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Trans Tribulations

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"I feel... in-between. I don't feel like a girl or what everyone thinks is a girl, I don't like make-up and stuff like you do, I really, really hate my boobs... but I don't feel like a boy either."
Yael Baron, genderqueer character, Degrassi: Next Class

Transgender (or trans) folk face a lot of challenges in life. While a minority of the world is starting to understand and tolerate people with sexual/romantic leanings towards people of their own gender, many still scratch their heads at someone who doesn't identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. As a result, trans/non-binary characters in fiction tend to be miserable due to dealing with their own gender dysphoria and/or other people's misconceptions.

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Common themes included being forcibly outed, to disastrous consequences, to being referred to as the wrong pronoun (sometimes deliberately), being Mistaken for Gay (though some trans individuals certainly are gay, most people tend to think all trans individuals are confused gay men and lesbians) and more often than not, leads to Self-Harm, dying of suicide or being murdered due to being trans. And on the opposite side of the spectrum, there are people who really like trans women, but sexualize them to the point of dehumanization.

Unfortunately, this is Truth in Television; however starting from the end of the Turn of the Millennium to the The New '10s, there have been slightly better attempts to deliver more uplifting narratives and more fully actualized characters.

See Gayngst for the equivalent of this trope as applied to sexuality rather than gender and Gender Bender Angst for Gender Bender-related dysphoria. Contrast Easy Sex Change, which is short on tribulations.

