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Trans Equals Gay

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Unnamed Man: Wait, don't gays put on makeup? Isn't that the same thing as being gay?
Unnamed Friend: They're all the same whether they're crossdressers, gays, or transsexuals.

The mistaken belief that a Transgender person is just a gay person that "leveled up." This trope was very common in works from the 2000s and earlier when the general public was still in the dark about trans issues, and a prime example of Gender Nonconforming Equals Gay. As such, it often appeared even if the writer meant well and the character was portrayed sympathetically. It's much less prevalent nowadays thanks to trans visibility campaigns, but it still warrants discussion for cisgender writers wishing to accurately portray a trans character (i.e., this is how not to do it).

In Real Life, being transgender has nothing to do with homosexuality, as they relate to two entirely different concepts. Being gay or lesbian relates to sexual and romantic attraction, and means "being attracted to others of the same sex". Being trans relates to gender identity, and means "having a gender identity which is different to the one assigned at birth".note  Notably, not all transgender people are straight: a transgender person could also be gay or lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, aromantic/asexual, etc. – that is, they can identify with any romantic and sexual orientation that a cisgender person can.

One key point that confuses many is the fact that many trans people who are attracted to others of their birth-assigned gender may initially come out as gay, bi, etc. and live as such for some time, before coming out as trans later in life (perhaps finding their sexual orientation easier to figure out than their gender identity, or as a deliberate stepping stone toward coming out as trans). An uninformed outsider may believe this person simply kicked things up a notch (or worse, believe that trans people are just "confused" members of that identity) when in reality they were never homosexual in the first place.

Furthermore, there is the notion that trans people attracted to their target gender (trans lesbians and gay trans men) are less valid than other trans people. Many will think that a trans lesbian's transition is "pointless", or wonder why she doesn't just live as a straight man. But as mentioned earlier, these refer to two completely different aspects of one's identity.

Ambiguous Gender Identity is a closely related trope. It is by far most common for a character who is either a gay man in drag or a trans woman, left ambiguous because the author doesn't realize that they aren't the same thing. (This could be justified if the character themselves aren't sure, but it's more often an author-side problem.)

Crossdressing raises similar issues. It occurs with members of all sexual orientations and is actually statistically more common among straight people than gays. When crossdressing occurs in fiction, however, it's frequently seen as a sign of homosexuality.

