woman. Caesar excuses himself and mutters about how dark the room is. Corky was probably written as being more butch than she ended up, as it's not particularly believable to mistake her for a man (albeit he saw her from the back at first).
  • Executed brilliantly in The Dark Knight Rises whereby flashbacks are shown of a child with a shaved head and modest dress. We're told this was the child of Ra's al Ghul and Bruce believes it is Bane, but it turns out to be Miranda Tate, birth name Talia.
  • Dope: The narrator comes right out and says that the viewer probably assumed Diggy is a boy due to her very masculine clothing. She's mistaken for a boy at two other points in the film: first, when she, Malcolm, and Jib were going to Dom's partynote  and second, when the principal of their school referred to the trio as "young men."
  • One of the most bizarre recurring gags in Hot Shots! concerns Kowalski, a pilot who is considered by all the other pilots (including the film's protagonist) and even her drill sergeant to be a man, even though she's obviously a woman, and a pretty one too. Her feminine appearance, her feminine voice, and the fact that she wears a bra during roll call while all her fellow pilots are barechested are still not enough to convince anyone due to Rule of Funny; everyone assumes she's just a small man who has trouble sucking in his chest. (Of course, it doesn't help that throughout the movie she is always referred to by her gender-neutral surname.)
  • Referenced in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Gimli, a Dwarven man, tells Éowyn, a human woman, that Dwarf women tend not to leave their Underground Cities, and the ones who do are often mistaken for Dwarf men, since they look and act very similar to the men. Aragorn whispers "It's the beards".
  • One of the detectives' "solutions" to the mystery in Murder by Death has the supposed butler being a woman.
  • Paper Moon: The tomboyish Addie is mistaken for a boy a couple of times early in the film, to her irritation.
  • Princess Cyd: Katie, due to her short hair and masculine clothing, gets taken for a man at a distance. She rolls with it, providing an impromptu bit part in a film as a result.
  • One appears in Rat Race:
    Owen: [talks to a bartender who stands with her back to him] Miss? Could I have another one of these, please?
    Bartender: [turns around]
    Owen: [sees her masculine face] Oh I'm sorry, I thought you were a woman!
    Bartender: I am a woman!
  • Romeo Must Die has a scene that combines this trope with Suddenly Ethnicity. Han (Jet Li) is attacked by a faceless biker who looks reasonably masculine in appearance and who is presumably black (Han's Chinese family has been fighting with the black gangs in Oakland). Once he's chased the biker down, the biker takes off "his" helmet and exposes "himself" as a Chinese woman. It signals a major turning point in the plot since for the rest of the movie Han is battling a rival Chinese gang. (Han is also uncomfortable fighting her and has to get his love interest Trish to take her on by guiding her hands and feet.)
  • In Sky High (2005), Royal Pain is thought to be a guy because of the voice modulator. It is later revealed that she is a girl when she finally puts her evil plan into action.
  • The plot of Tomboy is about a ten-year-old girl who moves to a town and decides to try and pass as male. Her short hair, androgynous looks, and prepubescent physique mean that she looks boyish all the time. She's only found out when she gets into a fight with a boy and his parents talk to her parents.
  • In Trying To Be Special, Kate not only gets mistaken for male but a teenager.
  • We Are the Night: Lena initially is dressed in a rattie sweatshirt and pants with short hair, which makes Tom believe she's a man at first. She exploits this through stealing a dress on the run, changing into that, and throwing her old clothes out. He discovers what happened only when close up to her.

  • In Alex and the Ironic Gentleman, it is repeatedly addressed how Alex, a girl, is mistaken for a boy because of her nickname and her bowl haircut.
  • American Gods: in the narrative of the first people to come to North America (the first first people, not Columbus), one of the characters is a scout, technically female, who dresses like a man, has a male occupation, and a wife. She is accepted in this role and has a senior place in the tribe. Neil Gaiman shows his work with this one: historically, many Native American cultures had a practice by which a male or female person could fully embrace the duties, roles, and appearance of the opposite and from that point on be treated as if they were born and lived the other gender.