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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Sara from Ai no Shintairiku is a high schooler who gets outed on her first day at her new school. While generally light-hearted, the manga deals with her in-denial mother, Sara being bullied by girls for being trans, and her crush's confusion over his sexuality.
  • Marika from Bokura no Hentai shows deep displeasure wearing the male school uniform — saying it feels like she's going to a funeral — and stays home in bed crying when her voice begins to break. Luckily she comes out to her mom soon afterward and begins living full-time as a girl. However, even then she feels dysphoria, worries about her womanhood, and suffers some bullying (mostly from behind her back)
  • Claudine...! is about a trans man living in early 20th century France. He faces many trials trying to be seen as male in his society. He is Driven to Suicide when his lover becomes engaged to his brother.
  • The one-shot Cotton Candy Love is about a woman who bonds with an elementary aged trans girl who recently came out and is bullied at school.
  • Chaplin from the Deadman Wonderland manga is a trans woman who was put in jail when she still lived as a man. She was jailed for accidentally murdering her boyfriend when she found him cheating. Though Chaplin is mostly a light-hearted character who is Played for Laughs, however, she does deal with some bullying when she's put in another jail and forced to de-transition.
  • The main cast of Family Compo consists of a cis man, his trans aunt, his trans uncle, and his (most-likely) genderfluid cousin. As a teenager, trans guy Sora faced a lot of trouble with his father because he refused to wear the girl's uniform.
  • Hishida from Genkaku Picasso is almost Driven to Suicide after being caught in the girl's bathroom. The protagonist helps her and afterwards, she begins going to school as a girl.
  • Akari from How I Became a Pokémon Card has always told people that he's male. Not even his Childhood Friend knew he wasn't cis until he began middle school and his mother forced him to wear a skirt, and demanded he act more feminine and use "watashi" instead of "ore". Akari is given a Pikachu for his thirteenth birthday and is angry that he received a "cute" Pokémon instead of a "cool" one. After seeing his Pikachu fight, he learns that the two aren't exclusive.
  • Played with in Hunter × Hunter. Alluka is heavily implied to be a transgender girl. The only member of her family that refers to her as a girl is Killua. The rest of the family ignore her and call her "it". However, this isn't due to her gender. It's due to her Split Personality.
  • Mogumo from Fukakai na Boku no Subete Wo is a non-binary teenager who struggles to live in a world where everyone sees them as either a boy or a girl. Even Mei, a closet trans girl, doesn't initially understand Mogumo. When Mogumo is hired for a Cosplay Café but hits an issue because it's a crossdressing cafe. Mogumo dislikes being seen as a boy, but eventually their co-workers find a compromise.
  • Celebrity stylist Nao from Ice Revolution is already transitioned but it's mentioned that, as a teenager, she was a violent Japanese Delinquent as a way of dealing with her frustration over her sex.
  • Kyou Kara Yonshimai is about a trans woman who returns from college partway through her transition. She has to deal with her sister's discomfort over the transition and her own gender dysphoria.
  • Mikihisa from Level E is a trans guy, who also turns out to be intersex. This gives him no small amount of stress. Ultimately, an alien changes his sex.
  • Seiko from Lovely Complex is usually a light-hearted character however in one manga chapter her voice broke. She was so distraught over her low, manly voice that she ended up outright de-transitioning. She's eventually able to get her old voice back after getting a needle for a cold.
  • Kiyoharu from Mahou Shoujo Site is a trans girl. She is bullied for this, which results in her being contacted by the Mahou Shoujo Site.
  • Minor character Alice from Maria-sama ga Miteru is a trans girl who goes to an all-boys school. She wishes she could have gone to the local all-girls school instead.
  • The third story in the anthology manga Mascara Blues is about a trans girl who wants to come out to her crush. She's worried he'll freak out when he tells her. She is also shown being bullied by her female peers for using the girl's restroom.
  • Used lightly in one of the stories in the yuri anthology manga Mermaid Line. A couple breaks up because the "boyfriend" has decided to transition. After some confusion, the two eventually hook back up. The trans woman has some insecurities and thinks that her girlfriend is cheating on her with a man, however, it turns out to be a misunderstanding.
  • Sazanami Cherry:
    • It's implied that Ren is transgender, not a Wholesome Crossdresser. They're at the cusp of puberty and are distressed over the upcoming changes.
    • Ren's older sister went through a lot of trouble as a teenager when she decided to start living as a girl. Their age difference is so large than Ren didn't even know that their sister was trans.
  • Sket Dance: The new board director's troubled son Yuuki. Yuuki has been bullied at school for being trans and won't speak due to his feminine-sounding voice.
  • This is mostly Played for Laughs in the 1980s manga Stop Hibari Kun. Hibari is heavily implied to be a transgender teenager. Her yakuza father is awestruck that his "only son" lives as a girl.
  • Tokyo Ghoul: It is ambiguous as to whether Mutsuki Tooru fits this or not, due to Ambiguous Gender Identity. He has body dysphoria partly from being made to dress as a girl. He also gets a stalker named Torso who objectifies him, misgenders him as a woman, and assaults him. He has a lot of angst over his gender identity.
  • Wandering Son:
    • Shūichi Nitori is a trans girl. She's always been feminine and could pass as a short-haired girl sometimes, however she didn't really start experimenting with her gender until she met Takatsuki in fifth grade. Early on, Nitori's family found it amusing when she dressed as a girl but eventually they noticed it wasn't a phase. Her sister Maho especially turned into a Big Sister Bully while her mother is confused and in denial. Nitori has to deal with the onset of puberty, puberty itself, and her wanting to be seen as a girl. At one point in middle school, she went to school in a Sailor Fuku and was promptly sent back home. She ended up bullied the rest of her time at the school. Her girlfriend Anna broke up with her due to the incident, but eventually, they got back together and by the end of high school Anna mentions she's fine with being seen as a lesbian. In high school, Nitori has difficulty getting a job because she doesn't like working as a boy. She temporarily worked as a cafe both as a boy and a girl, but later quit and (illegally) got a job working as a waitress at a gay bar. With Yuki's (who owns a gay bar) guidance, Nitori ultimately decides to go to college and become a writer.
    • Yoshino Takatsuki is introduced as a trans boy. They have to deal with everyone wanting them to be more feminine, their own confusion over their gender, and the onset of puberty. By high school, Takatsuki's confusion hits its peak. They ultimately decide to live as female however Word of God is that they can be viewed as either cis or trans.
    • Cool Big Sis Yuki Yoshida is a trans woman. In middle school, bullies forced her to wear the female uniform at school. This incident caused her to quit going to school and become a hikikomori. As a kid, her mother knew she had an interest in women's clothing however she refused to talk about it. Once Yuki came out as an adult, both of her parents became cold towards her.
    • Makoto Ariga is a trans girl who always felt inadequate compared to Nitori. She considers herself a bland, freckle-faced dork with Nerd Glasses. Mako suffers from less physical dysphoria than Nitori, however, unlike Nitori she is attracted to men. Unluckily, every crush is straight and doesn't see her as a girl In high school Mako almost drops out when her crush Oka sees her in girl mode. He didn't even know it was her, however. Mako later comes out to her mother, who is supportive.
    • Ebina is older than even Yuki and works as a Salary Man. She's recently been widowed and has a toddler-aged daughter. She wants to live as a woman but her situation and inability to pass causes her a lot of trouble.
  • Aoi from You're Under Arrest! has one episode where she falls for a man however doesn't know how to tell him that she's a trans woman. It ultimately doesn't work out between them. In another episode, her former boss tries to coax her to act manly, however it bombs in his face as every attempt such accentuates how feminine she is.
  • Tetsuo from Yuureitou is a trans man living in 1950s Japan. Growing up, he felt ostracized from others due to not being like the girls at his orphanage. Once he was adopted, his mother would always get into fights over him about his boyish behavior and explicit desire to be a man. It got to the point where she arranged a marriage for him, despite him not liking boys at the time. Tetsuo ended up killing his mom, faking his suicide, and running off as a man. Tetsuo notes that he can't get a girlfriend because they all get upset when he comes out to them. He eventually ends up the Official Couple with Taichi, who sees him as a man.