Compare Camp Gay and Butch Lesbian; contrast Lipstick Lesbian, Manly Gay, Straight Gay, and especially Camp Straight.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • One Piece:
    • All of the gay (Okama) characters are drag queens. No exception. There are a few who are explicitly transgender like Ivankov, and one who seems to be gay but not transgender (Bon Kurei, who ends up being butch by the standards of Ivankov and the Okama Island characters) - but most of them seem to simply regard cross-dressing as something they have to do. They are also hideously and offensively bad at it, being ugly men who apparently have never heard of shaving regularly. This is especially odd as many of them hang out with Ivankov, who has the demonstrated ability to turn them into actual hot women with their Hor Hor no Mi powers. On-screen, Ivankov only used those powers on someone else once, as punishment on an annoying cisgender guy, but uses it on themself whenever they feel like it (and also because they seem to fight better as a woman). The Okama Island characters inflicted serious trauma on Sanji by ceaselessly attempting to molest him in a hideous Thundering Herd.
    • Bon Kurei's crazy monologue in one of his early appearances invoked the idea that he was either bigender or genderless. Given Oda's heavyhanded treatment of this trope, this received no real follow-up, but Ivankov sends mixed messages and Inazuma sends no clear gender messages. There are indications that Oda considers 'okama' to be a third gender, a la premodern eunuchs or some form of genderqueer. This is largely due to Japanese culture which has historically been open and accepting of transgender and homosexual characters, with many appearing as popular mythological figures or folk heroes. At the same time, however, they're subjected to stereotyping and misconceptions that Americans would find outrageously offensive regardless of which side of the issue they fall on. Ivankov was also based on Norio Imamura, a real-life Okama and friend of Oda, who did most of the voice acting for Ivankov as well.
      Ivankov: A man, a woman, an Okama, you should be whatever you want! The borders between genders... I... no... we... We've left them far behind! This is our new humanity, Newkama! This is a land of freedom, Newkama Land!
  • Kamatari of Rurouni Kenshin is a (very convincing) crossdresser who is in love with his male boss, Shishio. However, he's explicitly male-identifying, and amusedly corrects Misao when she assumes he's a woman. Appropriately, the one who came up with Kamatari was none other than Eiichiro Oda, of One Piece, who used to be Watsuki's assistant.
  • Nuriko of Fushigi Yuugi is a crossdressing man infatuated with Emperor Hotohori, but later on admits he's attracted to Miaka as well. He specifically describes the latter feelings as being from his "male half", and the former from his "female half". His crossdressing is also later explained as being a way for his dead sister to live through him, rather bizarrely implying Nuriko simply acting feminine caused him to be attracted to men. He eventually starts dressing in a masculine fashion in order to better protect Miaka.
  • Averted in Wandering Son, where the transgender characters are shown to be of various sexual orientations that don't relate to their identities. Nitori, the protagonist, has only ever shown interest in girls and even gains a girlfriend halfway through the manga. Her friend, Mako, is also a trans girl but is only attracted to men (and Nitori, who she seems to see more as a boy). Takatsuki's (the one female-assigned member of their group) sexuality is as ambiguous as their gender-identity. The two transfeminine adults, Yuki and Ebina, have a boyfriend and a wife respectively; though Ebina's a widow with a preschool daughter. One flashback has a teenage Yuki monologue that her crush (and future boyfriend) Shiina makes her want to be a woman, however, it's clearly a sign of her dysphoria rather than the catalyst for her transition.
  • In Black Butler, Grell Sutcliff's character interview in the Kuroshitsuji Character Guide says she wishes she was born female, wishes she could get a sex change, and laments her inability to have a child, but may in fact be bisexual. While she makes frequent advances on male characters, she also declared once that she was in love with Madam Red - in fact, one of the reasons why Grell was drawn to her was how Madam Red also couldn't give birth due to having been gone through a hysterectomy after a horrible accident. While this mostly points towards her being transgender, author Yana Toboso may intend to have Grell viewed as an okama or Drag Queen since she consistently uses male pronouns when speaking of Grell in the third person, and she and Grell both directly use the word "okama" in her art and blog posts, suggesting that Grell's feminine speech and pronoun use may be an example of onee-kotoba, the effeminate dialect used by gay men and male crossdressers. It's a contentious issue in the fandom, to say the least, with the murky Word of God and language barrier issues muddling it further.
  • Fire Emblem in Tiger & Bunny is very, very flamboyantly gay and likes referring to himself as a "girl." Word of God says he views himself as both male and female.
  • Claudine: Claude is aware that people who don't truly know him will mistake any relationship he has with a woman as a lesbian relationship. It's why he and Sirène are careful to keep their romantic feelings for each other hidden, even though Sirène knows that Claude is a heterosexual trans man.
  • Zig-zagged in The Day of Revolution: it quickly becomes apparent that the intersexed Kei/Megumi decided to re-identify as female to conform with her genetic sex without even giving the matter of sexual orientation any consideration. She finds the idea of attraction to guys pretty confusing and outright rejects getting with the friends she knew under her male identity. Ultimately, Megumi is at least sexually flexible enough to conform to what is expected of girls and finds a boy she's happy to date.
  • Parodied in What Did You Eat Yesterday?. Trying to be supportive of her gay son, Shirou's well-meaning but ignorant mother tries to educate herself on the subject of homosexuality. Unfortunately, she hasn't quite figured out the difference between transgender and gay, and thus spends an uncomfortable phone conversation with her son talking about how she just watched Transamerica and went to a meeting for parents with transgender children.
  • Sara in Ai no Shintairiku has a clear interest in boys, though the boys tend to question their sexuality when seeing her. Her love interest eventually came to the conclusion she's a girl no matter what's under her clothes.
  • Played with in Claudine, where the transmasculine titular character is interested in girls, but he also has huge issues in regards to his sexuality. The story is also very explicit that Claude is a hetero man, not a Butch Lesbian—which is very notable for a manga written in 1978.
  • Referenced in the Mermaid Line chapters revolving around Aika and Ayumi. Aika breaks up with her girlfriend, Ayumi, after she decides to transition. When they meet up a few weeks later Ayumi thinks Aika is attracted to men... Aika tells her she's a lesbian and that she loved her as a girl. Eventually, they get back together.
  • In Kyou Kara Yonshimai all three sisters expect their, recently came out, sister to have a boyfriend. They're surprised when she reveals she has a girlfriend and debate amongst themselves if it's gay or not.
  • The Bride Was A Boy: Chii lived as a gay boy in her teenage years. She ended up dating a guy but was upset when he thought of her as a boy. At the current time, she is Happily Married to a man who had no issues with her sex, and her parents also were nonchalant towards her coming out. She does also discuss the fact that, under Japanese law, her marriage is considered a heterosexual one and is thus legal...but only because she'd been able to change her legal sex to female, with marriage not being possible before that happened. As gay marriage isn't legal in Japan, many married trans people (who, post-transition, would be in same-gender marriages) have to make the decision between whether they want to transition, or stay married to their spouse - they can't currently do both. She makes a point about how strongly she supports gay marriage as a response to this.
  • Subverted in Bokura no Hentai, where there is a clear distinction between the gay crossdresser Parou, bisexual Magical Queer Tomochi, and the heterosexual trans girl Marika. Marika has been bullied by boys and called homophobic terms for years. When she confronts a bully she agrees when he calls her gay, but it is clear she doesn't mean it and even questions why it's wrong if she wants to be a girl. Once she begins going to school as a girl that same bully is implied to be attracted to her.
  • Strange Mansion is about a woman who finds out her high school crush has become a woman to be with her boyfriend. Her crush considered herself a boy but wanted to date a straight man so she transitioned.
  • Angel Sanctuary: Inconsistent descriptions coupled with outdated (the manga was published in The '90s) and misused terminology make it entirely unclear as to whether Arachne is meant to be a drag queen, a (trans) woman, or a non-binary combination of the two.
  • Kei's gender is hard to pin in Moyashimon due to this reason. For the most part, she seems transgender and most fans treat her as a trans woman, but she never directly addresses her gender in-series. In one chapter/episode, she suddenly reappears in a dress and that's essentially it. Kei gets offended when she's Mistaken for Gay, not to assert herself as a straight woman but to assert herself as a straight man. This is despite liking her male childhood friend Sawaki.
  • The mangaka for the 1980s manga Stop!! Hibari-kun! has said that he wanted to write a comedy manga about a crossdressing boy in love with a male classmate. Despite this, Hibari really can't be described as anything but a trans girl. She lives as a girl full-time, wants a more feminine body, and repeatedly asks her family to address her as female (even if it's in a mocking tone because she doesn't expect them to listen).
  • Ayakashi Triangle: Matsuri was changed from male to female, and his still-male gender identity is often treated as equivalent to his continued attraction to Suzu. Suzu treats her worries that Matsuri is falling for Soga as a sign he's becoming more feminine. When Matsuri considers staying a girl, being aroused by Suzu convinces him he's "really a guy". During an Amnesia Episode where Matsuri thought he was always a girl, he shows no attraction to Suzu and almost immediately falls for Soga—both of which he casually brushes off after his memories return. Ultimately, Matsuri's gender identity does shift toward feminine, if indefinitely, but that doesn't make them any less in love with Suzu. Matsuri even decides they can only date Suzu a girl for now, though they based this on "readiness" rather than sexual orientation. On the other hand, Suzu and Reo are both same-sex attracted, and this never brings their femininity into question.
  • Pet Shop of Horrors: A female model transitioned because she thought the man she loved was straight. In a subversion, he actually turned out to be closeted and gay. As a result, it didn't work out between them.