  • Autobiography of Red: In Argentina, Geryon briefly mistakes a tuxedo-clad female tango singer for a man.
  • When Jesse from Bridge to Terabithia first meets Leslie he is unable to tell her gender due to her short hair, unisex clothes, and Gender-Blender Name. Her tomboyishness is a point of contention amongst the others in town because she doesn't fit what's expected for a girl. The 2007 film adaptation gave her a Girliness Upgrade and made her wear bright clothes due to what's unusual changing since the book's release. The 1985 made-for-tv film, however, kept Leslie's tomboyish look (albeit with slightly longer hair).
  • Discworld:
    • The regiment in Monstrous Regiment, who spend most of the book being girls pretending to be boys, at one point get back into dresses to pretend to be washerwomen and are mistaken for boys pretending to be girls, because of their short hair and how much they've fallen into acting like men.
    • Salacia from Thud! is a short-haired vampire who appears about sixteen (she's actually about 80). Vimes' narration notes that she "looked, if not like a boy, then like a girl who wouldn't mind passing for one."
    • On the Disc, female Dwarfs look almost exactly like males (they have beards and wear thick leather and chain mail as everyday dress like the men so you can't see their body shape) and more importantly are expected to act like males, including having masculine/gender neutral names and using male pronouns. Some modern Dwarf girls try to look more feminine by doing such things as braiding their beards, wearing chainmail skirts or welding heels to their iron-shod boots.
  • In Dragon Bones, Tisala of Callis has short hair and a scarred face. She also doesn't look just like any dude, but extremely her father, who, unfortunately, is not a Bishonen, but rather homely, in a way that's tolerable for a man, but defies the beauty ideals for women. She is also as tall as her father, who is considered a tall man. When Ward notices the latter, he pities her, as, he notes, it can't be easy for a woman to be taller than most men. (It takes him some time to notice as he's a Gentle Giant, and Tisala's father is just about the height of his shoulders) Doesn't stop Ward from having a crush on her.
  • George from The Famous Five is described as having very short hair, almost as short as a boy's, that she cut because she hates long hair. She wears androgynous clothes and is prepubescent. She often gets mistaken for a boy as a result.
  • Florinda: Florinda's male disguise is so convincing that it fools even her own father, and everyone else.
  • Last Night at the Telegraph Club: Lily initially mistakes the Telegraph Club's bouncer for a short, stocky man on first seeing her, as she's a Butch Lesbian who has short hair and a suit on.
  • In Merona Grant and the Lost Tomb of Golgotha, Merona was mistaken for a man in the past.
    Merona: You punched me in the face the first time we met.
    Sasha: It was dark! And I thought you were man who owe me money.
  • A Master of Djinn: Fatma gets mistaken for male more than once due to her gaunt face and rather masculine clothing, since she frequently wears Western men's suits. She's grown used to it.
  • Jaime Lannister gives Brienne of Tarth a lot of shit for this in A Song of Ice and Fire, specifically during the third book. At one point, he even suggests that she might be transgender.
  • Sweep: The Story of a Girl and her Monster: Nan Sparrow is a girl who has short hair and works as a chimney sweep. Because of this, she's sometimes mistaken for a boy, especially when she gets covered in soot.
  • Dana from Wayside School, at one point, worries about being mistaken for a boy due to a bad haircut and her Gender-Blender Name.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Barry: Esther looks very masculine, to the point that Fuches (jokingly or not, it's hard to say) notes "In America, Esther is a woman's name" on meeting her, to Esther's anger.
  • Because she's wearing trousers and has her long hair tucked into a cap, Polly is mistaken for a young boy throughout the Doctor Who serial "The Smugglers". While Ben pokes fun at her for it, she never really bothers to correct the mistake.