    Fan Works 
  • In Bloom Max Caulfield is a trans girl. She experienced a lot of bullying at her school in Seattle. This eases off once she moves back to Arcadia Bay, mostly because almost no one there knows that she's trans, but she still experiences a lot of Internalized Categorism. She's particularly insecure about sex, first being convinced that she would never have a relationship because no one would find her attractive, and even after starting a relationship, she's worried that her lesbian girlfriend will leave her as soon as she has a chance to be with a "real girl".
  • In Little Fires, Emberpaw has the trouble of being transgender in a society where the concept is unknown. Her mother had no idea what to do with her kit and just hoped it was a childish phase, but Emberpaw never outgrew wanting to be seen as a molly.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Ma Vie En Rose, a 7-year-old trans girl with a crush on a boy is misunderstood at every turn, tries to butch it up, fails, feels miserable, and attempts suicide. She gets better though.
  • In Normal (2003), Ruth transitions after 25 years of marriage. Few in her small-town understand or accept the transition. Her family has an especially troubling time with it, but Ruth's wife Irma decides that she loves her too much to divorce.
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    Literature 

    Live-Action TV 
  • Season 6 of 3-Nen B-Gumi Kinpachi-sensei had a New Transfer Student named Nao who was a closeted trans boy. He was an aloof, distant boy who wore a longer skirt than needed because he could handle them better than short skirts. His parents have mixed views on him being trans. Nao eventually sees a therapist but is disappointed that he can't begin hormones for several more years.
  • Degrassi:
    • Adam is introduced in Season 10 as a trans boy. During his first season, he gets misgendered several times, assaulted, and briefly returned back his assigned gender and burns himself in order to keep the pain inside. He gets much better but then in his final season, he's killed while texting and driving.
    • Yael is introduced in Degrassi: Next Class, as a nerdy Go-Getter Girl whose Berserk Button was being dismissed due to their perceived gender. During season 4, they start to dress differently and lamenting about their body which confused them as they were attracted to their cis-gender male boyfriend which led to people thinking they were gay. Eventually, with a friend's help, they realized they were genderqueer and while they embraced their new identity, it leads to a break-up with Hunter.
  • Orange Is the New Black: Sophia Burset is a transgender woman of color who is denied healthcare, objectified by a sleazy guard who tries to blackmail her into sleeping with him by threatening to withhold her hormones; she is also separated from her family, beaten by her fellow inmates who also threaten to out her and call her transphobic slurs, and transferred to solitary confinement where she attempts suicide.
  • Trans lesbian Nomi from Sense8 is in a very happy relationship and surrounds herself with the accepting San Francisco LGBT community, and she doesn't have any internalized trans- or homophobia (anymore — she explains to Lito that she did try very hard to be "normal" as a child / young teenager, until an incident of brutally violent bullying from the boys at her swim club made her give up trying to be like them). But her estranged mother completely refuses to accept her as a woman, she has a very scary run-in with the medical establishment not treating her like a sane adult able to make her own decisions, and the trans-excluding radical feminist 'friends' of her girlfriend got pretty nasty towards her during a flashback scene.
  • Transparent has the main character Maura, as well as a few other trans characters that have dealt with this trope, particularly Maura who doesn't come out well into her 60s.
  • Pose. The trans characters face challenges relating to being trans in inverse relation with their ability to "pass" as genetically female. Somewhat subverted by Elektra who loses her "sugar daddy" after completing her gender confirmation surgery. Also averted by the fact that none of the trans characters were subjected to sexual or other violence.
  • Proven Innocent: "The Struggle for Stonewall" showcases the many travails trans people face, from discrimination to assaults or being rejected even by fellow members of the LGBT community.
  • Euphoria: Jules is the kindest, sweetest character on the entire show, but because she's a trans girl, she has to deal with crappy paramours and a creep who's blackmailing her.
  • When They See Us: Marci's, Korey's older sister, suffers being thrown out by their mother (who denounces her, along with a lot of other people apparently). Korey is the only one we see who accepts her identity. She's later murdered while Korey's imprisoned and though we don't see the circumstances that's possibly because of her identity too. Only after this does their mother refer to her as "Marci".