    Comic Books 
  • One Jack Chick tract claims that gay men think that they're women in men's bodies.
  • The "Five Years Later" version of Legion of Super-Heroes had a complicated Retcon about a character who apparently believed this enough to act on it. Longtime Legion supporting character Shvaughn Erin was revealed to have been using a Gender Bender drug called ProFem that changed her from male to female. The character, who up to this point had never been shown to have any sort of gender ambiguity, reverts back to "Sean" in the Five Years Later storyline when she loses access to the drug. The only reason Sean became a woman was so that he could have a relationship with Element Lad, who he was in love with.note 
  • There seems to have been some confusion to this effect among the various writers of Demon Knights regarding Sir Ystin, who presents himself as and identifies as a man, and dates at least one woman... an Amazon, who identifies as a lesbian and who has no fond feelings for men at large. No other character besides Merlin even acknowledges that Ystin might be a man (or genderqueer).
  • In Runaways, lesbian Karolina was eventually paired off with Xavin, a shapeshifting alien who was capable of assuming a female form at will and considers gender a non-issue. Played with in that it's initially Xavin making the assumption that merely turning into a female will fix everything between them (it didn't) and while their relationship did eventually improve from an initial one-sided unwanted fiancee it still took quite a bit of work from both of them for it to develop into something genuine. Later writers were also aware of the Unfortunate Implications of this trope and attempted to address it, eventually having Xavin Put on a Bus.

    Fan Works 
  • Deconstructed in Tangled Up in Indigo. Mio tries to insist that gay girls are really transgender boys. This confuses her friends.
    Yui: So when two gay girls get together, it's really two gay boys?"
    Mio: "You're missing the point!"
    Azusa: "I'm not sure anyone's getting the point."