  • Farscape has the Zenetans, a species with pretty much no sexual dimorphism. By the end of "The Flax," D'Argo has had it up to here with Staanz, a former space pirate and "garbologist" - only to find out that, not only is the male-looking Staanz a woman, but has really fallen for D'Argo. Supplementary materials discuss how Zenetans rely on pheromones to tell which gender is which.
  • Feel Good: Mae's very butch style gets her mistaken for a man sometimes. This is later complicated by the fact that Mae realizes she's nonbinary. In the final episode, she comments happily on the fact that people tend to call her "sir".
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Ser Jaime Lannister (who is both shorter and considered to be way prettier than her) thinks Brienne of Tarth is far too masculine-looking for a woman. She's very tall, wears her hair short, dresses in men's clothing and armor, and even bows rather than curtsies.
    • Arya Stark in season 1 behaves like a tomboy and was frequently being mistaken as a boy due to her appearance, which annoyed her. After the death of her father Ned Stark, she had to crossdress as a boy to hide her identity from her enemies.
  • The Ghost and Mrs. Muir: In "Puppy Love", Candy falls for the new English boy at her school, but her tomboy appearance counts against her. She is insulted when he thinks she is a boy.
  • Glee's Season 2 (and on) football Coach Shannon Beiste, and a good amount of her characterization is owed to the real-life experiences of Dot Marie Jones who portrays her. Eventually subverted in the final season when Beiste transitions to male and starts going by the name Sheldon.
  • This was a Running Gag with Dorothy on The Golden Girls, who was played by Statuesque Stunner Bea Arthur, who was 5'10'' barefoot (and often wore heels on the show) and had short hair. In one instance, Rose sees her outside and tells Blanche to call the police about "a big, ugly man wearing Dorothy's coat"; in another, Sophia repeatedly compares her to Davy Crockett actor Fess Parker. Dorothy herself wasn't above invoking the trope when it suited her. In "Ladies of the Evening," she has to defend Blanche from a tough-talking prostitute who wants to fight:
    Dorothy: Listen up, you...punk. If you're gonna fight someone, you're gonna fight me—but I warn you, I did time in Attica.
    Prostitute: Attica's a men's prison.
  • In The Killing, Holder initially mistakes Bullet for a boy, thanks to her short hair and unkempt baggy clothes, as well as her overall masculine demeanour.
  • In Married... with Children, Marcy was mistaken for male several times due to her flat chest and short hair. This was mostly due to Rule of Funny since she wasn't especially unfeminine in appearance, and at least some of it was Al deliberately making fun of her.
  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: Susie Myerson is so blindingly un-feminine that she is routinely mistaken for a man, with the confusion sometimes lasting even after she's corrected people several times. Despite her distaste for traditional femininity, being mistaken for a man so often does seem to be a sore spot for her.
  • In Miranda (2009), this happens to the title character on a fair few occasions. It even got to the point where in one episode she was mistaken for a man dressed as a woman.
    Delivery Man: Here you go, sir.
    [cue audience laughter and an annoyed Aside Glance from Miranda]
  • Monk: Mr. Monk gets stuck in traffic, where Monk runs into a truck driver whom he initially assumes to be a male.
  • Naturally, Sadie: In "Advanced Girl Lessons", a customer at Dr. Finch's mistakes the tomboyish Sadie for a boy. This causes her to undergo a crisis of confidence and attempt a Girliness Upgrade, only to suffer a Femininity Failure. By the end of the episode, she has managed to find a happy median between Tomboy and Girly Girl.
  • Paper Girls: Mac is a short-haired tomboy who wears very masculine garb (a leather jacket, t-shirt, jeans) along with her attitude. Because of this she gets mistaken for a boy briefly after first meeting the other girls.
  • Reservation Dogs: Willie Jack's easily mistaken as a boy from a distance due to her very masculine clothing style.