    Video Games 
  • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door: In the Japanese version, Vivian gets bullied by her sisters for being transgender. The English version excludes references to her being trans and has her sisters mock her appearance instead.
  • Andy Kang in It Lives In The Woods is excluded on his basketball team and told he's there to look good in photos as a PR move, not to actually play. One of his childhood friends, Lucas, accidentally misgenders him early in the book, and despite Lucas' apologies, Andy's reaction implies that it happens often. An exclusive scene reveals that when he first cut his hair short, "that morning at school was hell. The kids called [him] names, and the grown-ups kept giving [him] dirty looks."
  • The Missing: J.J Macfield and the Island of Memories reveals halfway through the game that J.J is in the afterlife. Unlocking text messages on her phone reveal that a character being trans caused this. Specifically, J.J herself, who's there because she attempted suicide after being outed and bullied.

    Webcomics 
  • Khaos Komix:
    • Tom is a trans man who afraid of letting Murfs know, much less sleeping with him, for fear of being seen as a woman.
    • Charlie is a trans woman. She and Tom met as high schoolers. They ended up moving away after being beaten up by bullies. Charlie is afraid to tell her boyfriend that she's trans because he's homophobic.
  • Rain is a Slice of Life dramedy all about the eponymous protagonist's transition from male to female. Rain is a very neurotic trans girl, always afraid someone will discover her secret or that she'll accidentally out herself. As the story progresses she gets a circle of Secret Keeper friends and she becomes more confident, but there still are difficulties. Her older brother Aiken was a huge dick when she came out to him, but he quickly made up for it by researching the subject, realizing she was happy that way and apologizing. A much nastier event was Rain's older sister being even more transphobic than Aiken ever was when confronted with the news, and cutting Rain's hair in her sleep when she spent a weekend at her place, in an attempt to "fix" her. Rain didn't take it kindly and disowned her.
  • The Princess is a comedy webcomic about an elementary aged trans girl who decides to start dressing up as a princess against her mother's wishes.
  • Venus Envy is about a transgender teenage girl in the 2000s going through high school. She has her ups and downs, such as when her female date freaked out when she learned she was trans. She later meets a trans boy at her school who is transitioning behind his family's back. Their daily hassles with their love lives, families, physical changes and psychological strains are depicted rather realistically.
  • Pandora's Tale: Pandora is a trans girl - a problem, as she is also a Helper, a slave bred to serve the rich. The organization responsible for her training sees her gender identity as a flaw to be eradicated, and she flees her training facility to avoid the personality rewrite she learns is planned for her.

    Web Original 
  • Out With Dad: Morgan, a transgender member at the PFLAG meetings, recounts having been beaten and raped by some men in the past due to being trans.

Alternative Title(s): Trangst

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