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The opening scene of Boys Don't Cry, based on the life of trans man Brandon Teena, is a gay male friend urging him to "just admit you're a dyke!" Also see Misaimed Fandom - Film, where some reviewers think Brandon Teena is a lesbian.
  • The X-Files: I Want to Believe had a gay doctor killing women to harvest parts to build a body for his husband's (still living) severed head. The fact that there weren't severe questions about this plan says something.
  • I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry: Played with in a clip from the shopping scene (available in a trailer but edited from the film) in which Larry decides their guise of two gay guys is aided by purchasing maxi pads. Chuck snaps at him that they're supposed to be gay, not transsexuals... not that trans women would have periods. Ironically this also counts as Accidentally-Correct Writing, since in real life, trans women will sometimes carry pads or tampons in case a cisgender friend asks for one (or to maintain appearances if they don't want to be outed).
  • In & Out: Parodied. After the not-wedding, once Howard's come out, his father asks if he's going to "have an operation" (i.e. a sex reassignment), to which Howard replies, "Excuse me?"
  • Assassination Nation: Bex, one of the core four girls, is a trans girl. Early in the film, she has sex with Diamond, a cisgender guy. When riots start breaking out in the town, Johnny forces Diamond to help him hunt down Bex under the premise that Bex is really a gay boy, and Johnny will expose Diamond as gay if he doesn't go along - to the extent that when they find Bex, Johnny forces Diamond to put a noose around her neck to hang her. Diamond can't bring himself to do it - so Johnny attacks him, ties him up, and does it himself with the other boys help. Fortunately, before they can complete the hanging, newly-armed Lily, Em, and Sarah rescue Bex and take out the hanging party.
  • The Miseducation of Cameron Post: The teachers from the gay conversion camp God's Promise believe that the teens are "gender confused". Adam, on the other hand, is a Lakota two-spirit, which they conflate with being gay on the same basis (two-spirit is an indigenous umbrella term which can mean different things).
  • In The Danish Girl, Einar Wegener's attraction to his wife diminishes the more he struggles with his alternate identity as Lili Elbe, eventually vanishing completely as he fully transitions.
  • 3 Generations: Ray is a straight trans boy, so his grandmother Dolly wonders aloud why he can't be a lesbian like her, much to her daughter Maggie's annoyance.
  • They/Them (2022): Cora claims Jordan is really not nonbinary, just a confused lesbian.