  • Often discussed on RuPaul's Drag Race when a queen is aiming for a high feminine look but is too physically masculine to pull it off. For example, Season 13 contestant Tina Burner joked about how she looks like a "linebacker in a dress." In the earlier seasons, this would negatively affect the queens in the competition, but over time the judges grew to embrace androgynous drag, in reflection of society becoming more accepting of non-binary individuals. However, this doesn't stop the queens from giving playful jabs from time to time:
    Choriza May: (during the reading mini-challenge) Ella Vaday, you look like a beautiful man...when you're in drag.
  • Sister, Sister: Rhonda, formerly an Alpha Bitch towards Tia and Tamera, re-appears in the season 4 episode "You Are So Beautiful" looking and sounding rather masculine.
  • Because of her androgynous appearance, Eleven in Stranger Things is briefly mistaken for a boy in the first episode. This later leads to her case getting mixed up with Will's during Hopper's investigation.
  • Twenties: Hattie is mistaken for male multiple times (once a trans man, maybe nonbinary too) as a result of her very butch style.
  • The Walking Dead (2010): Kelly can easily be mistaken for a young man if her voice isn't heard or her name and gender explicitly said, given her very masculine clothing style plus her short hair. The only exception is her earrings (although of course some guys wear them too).
  • We Are Who We Are: Caitlin goes out off base often dressed in boyish clothes, to the point that Fraser doesn't recognize her at first, and she's taken for a boy by an Italian girl who hits on her. As she later also questions her gender identity, it becomes a sign of her possibly being transgender.

  • Borderline parodied with Peachingle Dan on NoPixel. She looks exactly like all the other Dans — i.e. an elderly, bald black man with a mustache — but she's actually their sister and has a female voice.


    Video Games 
  • Dorothy Albright from Arcana Heart has a small case of this, in that just by appearance alone she might get confused by a young boy. It even comes to play in one of her victory animations where she passes off as a boy to fool the police (though she may also dress as a schoolgirl instead). Some fans refer to her as "Reverse Bridget" because of this.
  • King was this in the first Art of Fighting, to the point where she had a special KO animation that had her shirt get torn apart to reveal her bra. The sequel as well as later appearances in The King of Fighters series however drop this.
  • Mute from Ar tonelico Qoga: Knell of Ar Ciel. She's a musclebound brute and virtually devoid of any femininity outside of her voice (Which is normal in the JP dub, but very masculine in the English dub) and Sailor Fuku. Aoto gives her the unflattering nickname of "Butch" in the English dub, but instead literally just refers to her as "man-woman" in the JP dub. You later find out that she can transform into a typical loli when she feels like it, though.
  • In BlazBlue: Chronophantasma, Amane Nishiki calls Noel Vermillion the best cross-dresser he's ever seen. Why, she'd be perfect for playing the roles of women in his acting troupe! This enrages the normally Shrinking Violet Noel enough to cause her Murakumo Unit personality to take over.
    Noel: ...Target deemed hostile. Commencing termination.
  • Bug Fables: Like most female beetles, Pisci doesn't look feminine. In fact, she looks and acts downright manly and the only indication that she's female is her bestiary entry.
  • Jherii Gallo, the Dead Rising 3 Psychopath representing Pride, is an overzealous and arrogant bodybuilder with a deep voice and over-muscular physique. She tries to kill Nick when he accidentally keeps referring to her as a "sir".
  • Discussed early on in Evolution: The World of Sacred Device: Mag Launcher mentions that Chain Gun's temper is what gets her mistaken for a guy.
  • Final Fantasy VIII: Adel. The only clue that she is a she is that she is called a sorceress. Without that fact, it's easy to assume she is male to her her very muscular body and her facial features lacking anything feminine.
  • Hegemone in Final Fantasy XIV is referred as female before you meet her, but you'd be hard pressed to find any feminine features on her due to her rather masculine looking face and her Boyish Short Hair.