  • There's a point in The World According to Garp where trans woman Roberta is harshly criticized by some feminist women for wanting to have a sex-change operation. They insist she not have the surgery and just "be gay". This reflects some real views of radical feminists then common at the time (and to some extent still around).
  • In Eclipse, the Quileute shapeshifters' discomfort with opposite genders sharing sexual attraction through their telepathy is characterized as gender confusion.
  • In The Last Continent, the parody of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert gets conflated with the Ecksian version of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
  • In Tamora Pierce's Beka Cooper, Nestor is gay, but his lover is very explicitly female-identified.
  • Defied by Melecio aka Mimi from Eva Luna, who openly states she's a trans woman and NOT a gay dude. As she goes through reassignment therapy, she keeps defying the trope as she specifically searches for male love interests, settling down with Da Editor by the end.
    "I'm not a man. I'm a woman. I'm not gay either. This body was a mistake!"
  • Defied in Parrotfish: Grady (originally Angela) originally came out as a lesbian, but later realized that he identified as male, and decided to change his name and dress to reflect a male. In-Universe, some people still believed that he was a lesbian.
  • A lot of people in-universe think J from I Am J is a Butch Lesbian, even his best friend (and crush) Melissa. He's gotten bullied for years due to it. J hates being seen as a gay woman and finds it annoying.
  • Played with in Silence of the Lambs. Buffalo Bill was in at least one homosexual relationship prior to his attempts at gender reassignment, but rather than it perpetuating the stereotype of sex changes being an extreme expression of homosexuality it is explicitly said to be the opposite: Buffalo Bill is not gay or transgender. He hates himself and both lifestyles were an attempt to change into something he doesn't hate.
  • I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream: Benny is described as a gay man involuntarily transformed ironically into a straight ape-like creature with large genitals. The narrator emphasizes the large genitals like that's part of the ironic torture element, implying a misunderstanding where the author thinks being gay means not wanting male genitalia. Although considering the narrator blames all of his problems on all the others in his group- specifically the sole female character- it's possible it's an example of Unreliable Narrator; it's unlikely Ted would be informed of such matters anyway. Interestingly enough, Ted views Benny in a more sympathetic light than any of the other characters, and in the ending euthanizes him first.
  • In an Older Than Feudalism example from Dialogues of the Courtesans by Lucian of Samosata (the same author of True History), we have the lesbian courtesan Megilla of Lesbos: according to the narrator Leaena (another courtesan she makes love to), she hides a shaved head under a wig, calls herself a male (using the masculine name "Megillos" and scolding Leaena for calling her Megilla) and refers to her fellow lesbian lover Demonassa as "her wife". She also implies that she lacks male genitals but that she has the tastes and desires of a man and denies being a hermaphrodite or a transvestite. The fact that she specifically seems to adopt a male personality may be either this or an exaggeration of how lesbians were seen at the time in Ancient Rome and didn't go unnoticed by scholars. It also has been speculated as the author simply not understanding what a trans man was, conflating the idea with a lesbian (possibly the character is based on an actual person or people).
  • Another Older Than Feudalism roman example: Apuleios' Golden Ass has the hero (who has been turned into a donkey) bought as a beast of burden by a group of wandering priests of the pagan goddess Syria. Said priests are described as extremely effeminate to the point of referring to each other in feminine terms, performing their ritual ceremonies wearing makeup and dresses and the description of their sexual habits, emphasizing those that play the passive role. Again, this could be a Take That! at the cult of Syria, an oriental religion seen as decadent by the Romans. It's also possible they are based on the eunuch priests of Attis who have been a subject debate about whether in modern terms they'd be gay men or trans women (opinion usually favors the latter, given the castration and their apparently using feminine pronouns exclusively).
  • This is a part of the Values Dissonance in The Well of Loneliness. The protagonist Stephen was raised boyish (and given a Gender-Blender Name) due to her parents wanting a son. Stephen is a Butch Lesbian but there are multiple references to her having the "mind of a man". This is due to an old theory called "gender inversion" which stated that gay people are mentally the opposite gender.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Jerry Springer Show, and other daytime talk shows from the '90s and 2000s, were notorious for perpetuating this trope. Transgender women and their cisgender male lovers (or alleged lovers) would always be treated as gay men even though neither would count as such. And the few times transgender men were featured, they were almost always seen as lesbians who decided to take things one step further.
  • Tobias in Arrested Development gets a few gags that play to this idea.
  • Examples from the Law & Order franchise:
    • In one Law & Order episode, a gay boy was killing women for their body parts so that he could build a female body for his boyfriend.
    • The Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Transitions" featured Hailey, a young MtF teen. Hailey's mother is very supportive and understanding (e.g., wanting to put her on hormone blockers to minimize the effects of puberty and aid her transition). But when Hailey reveals that she had been out after curfew with a boy, she asks "Hailey, are you gay?" Noting that her mother still doesn't understand, Hailey replies "I'm a girl, I'm supposed to be with boys."
  • Modern Family does this a lot when mentioning Mitchell's childhood.
  • On Soap Jodie was one of the first (if not the first) explicitly gay characters on American TV. When we first saw him he was wearing a dress and wig and talked with his mother about having used the toy shaving kit she gave him when he was little to shave his legs. Naturally, he wanted to get a sex change so he could be with his boyfriend, a closeted pro football quarterback. When he was about to go under the knife his boyfriend broke up with him. After that his being gay was something of an Informed Attribute; he had more girlfriends during the show than a lot of straight guys do.
  • Glee: Played with by Kurt Hummel. He has described himself as an "honorary girl" and tries to join the girls' group whenever there's a boys vs. girls competition, but gets offended when other people draw attention to his feminine tendencies, call him "Lady" and when they tried to cast him as Frank in Rocky Horror (the transvestite character that wears heels and fishnets) and when Sue tried to convince him to pretend to be transgender and dress in drag for a competition. He genuinely likes spending time with the girls because of shared interests like fashion and music and because none of the guys ever tried to get to know him, but he's never left any doubt that he firmly identifies as male. It's made clear he's just gay when Unique (birth name Wade) who IS trans says to him "[He] identif[ies] as a man."
  • In Friends, Chandler's father is supposed to be a gay drag queen but he's played like a trans woman. (Being played by Kathleen Turner further complicates things.) He stars in a show called "Viva Las Gaygas." Drag queens who perform professionally are very, very good, and some have had plastic surgery on their faces, and get waxed. Chandler's mother specifically notes that his father still has a penis, so he hasn't had reassignment surgery. It's true that professional drag performers don't usually dress as women in their personal lives, but it's possible to interpret dressing as a woman at Chandler's wedding as a snipe at his mother. As for dressing as Hollywood starlets in front of his friends, it's hard to fathom why he would want to embarrass his son, but he probably had some reason other than being emotionally abusive, but the treatment justifies Chandler's refusal to talk to him later in his life, without making Chandler seem homophobic.
  • Degrassi: The Next Generation explored this with the Fiona/Adam relationship. Fiona wasn't yet ready to admit her attraction to females to herself and saw Adam as a "best-of-both-worlds" boyfriend with a girl's body. Adam was unwilling to accept this.
  • In Three's Company, Mr. Roper frequently refers to Jack, who he thinks is gay, as a woman.
  • In The Big Bang Theory, there are a lot of jokes about Camp Straight Raj acting gay. One such joke starts off with Raj complaining about not having a girlfriend. Howard quips that he should eat a lot of pie and get his own breasts to play with. Raj responds with "Don't be cruel! It would go straight to my hips!" This is a case of the writers wanting to make him sound gay but actually making him sound trans. Gay men don't actually want breasts.
    • There's a similar joke where Raj asks Howard what celebrity he most resembles. Howard names a female celebrity, and Raj rejects it... because he couldn't possibly look as good as her.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: The episode "The Outcast," aired in 1992, uses gender identity as a metaphor for homosexuality and ends up conflating the two issues (much more visibly through modern eyes now that trans issues are more well-known). A person from an aggressively androgynous species reveals that she secretly identifies as female and falls in love with Riker. Her and Riker's situation is intended as a Persecution Flip, in traditional science fiction fashion. However, she is specifically persecuted for identifying as female, and her relationship with a male is taken as evidence that she identifies this way; her dialogue also implies that all gendered members of her species are similarly heterosexual.
    • The whole concept of the Trills is supposed to allude to homosexuality when someone becomes attracted to the Trill in one body and also know it in the body of a different gender, but it seems more relevant to trans issues.
  • Averted in Sense8 with the character Nomi, who is a trans woman but only identifies as a lesbian after transitioning. It's notable that she's played by an actual transgender actor.
  • In It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Mac has slept with Carmen, a pre-op (at the time) trans woman who is later married to a cis male name Nick. Mac accuses Nick of being gay for marrying Carmen but Nick pointed out not only did he meet and sleep with Carmen after she was done with her surgery and personally doesn't identify as gay, but that Mac would be considered the gay one with his logic since he slept with her before she removed her penis.
  • Scream Queens (2015): Boone is ostensibly a gay frat boy who asks to join the sorority KKT as a gay man. Chanel #3 and Chanel #5 reject him at once for being a man, but Chanel is interested in accepting him as a means to look attractive to future gay bosses for being the first sorority president to accept a gay man. The whole way they deal with it suggests confusion between the concept of being gay vs. trans. This may be in-universe confusion only, as many of the characters are portrayed as idiots for the sake of humor, especially Chanel. Also, Boone is a straight guy pretending to be gay, so it's reasonable for him to not understand what it means to be gay.
  • When We Rise: Discussed. One homeless youth notes that she is a woman, not a gay man, having clearly dealt with this issue.
  • Nip/Tuck: The backstory for Ava Moore is that she was a homosexual socialite who fell in love with the pioneering sex reassignment surgeon Dr. Barret Moore, but he was strictly heterosexual. He eventually agreed to her romantic advances on the condition that she would become a woman, but even after the surgery he was never truly able to see her as one.
  • Kim's Convenience: In order to defy accusations of being homophobic, Mr. Kim decides to give a "gay discount" to (who he thinks are) gay customers at his convenience store during Gay Pride Week. When a Drag Queen comes to his store, he assumes he's a trans woman and offers the gay discount to him. Even after the customer explains he's a drag queen, he's still offered the discount which he reluctantly accepts.
  • Deliberately invoked in one episode of M*A*S*H, where Dr. Sidney Freedman is forced to examine Klinger to determine if his transvestism rises to the level of a Section 8 discharge. Annoyed that Klinger is abusing a system intended for soldiers with genuine mental illness, Freedman offers to recommend him for a Section 8 as a homosexual. Realizing how that might affect his civilian life, Klinger decides to drop the matter.
  • Proven Innocent: Cindy mentions she and Vanessa had both been viewed as gay men by the cops along with many other people, not as trans women.
  • Euphoria: The men whom Jules has been with all make a point of insisting they're completely straight because they appear to fear this trope is true.
  • Pose: Blanca's family doesn't grasp that she is transgender and treat her as if she is a gay man. Consequently, she is very much estranged from them.
  • Control Z: After Isabela is outed as transgender, her boyfriend's friends ask whether this means that he's gay.
  • Just Shoot Me!: Dennis is surprised that his trans friend Brandi's attracted to a woman they were in high school with, asserting (with some unfortunate language) that the reason she transitioned was "you're into guys now". Brandi doesn't correct him about a gender transition being to confirm her identity, not sexual orientation (and of course you can like both too).
  • Wire in the Blood: Angelica Bain, the killer in "The Mermaids Singing", is a pre-op trans woman who is "revealed" to be a gay man who wishes to change genders to have a "straight" relationship. In that time, she'll torture and kill anyone she's attracted to.
  • First Day: In season two, Hannah is asked if due to being trans she's gay as well. She points out they're not the same thing.
  • In the The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air episode "Guess Who's Coming To Marry", Vivian and one of her sisters discuss how an uncle of theirs came out of the closet—"He came out wearing my purple suit!", as though cross-dressing and homosexuality go hand in hand, when there are plenty of straight cross-dressers and plenty of gay men who have no interest in wearing women's clothes.
  • Equal: The confusion of being transgender with gay is discussed in Transgender Pioneers, which trans people interviewed refute, explaining the difference.
  • Comes up in Twin Peaks with Denise Bryson, who has just recently begun living as a woman. When Denise asks Cooper a question about Audrey Horne, Cooper remarks, "Denise, I would assume you're no longer interested in girls." Denise's reply indicates that she is still interested in girls.
  • Deputy: The LA County Jail has a ward just for LGBT+ inmates. It's described being for the gay inmates, although some are clearly trans women, like Daisy. Of course, the deputies probably aren't very concerned with specific terminology. In any case, they treat them well.