  • In Icewind Dale the swarthy dwarven warrior in the opening inn is called Hildur. She gets faintly annoyed at being confused for a man and having to explain to a non-dwarven party member that the three foot beard is entirely normal.
  • Anna Hottenmeyer from Mr. Driller.
  • Papers, Please has some female entrants whose heads look like men's heads. You have to strip search them to find whether or not the passport's stated biological sex is true or not in order to determine whether to let them in or to arrest them.
  • If you play Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth as the protagonist of Persona 3, Naoto is called "Intelligent looking boy" before her name is revealed. Some characters don't get that she's a girl until much later in the game.
  • Pokémon:
    • The Machop and Timburr lines have a 25% chance of being female, despite their very manly appearances- the latter line's final evolution, Conkeldurr even sports a visible goatee!
    • In Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, Pokémon Coordinator Chaz has a Machoke named Macherie, who is female. You wouldn't be able to tell by just looking at her, but he refers to her by female pronouns and insists on not teaching her Tough moves for contests (preferring Cuteness and Beauty), as she's "too cute" for them.
    • Even better example: the very masculine looking Granbull actually has a 75% chance of being female. Its pre-evolution being pink may have something to do with it.
  • Senran Kagura:
    • Miyabi is apparently this to the point where she constantly gets mistaken for a man and her squealing fangirls as well as childhood friend Imu won't let her catch a break. Her story mode has her trying her very hardest to make herself more feminine. It ends up backfiring. Of course, this is very much an Informed Attribute since she lives in a World of Buxom and her chest makes it obvious that she's a girl. The Informed Attribute does get lampshaded in one of the games where she asks Yozakura if there is anything feminine about her, and all that Yozakura can answer is her breasts.
    • Kanzaki is another example. Similar to Miyabi, some of her cards imply that she tries to make herself more feminine as well.
  • Elh Melizée from Solatorobo, at least according to the characters in-game. This even allows Red to help her sneak into an all-boys magic school, insisting to the Ritual Master that she "couldn't be any more of a boy" - which, of course, annoys her immensely, since by that point she was quite fond of him. Viewers tend to get confused when first introduced to her: since she wears a skirt over slacks and has an androgynous face, most players assumed she was female, yet other characters insisted on referring to her as a boy and she uses masculine pronouns in the Japanese version, so players assumed they must've been mistaken. Then it's revealed that she is a girl after all; that skirt over slacks look is apparently boys' clothing in the Shepherd Republic, which is why the other characters thought she was a boy. She never bothered to correct anyone because they just never asked which she was.
  • Touhou Project: Wriggle Nightbug is female, like 99.99% of the cast, despite her androgynous appearance (to the point of looking like a cute boy sometimes) and all the fanwork to the contrary.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Between the standard military uniform and the fact that she never takes her hat off, Morag looks very masculine, to the point that in a sidequest it's revealed that Tora didn't even know she was a woman.

    Visual Novels 
  • Sakura Ogami from Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is an extreme example, to the point that she basically looks like a male bodybuilder wearing a Sailor Fuku. Adding to the confusion, she usually has a Badass Armfold hiding her Boobs of Steel. When Aoi mentions spending the night in Sakura's room, Kiyotaka is outraged at a girl sleeping with a "boy", before Sakura points out that she's a girl. Even in the Prologue when first meeting her, Makoto internally remarks that he almost asked her if she was a man.
  • The Player Character of Ladykiller in a Bind is a young woman who is rather flat-chested and has androgynous facial features. This, of course, helps her a bit in pulling off the Twin Switch her scheming brother has cajoled her into doing with him.

    Web Animation 
  • Dodoria in Dragon Ball Z Abridged and its spin-off series HFIL sits at a weird nexus between this and Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism. Having been a male in the canonical series, the fact she looks like a tubby-yet-muscular, broad-featured pink monster with spikes all over her arms and head, and speaks in a very deep baritone voice, means people are quite surprised to learn that she was the World's Most Beautiful Woman on her home planet. Vegeta was so surprised upon learning the truth, however, that he repressed it in order to maintain his sanity.
  • Percy in Epithet Erased is mistaken for a man by a Banzai Blaster whom she calmly corrects. The Blaster is genuinely apologetic for his blunder but Percy doesn't mind as she tells him to continue with his threat.
  • Feng Ling'er of Feng Ling Yu Xiu is mistaken for a boy in the first episode, much to her chagrin.
  • Homestar Runner: "Some people wears glasses. Beth looks like a dude."
  • Kanon's RomCom Mangas: Tomo Hasegawa's best friend Hiromi Mashiro is actually a girl who dressed like a guy to avoid sexual harassment because of her looks. She also stole his love interest Sayaka Yamakawa in order to date him as "Mihiro". When Sayaka came back and asked Tomo to take her back, Hiromi shows up and reveals him the truth by taking off her cap.
  • Mani Mani People: Dan was raised to be a boy in her family who lives in a patriarchal society. When her family gave birth to her brother, she was discarded and was adopted by Sonoka. Sonoka didn't realize that she was a girl until she revealed it to him.
  • Porkchop 'n Flatscreen!: Mai can go around topless in the men's locker room and not draw attention.

  • In Beyond Bloom, Tatsuma has this problem both in-story and out of story. It is stated by the author that this was never intentional, but the gag was incorporated into the story because of so many readers and non-readers mistaking Tatsuma for a male.
  • Justified in Dumbing of Age: Jocelyne is trans and still in the closet, so still presents herself as male to her family.
  • Freaking Romance: Verose has been mistaken for a guy multiple times, both in-universe and by readers.
  • In Hemispheres, Mineshaft, the dwarf, looks like a generic fantasy dwarf male... but, of course, it's eventually revealed that dwarves in this setting all look and sound male to humans, beards and all.note 
  • Zii of Ménage ŕ 3 doesn't suffer from this regularly, as she generally presents a convincing and attractive feminine style, but she does have a very flat chest (and she is very mildly self-conscious about it). Hence, she is very annoyed in one early strip when Jung asks "Who's the skinny dude?" — understandably, given that she's flashing everyone at the time...
  • The Noordegraaf Files has Violet. She doesn't talk and is very, VERY flat-chested, so Theo initially mistakes her for a boy. The only possible way of noticing her true gender is that her arms are very feminine in appearance, and she has a ponytail.
  • After a forced haircut, Haley of The Order of the Stick is apparently this (it's hard to tell because of the artstyle), she combats it by getting a new outfit sporting more cleavage.
    Haley: Four people on the street have accidentally addressed me as "young man" since we got here. I think some flaunting is in order.
  • In Rascals, Shiro whenever she was first introduced.
  • Same New Woman follows Marita, an ordinary librarian who wakes up one morning with a hyper-muscular body and extraordinary strength and is subsequently a source of gender confusion. She tries to go on with her old life but finds her world increasingly out of control.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: While in a classroom otherwise full of women, Reynir mistakes one of his more masculine-looking classmates for the only other man in the room besides himself.

    Web Video 
  • StacheBros: A Running Gag in "Boo's Death Sentence" has Goomba commenting that Boo as a living being looked like a guy (more specifically, a regular male Toad wearing a bow).

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: Nothing about Coach Russo looks even remotely feminine: she has a huge, blocky Cephalothorax for a body and a masculine voice. It's only at the end of her debut episode that she is revealed as a woman (as well as being the mother of a feared bully).
    Coach: And I'm not a woman... who can say she's never lied on her résumé either.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Freedom Fighter Smellerbee is frequently mistaken for a boy, a misconception which she is somewhat sensitive about and quick to correct.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold has Mrs. Manface, the wife of Babyface. She looks exactly like a dude, complete with five o'clock shadow.