    Tabletop Games 
  • An odd example in Mutants & Masterminds: Johnny Rocket is the most prominent gay character in the Freedom City setting. Zhanni Windracer, his counterpart in the Sword and Sorcery setting of Freedom's Reach is "an ifrit conjured in a form neither male nor female". Most Freedom's Reach versions of Freedom City characters are simply "like that character, only in a sword and sorcery world"; Zhanni is the only nonhuman counterpart of a human character, apparently just to justify the "neither male nor female" thing.

  • Molina in the (non-musical) stage version of Kiss of the Spider Woman constantly references being the wrong sex, but the distinction between homosexual and transgender is never addressed.
  • In the theatrical adaptation of Kinky Boots, Don thinks that Lola/Simon is gay but is corrected by him, and it's shown that all but one of the women in the factory find Lola more attractive than Don.

    Video Games 
  • It's kind of unclear if Thomas in Deadly Premonition is gay, trans, or just insane and not really acting any sexual attraction or gender identity. Though being counted among the "Goddesses" in the end lends support to the second.
  • J.J Macfield in The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories by the same developer as Deadly Premonition above, has the revelation that the main character was assigned male but identifies as a woman. And she fell in love with a girl. The game deliberately plays with this early on as we're led to believe JJ's angst is because of her sexuality before learning later it's actually because of her gender identity, and being outed as trans at her college led her to attempt suicide.

    Visual Novels 
  • Although the anime version of Steins;Gate's Urushibara Luka/Ruka is heavily coded as transfeminine, the visual novel version leans toward them being a very effeminate gay man. Both versions are in love with the main male character, Okabe Rintarou, but while the anime version says (in the English dub) that she always felt like she should have been born a woman, the visual novel one feels like the only way he could be with Okabe is to become a woman, as he feels it would otherwise be taboo, but otherwise fully identifies as male.

  • El Goonish Shive: The author indicated in a non-canon piece that gay male character Justin would love being a girl so he could pick up guys. After receiving complaints, the author corrected this assumption in a follow-up piece and kept it from entering the comic's canon. Later on in the canon story Justin addresses the fact that he doesn't actually want to be a woman, even though it would give him a chance with Elliot.
  • Exploited Trope: Steve/Cherry from Footloose, a straight full-time (but male-identified) transvestite on the Magical Girl squad, is assumed to be gay by almost everyone from the start, and even plays along so he can watch the others dress.
  • My Husband Was Actually a Woman: The book reveals that Wafuko was briefly Mistaken for Gay when she hadn't come out as a trans woman yet.
  • Played with in A Softer World, comic 389: No, I don't want to be a woman. What a stupid, misguided idea of homosexuality! I want you to be the woman. (I'll be the headmaster.)
  • Trans Girl Diaries uses this in-universe as invoked by various transphobic characters.
  • In Skin Horse, Tip is about as strong an aversion as you can get, being portrayed as a highly successful lady's man despite never wearing men's clothes. He later proves to be bi, but that's treated as an entirely separate thing.
  • Denver tries to invoke this in Exiern when former macho barbarian Tiffany finally reveals that she was gay before her Gender Bender but Tiffany's Death Glare makes it plain she's having none of it.
    Denver: "Well, at least now that you're a woman, that sorts out your other issues...right?"
    Tiffany: "You think it's that simple, do you?"
  • Override in Insecticomics claims that she's "a man trapped in a woman's body, but nobody can tell because I'm gay" as a joke. The comic has multiple transgender and gay characters, and (since they're robots) anyone who actually wants to can easily change from female to male or male to female, so nobody takes her seriously.
  • Shay from Between the Lines (2006) came out to her parents as gay and they were okay with having a Camp Gay son, just not with Shay dressing in such an androgynous and promiscuous looking gothic fashion at her age. When Shay talks to her older sister she realizes she would prefer to live as a girl. However, Shay's parents are less than positive about it, though her mom lets her on hormone blockers and later estrogen.
  • Welcome to Room #305:
    • Referenced when a few homophobic men are discussing gay men. One says "Wait, don't gays put on makeup? Isn't that the same thing as being gay?" and another says "They're all the same whether they're crossdressers, gays, or transsexuals". The Politically Incorrect Hero himself thinks his gay roommate crossdresses when he goes into his room and notes it doesn't fit any Camp Gay stereotypes (though Hom is still somewhat flamboyant).
    • Later when a transgender character is introduced this trope gets discussed in more depth.
  • Averted in Arthur, King of Time and Space where modern and space Bedivere is trans and gay. (That is, a trans man in a relationship with another man.)
  • In I Want To Be A Cute Anime Girl Cheryl appears to suggest this as an argument against Zack saying she's probably not trans, because she is interested in girls, to which Zack retorts that it's possible to be a girl and like other girls, as exemplified by his older sister Stella.
  • Deconstructed to hell and back with Rudy from Rain (2010). Rudy at first assumes Rain, the Transgender main protagonist, is simply a gay guy and Wholesome Crossdresser, and becomes romantically interested in her as a result, which Rain goes along with because dating a guy is something a girl in high school such as herself should be doing. The whole school's reaction, rather than suspecting Rain of secretly being male for dating the gay Rudy, is to congratulate her for "curing" him. Then, however, it turns out that Rain is gay in the other directionnote  which leads to her breaking things off with Rudy, who has to accept that she really is a girl. Rudy himself then ends up on the receiving end of this, having embraced his own Wholesome Crossdresser tendencies over the course of the story, which leads to his sister Maria having to ask if he's a trans girl too (he's not).