  • Disenchantment: A nonhuman example. The griffin, who appears masculine in her human parts (and has a male-sounding voice) is actually female. When questioned on this, she replies "Gender is a spectrum."
  • Family Guy:
    • The Griffins go into witness protection in the Deep South. Chris befriends a kid named Sam who looks and sounds like a guy — until he kisses Chris and it's revealed shortly after that he is a she.
    • Another episode, "Mind Over Murder", the homely, burly 'man' Peter punches turns out to be an incredibly ugly and pregnant woman, leading to her delivering her child ahead of schedule and his being placed under house arrest.
    • A recurring joke is that Meg is mistaken for a boy (despite having a clearly female chest). There are even episodes that show her shaving her face and taking a whiz standing up.
  • Laney Penn from Grojband is frequently referred to as a guy by others and mistaken for one on numerous occasions, including her own bandmates, possibly due to her Boyish Short Hair and tomboyish personality. Word of God is that her friends know she's a girl and that they just call her a boy to help her fit in, but the Running Gag is largely dumped in the second half of the series.
  • In the episode of Hey Arnold! where Helga gives herself a makeover, a man mistakes her for a boy.
  • Liz from The Magic School Bus, a rare case for a female animal. To elaborate, Liz is a Jackson's chameleon but only male Jackson's chameleons have big horns on their heads like Liz does.
  • One episode of The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack had Flapjack encounter a woman who looked like a hairy middle-aged man with a long beard. He assumed at first that she was a man with the voice of a little girl.
  • In Mike Tyson Mysteries a Running Gag is that nearly everyone Yung Hee meets mistakes her for a boy. Even a woman thought she was a boy, and she manages to go undercover at a male boarding school with minimal effort.
    Yung: Why does everyone think I'm a boy?
    Marquess: It's your haircut and I've told you that.
  • Moose, the little sister of the title character in Pepper Ann, not only looks like a boy but also acts and sounds like one. Her own uncle didn't even realize she was a girl for several years until one time at Thanksgiving dinner.
  • All three Gross Sisters from The Proud Family wear overalls and have hair that is somewhat long, but not styled in a particularly feminine way.
  • Punch!: In one episode, Jordan does an inside story on Adam Sandler's nudist colony. At one point, Adam takes Jordan to the border of the lesbians' section, but tells him if they go over there, the lesbians will "chop off our Happy Gilmores.". Jordan says he sees two men on the lesbians' side, which Adam states are actually girls.
  • Velma would occasionally get mistaken for a boy in Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, which is kinda funny considering this show's incarnation of her is probably the most feminine she's ever looked in the entire franchise.
  • The Simpsons:
    • The episode "The Otto Show": Otto has to take a driving test, and Patty is his tester.
      Patty: When you do good, I use the green pen. When you do bad, I use the red pen. Any questions?
      Otto: Yeah, one. Have you always been a chick? I mean I don't want to offend you, but you were born a man, weren't you? You can tell me; I'm open-minded.
      Patty: [dropping the green pen] We won't be needing this.
    • The episode "Selma's Choice" has a moment where the priest is eulogizing the deceased Aunt Gladys at her funeral:
      Priest: He was a caring man, he was a kind man. He gave to his community and asked little in return. He—
      [a man whispers something in his ear]
      Priest: That's a woman? Oh, dear God!
  • SpongeBob SquarePants episode "MY LEG!" has Nurse Bazooka.
  • ToddWorld, a series targeted at preschool audiences. Todd's dog, Benny, meets a dog named Sam and they play together in the mud, so he never really gets a good look at her. When they meet later, Benny is shocked she's a girl — "Sam" is short for Samantha. He thinks that he can't play with a girl, but learns differently. "Benny has a new friend now. Girls make great friends and so do boys!"
  • In Total Drama, the Jerk Jock Lightning thinks that Brawn Hilda Jo is a guy, leading to an amusing Mistaken for Gay situation when, in a life-threatening situation, Jo laments that she's going to die without ever having kissed a guy. Eventually, he finds out that Jo is a girl and is completely shocked. It should be noted that Lightning's surprise wasn't justified since Jo had already tried to tell him several times that she was a girl — he just didn't believe her until her elimination.