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Zigzagged on Family Guy when Quagmire reveals to Peter and Lois that his father is a trans woman. The two laugh hysterically that his father's gay while discussing this trope (though this was most likely a moment to demonstrate Peter and Lois' Jerkass tendencies). The episode plays this trope both straight and inverted, as Quagmire argues that his new mother is actually a woman, therefore, she cannot be gay for being attracted to men.
  • Possible aversion: in Superjail!, Alice is a trans woman. In her Backstory, it's revealed that it was her love for her old warden that led her to realize that she was transgender (explained as "finding her true self"). However, she found out that the warden was gay, and he fired her for becoming "a freak" (after she walked in on him with his male lover). Despite this, she doesn't regret being a woman, and her transition is treated as separate from her love of men. She later winds up sleeping with the Mistress, and remarks that she forgot how needy women can be.
  • Played with in South Park a couple of times:
    • When Mr. Garrison went through a period of identifying as transgender, it would seem like this trope was played straight, except her partner Mr. Slave broke up with her because he was strictly gay and no longer had any sexual interest in the now Mrs. Garrison.
    • This trope is explored and defied in The Cissy. Cartman pretends he's a trans girl for the sake of using the girls' bathroom (because it's nicer), and explains to Principal Victoria that him being trans has nothing to do with what sex he's attracted to. Although, when Wendy reveals that she is now Wendell (mostly to prove a point to Cartman), Cartman calls Stan a girl on the grounds that if Wendell is still attracted to Stan, that makes Stan a girl. This, however, was quite clearly just Cartman being an ass.
  • Used in-universe in an episode of The Venture Bros.. Sheltered teen Hank believes the gay man Al to be transgender — in unusual inverse of stereotypes, he speaks as if Al is a transgender man. Al corrects Hank by telling him that although he is gay, he still has a normal "dingus."
    Jefferson Twilight: Hank, aren't you just a little ashamed of your ignorance?
    Al: Like, just a little?
    Hank: Yeah, constantly!
  • The Critic: In the Sherman Ad Agency commercial to appeal to gay Generation Xers, a character supposed to be a gay male is shown with large feminine breasts.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the episode "We're on the Road to Doh'Where", Marge "Ma Peddle" Simpson is illegally selling the contents of her medicine cabinet. Smithers, who is generally portrayed as a gay man, buys up all her estrogen tablets, explaining "They're for a friend ... who's trapped in the body of another friend."
    • In "Eeny Teeny Maya, Moe", Dr. Nick mixes up Moe's surgery (he wants to become a little person for his Girl of the Week) with Mr. Largo, Lisa’s music teacher, who wanted to look like "a beautiful woman" (Julie Newmar, specifically). Largo is consistently portrayed as gay before and after this episode, with no hints of being transgender.
  • Big Mouth: Matthew assures Jay that trans equals gay and that he should tell everyone that. Purely for his entertainment.
  • Robot Chicken:
    • In a riff on M.A.S.K., Miles Mayhem is a gay man who falls for Matt Trakker and transforms into a woman to seduce him.
    • In a sketch about offensive language, the trans man subject of Boys Don't Cry is indicated to be a lesbian as a teacher protests she isn't using the slur "dyke" but the innocent "dike".
  • Discussed in American Dad! episode "LGBSteve". When Hayley and Steve join a local Roller Derby team, Steve tapes up his junk and poses as Stevie. When Hayley gets fed up with Steve's attitude and exposes Steve's genitals to the rest of the team, they say that they already knew Steve had a penis, but assumed he was a trans girl. Steve protests this by saying that he can't be trans because he likes girls. The leader of the team says "we all like girls". Steve begins wondering if he might actually be transgender since he was so much more comfortable around girls while pretending to be one, though he decides he isn't.