  • Agent Kimberly McManus in The Venture Bros. is a husky-voiced woman with a strong jawline who typically wears armor that hides her curves and long hair but looks quite feminine without it. For bonus points she was actually voiced by a man in her first appearance to hide The Reveal but later got a female voice actor.

    Real Life 
  • Mary Frith, a.k.a. Mad Moll Cutpurse, was a well-known pickpocket and pimp in the English Renaissance who dressed as a man, dueled other men, smoked a pipe, and swore. She was married to a man eventually, but it was largely believed to be a domestic farce. Thomas Middleton's play The Roaring Girl was based on her.
  • Carly Simon has often been compared with Mick Jagger's looks.
  • In Britain, during times when hairstyles either favored shorter hair for women or longer hair for men, it could be hard to tell the difference between a man and a woman who just wore trousers (or for pre-adolescents, a girl could easily be mistaken for a boy who hadn't hit puberty).
  • Spotted Hyena females look almost exactly like the males, right down to having an enlarged clitoris that's essentially a pseudopenis, and fused labia that look like a scrotum (until after giving birth for the first time, when they are torn apart).
  • More a case of Lady acts Like a Dude, but European Robins (not to be confused with American robins), aside from the sexes looking the same, are exceptional among birds for their females being just as territorial, and just as aggressive (this bird species is one of the few who will fight each other to the death) as the males, and the females even sing to mark their territory, something only males do in other bird species.
  • When Fox News Channel posted an editorial in favor of traditional gender roles, they illustrated it with a photo of a lesbian wedding, which they had ironically mistaken for a depiction of a heterosexual couple due to the masculine appearance and attire of Stephanie Figarelle. Once this was pointed out, the photo was replaced with a more generic one.
  • Catalina de Erauso, a straight-up Butch Lesbian who escaped the convent she had been secluded in at age four by joining the army. She had several female lovers who never realized she wasn't a man and served in the same company as her brother, who didn't recognize her. note 
  • Talk show host Wendy Williams has often been mistaken for a crossdressing man or transgender woman because of her height, relatively manly features, and over the top wigs and makeup. However, despite all this, she is in fact a cisgender woman.
  • The Chinese Boy Band FanxyRed, formerly known as Acrush, consisting exclusively of young ladies. Downplayed in that they look more androgynous, although credibly resembling young men in Boy Bands.
  • Takarazuka Revue otokoyaku (male role actresses) generally maintain Kayfabe in public, leading to many actresses being mistaken for men while out in public. Some amusing incidents include:
    • Hokushou Kairi answering the phone half-awake, and her lower range led to her father assuming there was a boy in her room.
    • Todoroki Yu was mistaken for a man by a staff member of the Austrian musical Elisabeth, who was confused as to why a man would be in the cast of an all-female theatre troupe. Additionally, she was barked at by Kouju Tatsuki's dog, which usually only reacts aggressively towards men.
    • Matobu Sei called her grandmother on the phone, and the old woman thought it was a man trying to scam her.
    • Toki Irisu was in the women's bathroom when another woman walked in, saw her, blurted out, "Sorry, I've made a mistake!" and left.
    • There were also several incidents of otokoyaku and musumeyaku (female role actresses) being in public, and the former were assumed to be the latter's boyfriends.
  • Karen Gillan shaved her head to play Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), and she said the only downside was being mistaken for a man because she's so tall. When it came time for the sequel, she convinced the producers to let her keep some hair.


Video Example(s):


There Goes a Foxcroft Lad

Mike has Yung go undercover as a boy at an all-boy school, but she doesn't believe anyone will believe she's a boy until a school staff member tells her otherwise.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / LadyLooksLikeADude

Media sources: