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Viewer Gender Confusion

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Hey everyone, it's time to play "Guy or Girl?"note 

Snake: [Yoshi] lays eggs and throws them, right? …then it must be female.
Otacon: ...actually, it's a "he". At least, that's what it says.
Snake's Codec conversation on Yoshi, Super Smash Bros. Brawl

You have been watching this series for a while, be it since childhood or since yesterday. You are just in the middle of an exciting scene where Miss Lovecuddles reveals that she was actually behind everything that… wait a minute, Miss? He's not a boy?

Congratulations, you've just become a happy victim of Viewer Gender Confusion!

Sometimes this is because a cheap dub uses badly Cross-Dressing Voices, sometimes because the language you're enjoying your story in doesn't have gender differentiated pronouns, or because they have a name rarely used for that gender, or it was clear from the beginning and you were just holding the Idiot Ball for the day and missed it fabulously.

Compare She's a Man in Japan, where the character's gender actually was changed while adapting. Also compare Bifauxnen, Samus Is a Girl, and Female Monster Surprise, where you are expected to be mistaken at first, and Ambiguous Gender Identity, where the character's sex is (probably) known but their gender isn't. Contrast (or compare?) Dude Looks Like a Lady or Lady Looks Like a Dude when it's other characters who are confused.


See also Ambiguous Gender for characters who have no canonically stated gender, and Viewer Species Confusion for when it happens to an animal or other non-human character. May be solved with the use (or lack) of Tertiary Sexual Characteristics. Can be seen as the viewer-perspective version of Unsettling Gender Reveal. Anything that makes the character's sex obvious may act as a Gender Reveal.

Examples Subpages:



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    Asian Animation 
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf:
    • Many people thought Jonnie is a boy goat, due to her voice and being a tomboy.
    • Willie's Cutesy big eyes and higher voice probably makes him seem more like a female.
    • Little Fairy's gender is still technically unknown, but it looks more like a lady.

  • Nearly any modern portrayal of Mori Ranmaru falls heavily into this if you aren't already aware of the historical figure. Historical artwork of him is a bit better.
  • Recent artwork of Hindu gods or goddesses tends to portray them all as quite androgynous. This is only partly true for historical depictions; while male figures were still drawn or sculpted as lithe, slender, and smooth-skinned, the secondary sexual characteristics of females were… much less ambiguous.
  • Renaissance-era depictions of The Beloved Disciple (John) and sometimes even John the Baptist (!) show beardless pretty boys who could be taken for girls.
  • The Last Supper's depiction of John is often mistaken for a woman due to Leonardo's attempt to convey youth through John's his long hair and lack of a beard. This confusion has lead to wild mass guessing that Leonardo's John is supposed to be a depiction of Mary of Magdala, although this idea leaves Jesus with an Apostle missing from his supper.

    Comic Books 
  • While Siobhan from Anya's Ghost does have a feminine name, it's a very obscure Irish one, and she dresses in a male school uniform, complete with necktie, for the entire story. She isn't even referred to with female pronouns until well past the halfway point of the book.
  • Xarcce Huwla of the X-Wing Series is an alien Tunroth, making her big, muscular, and with a very inhuman face. Since these comics were drawn with minimal concern for Fanservice, even when sparring in tight clothing (Xarcce Huwla wearing red in the picture) her body is easily taken for male, and since she's largely out of focus pronouns only come up a few times. It's much the same with Ibtisam the Mon Calamarian, who looks almost exactly like (male) Admiral Ackbar if you discount her having light blue skin instead of red.
  • In the graphic novel Level Up, one of the angels (the one with orange hair) appears to be a girl, but when she reveals her true form as a Pac-Man ghost and Dennis eats her, she is referred to with male pronouns. However, he/she may have No Biological Sex due to being not a human ghost, but an Anthropomorphic Personification of a broken promise Dennis's father made to his dad.

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Swift Heart in The Care Bears: Adventure in Wonderland is revealed to be a girl.
  • Winnie-the-Pooh: Rabbit and Piglet (both male) are often mistaken to be female by those not familiar with the franchise. Even those who are big fans often think that way despite knowing better.
    • Rabbit's voice sounds like it could be a high-pitched man or a low-pitched woman (all of his voice actors have been male), he's Ambiguously Gay (wears a pink bathrobe, curlers, frilly aprons and can ballet dance) and is Super OCD.
    • Piglet also has a high-pitched voice wears a pink swimsuit-like outfit and has a shy and submissive personality. His American voice actors have all been male, but some of his foreign ones were female.
      • The original voice actor for Piglet was John Fiedler (possibly best known as Mr. Peterson, the older, balding, patient on The Bob Newhart Show), who did have a rather breathy and high-pitched voice. Subsequent American voice actors have mostly tried to imitate Fiedler's voice (Fiedler himself died in 2005).
  • The Brave Little Toaster:
    • One of the strangest examples is the title character. In the book, not only is the toaster explicitly without gender, but this is something of a plot point when the group encounters a mated pair of squirrels that cannot conceive of a genderless being (the toaster ultimately convinces both of them separately that it is the same gender as they —male for the male and female for the female —but really it's just to spare their feelings). For the film, however, fans are pretty evenly split between "the Toaster is male" and "the Toaster is female". A few lines of dialogue suggest explicitly that Toaster is male: firstly, Lampy says that "He sank" in the waterfall scene; secondly, Radio refers to Toaster and Blanky as "you boys" at the beginning of the journey; and thirdly, some of the song lyrics refer to the five characters as "the new boys in town." In addition, promotion material and trailers (such as this one) refer to the Toaster as male. Nevertheless, Toaster's personality is fairly gender-neutral, and thanks to Cross-Dressing Voices, the fact that Toaster's voiced by a woman is no help. And we're still talking about a machine. Ultimately, the toaster can be viewed as a gender-neutral character by those who want to. The voice acting, actions, attitudes, fears, thoughts, and character development do not suggest any particular gender, but don't suggest It's Pat-style androgyny or a robot either. The Slippy Toad demeanor and voiceover begs the question, but the only reason you'd consider the toaster's gender is if you think about it years after watching, or if someone else brings up the question.
    • Blanky is just as bad. The fact that he/she/it is The Chick in the Toaster's Five-Man Band doesn't help.
  • Bambi:
    • Who really can be mistaken for female is Flower, the skunk. When he is a child, his voice and speech patterns sound nothing like a male, he acts shy and bashful, is very fluffy, and spends much of his time smelling flowers. A couple years after his introduction, when Bambi meets him again, his voice has deepened and he gets an only slightly more effeminate girlfriend. There is the picture book of the Disney movie that actually called Flower a female, and made "her" a mother!
    • Bambi himself is also a subject to this when he's a child. As an adult he's quite obviously male, though. Bambi II did hang a lampshade on this when a young Ronno called Bambi "Princess" as an insult.
  • The leader of the Blue Meanies from Yellow Submarine.
  • The makers of Monsters VS Aliens themselves seem to be confused over the gender of Insectosaurus. A behind-the-scenes book labels the creature as a "she" while, within the canon of the actual film, the monster is a "he". However, given that he/she is the only monster that can't speak, the latter could be a case of Your Tomcat Is Pregnant, as the Tertiary Sexual Characteristics that cause the confusion are only revealed when he/she metamorphs into a butterfly at the end of the film.
  • The twin dolls 3 and 4 in 9 look completely identical (save for their stamped-on numbers), act alike, and never speak, making it completely ambiguous as to what gender either of them is. This is compounded by the fact that, as living ragdolls, they don't have any external characteristics indicative of sex. The creator has urged fans to come up with their own theories regarding the two.
  • In the Chinese animated film Nezha Conquers the Dragon King (1979), the title character is a little boy but he looks and acts more like a little girl—the hair style, clothing, and voice don't help either.
  • The starfish, Peach, in Finding Nemo. Its voice actor is a woman, but her voice is just masculine enough to make it sound like a guy. Conceivably intentional, as some varieties of starfish are hermaphroditic.
  • Tarzan:
  • A large number of viewers of trailers for Kung Fu Panda, who were unaware of just whom Angelina Jolie had been cast as, were in for a shock when they finally saw the film and Master Tigress spoke for the first time. In everyone's defense, not only did the lack of Tertiary Sexual Characteristics make it very hard to tell her gender, even her voice actress originally assumed, when the casting call was made public, that Jackie Chan would be playing the tiger. This confusion only added to the Stupid Sexy Flanders associated with the character (although for some viewers it didn't lessen the appeal).
  • Not many people would have thought Kazuma from Summer Wars was a guy, given both his hair-style, Cross-Dressing Voice and Vague Age, which all fits somewhat perfectly for a Gamer Chick stereotype. His online avatar is even a rabbit (however, this rabbit is a badass).
  • Two of the background race cars from Cars: According to their toy bios, the pink race car sponsoring Tank Coat is actually male, and the blue race car sponsoring RevNGo is actually female.
  • Laverne, one of Quasimodo's gargoyle friends in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, is apparently female (as far as stone can have a gender).
  • Remember the alligator from All Dogs Go to Heaven? You always thought it was a female, right? WRONG. He's male. It doesn't help that he's never mentioned by name in the film (only in tie-in materials). Otherwise, the fact that his name is King Gator would be a huge hint to his gender. His singing voice is also very masculine, but could be heard as a deep female voice too.
  • Rolly from 101 Dalmatians. In the animated series and his cameo in House of Mouse, he's been given a blue collar. Only female puppies wear blue, the boys all wear red. Oddly he's the only male to be given a blue collar and he's still clearly referred to as male.
  • Doris from the Shrek is actually female. For those of you who did already know that, it is pretty easy to mistake her for being male, and many old articles refer to her as 'he'.
  • The Incredibles has Edna Mode, or "E", who first-time viewers sometimes mistake for a guy. This can mostly be attributed to her not having the traditional Tertiary Sexual Characteristics, or a noticeable figure; not to mention being voiced by the film's director, Brad Bird, for extra androgynous points.
  • Cupcake from Rise of the Guardians. She wears pink clothes and a skirt, and is obsessed with horses and unicorns, but looks more like a boy than a girl, and can easily be mistaken for one.
  • Wreck-It Ralph:
    • Rancis Fluggerbutter. He's one of the few boys among the Sugar Rush racers, his hair is long enough to be mistaken for a girl's pixie cut, and his name is based off of the name Francis, which is a boy's name, but which sounds identical to the name Frances, which is a girl's name.
    • Swizzle Malarkey is also, surprisingly, a guy. He has long hair and there are more female Sugar Rush racers than there are male, so some fans have gotten confused.
  • How to Train Your Dragon accidentally gave male Toothless the dragon some feminine symbolism. He regurgitates some food for the main character Hiccup like a mother bird. In a scene where he looks at a bird's nest, the intention was to show how Toothless wanted to fly, but the camera lingered on the eggs for a bit too long, so it seemed like Toothless wanted to get back to his own eggs rather than wanting to fly. The way he holds onto Hiccup at the climax of the film resembles a mother and her newborn child. To be fair, in many bird species, males participate in taking care of the young just as much, if not more, than females (and in some species, "sex role reversal" appears and males take over parental care entirely from females). This could as well be the case for Night Fury dragons.
  • The baby Lady's owners have in Lady and the Tramp always wears pink and has a very pink room with bows on their crib. He is however a boy and it wasn't uncommon in The Gay '90s for boys to wear pink. The sequel film, which was created in the 2000s, altered his design so that he wears blue instead of pink.
  • Mei from Arashi no Yoru ni is an exceedingly adorable little goat who sometimes wears a pink handkerchier. He is paired with the much larger Gabu, who is a scruffy looking wolf. The entire film has them running away together to escape their clans judgement on their friendship. It's not uncommon for people to mistake him for a girl, especially since it's common to see the film as a romance, though Mei has an unmistakably adult male voice. Mei was in fact gender neutral in the original books, which caused a lot of fans to assume he was a girl until the movie adaptation. In contrast the All-CGI Cartoon has him as a female goat.
  • Legolas from the 1978 The Lord of the Rings film. And how!
  • Cri-kee from Mulan is officially male, but has no Tertiary Sexual Characteristics and a gender neutral name, and on top of that, does not speak.
  • The protagonist Tykvenok of the 1984 Soyuzmultfilm short cartoon And what can you do? (а что ты умеешь?) is a pumpkin with visible eyelashes, a flower on his head ( Later lost it after he grew up to save his friends, but was given more flowers on his head at the end), and was voiced by veteran voice actress Clara Rumyanova (she provides any number of other cases throughout her career), yet he is always referred to as male. Actually, the Russian word for "pumpkin" is female, but creating female forms for the young is a bit problematic.
  • Littlefoot from The Land Before Time could easily be mistaken for a female due his somewhat feminine appearance and voice, soft spoken and polite personality, and eyelashes even though he's usually voiced by a boy. Ostinably made a bit better with the introduction of Ali in the fourth film, who was explicitly colored pink to basically say "I'm female".
  • In the 1972 animated adaptation of Pinocchio, Un Burattino Di Nome Pinocchio one could easily mistake the titular character as a puppet for a girl, due to having a female voice actor in both the original Italian and English dubs, having a somewhat feminine looking face, and wearing a pink bonnet and a coat that looks like a dress. However he looks much more masculine when he becomes a real boy.
  • To especially young children who overlook her womanly figure and "body language," the gender of Ursula in The Little Mermaid is sometimes a point of confusion, due to her large size, shortish hair and deep alto voice. Of course she was modeled after the drag queen Divine. In the live-action theatrical version Ursula is nearly always played by a male actor.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Batbayar from The Cave of the Yellow Dog movie has odd-looking pigtails probably make him seem more like a little girl to Most Western audiences.
  • Many a viewer of the original Stargate genuinely thought Ra was a woman; Jaye Davidson is just that pretty.
  • This trope is purposely and famously exploited in Neil Jordan's The Crying Game, also starring Jaye Davidson.
  • Destoroyah from the Godzilla franchise was never officially given a gender, but is considered male by most fans. However, that hasn't stopped other fans from thinking he's a female because some aspects of his body structure are similar to that of female crabs.
    • And, then there's also Mothra Leo from the Mothra Film Trilogy. For the record, Leo is a boy. Yes, you heard me. A Male Mothra (Mothrus?) despite every single incarnation previous and since being female.
      • Even the dub of the films had trouble with this and constantly referred to Leo as both a "he" and a "she" and even an "it".
      • Mothra herself has been mistakenly referred to as a male in some works, although generally not those officially licensed by Toho and more often in works referencing her.
    • And then there's the 1998 remake where that version of Godzilla could reproduce asexually, causing many to mistaking think all incarnations were female.
    • An interesting variation of this occurs with the monster Rodan. In the original 1956 film Rodan, both a male and a female Rodan are featured. Since then, fans have argued whether or not the Rodans(?) featured in later films are male or female.
    • Some people have mistaken Gigan, a male cyborg kaiju, for a female due to his high-pitched roar.
    • Battra, Mothra's Evil Twin, has also been mistaken for a female; even in officially licensed works.
    • And it doesn't end there, with Kroiga from Latitude Zero. With the brain of a human female, but the body of a male lion.
    • Kumonga has been mistaken to be a female by the fandom. This is due to the dub of Son Of Godzilla not using any gender-specific pronouns regarding the giant spider. The original Japanese dub, on the other hand, refers to the monster as a male.
      • Kamacuras is also officially a male, but fans often mistake him for a female. However, since there's more than one Kamacuras, it could be possible at least one or more of them is a girl.
    • Some fans have mistaken Manda as a female kaiju due to some works branding him as such.
    • Godzilla himself, sort of. See, suit actor Haruo Nakajima believes that the Showa Era (1955-1975) Godzilla is a female while the original 1954 monster was a male. However, Toho Studios has stated that all the incarnations of Godzilla that we've seen are male. Considering that the films establish that there is more than one Godzilla, and that infants like Minilla and Junior show that there's a breeding population, the idea of a female Godzilla isn't that far fetched. It's just that we haven't officially seen a lady Godzilla yet.
  • There are people out there who think the Newborn from Alien: Resurrection is a female. For the record, it's a hermaphrodite. The actual prop used for the film had both male and female genitalia. This actually applies to all members of the Xenomorph species, even the Queen. H.R. Giger intended the Aliens to be neither male nor female, but an unsettling blur of both sexes.
  • Some viewers of The Year of Living Dangerously were surprised to learn that Billy Kwan was played by a woman, Linda Hunt. She's the only actor to receive an Academy Award for playing a character of a different sex.
  • Jodie Foster's daughter in Panic Room (played by the then 11-year old Kristen Stewart) has a fairly gender neutral haircut, somewhat androgynous looks and wears uni-sex pyjamas and can easily be mistaken for a boy on first viewing.
  • A lot of viewers of Fatal Attraction think that Ellen Gallagher (played by child actress Ellen Hamilton Latzen) is a boy because of her short hair and androgynous face. There are frequent heated debates on The Internet Movie Database about whether they "should have cast a girl that looked like a girl". It doesn't help that she is seen rehearsing for a school play and playing a male role. Also, some of the adult characters tend to pronounce her name as if they're saying "Alan" instead of "Ellen".
  • I Am Legend:
    • Sam the German shepherd isn't revealed to be female until she gets hurt, at which point Will Smith calls her by her full name of Samantha.
    • The daughter Marley, played by Willow Smith, is this for some viewers. Whenever we see her she has a fairly short hairstyle, an androgynous name and gender neutral clothes. It isn't actually said whether or not she's a girl until about an hour into the film. Many people also assume that she's a male as a deliberate reflection of the survivors Anna and her young companion Ethan, reinforced when Neville momentarily hallucinates them as Zoe and Marley.
  • In Heroic Trio, the Big Bad looks like an effeminate male but has a female voice. This confusion might only be the Western audiences who might not be as familiar with Chinese legends concerning eunuchs making for extremely powerful soldiers while simultaneously making them evil and manipulative.
  • Many fans thought Buckwheat from the Our Gang/Little Rascals shorts was a girl. This is because initially the character was a girl, played by Matthew (Stymie) Beard's real-life sister Carlena. Even after male actor Billie Thomas inherited the role, the character continued to be portrayed as a girl for several shorts.
  • Alexa in 50 First Dates, which is intentional on the part of the movie.
  • Robin Williams' daughter in What Dreams May Come is very androgynous, and it's perfectly possible to go through most of the movie thinking she's a boy.
  • Dennis, the kid who wanted pancakes, from Cabin Fever. He has very long hair, a somewhat feminine face, has a gender neutral voice, and is prepubescent from the looks of it.
  • Quite a few people who hadn't read the source material of The Never Ending Story mistook the warrior Atreyu to be a girl. When he was first introduced, Bastian, who was expecting an adult warrior, commented in surprise, "A little boy." Which people might have missed if they came into the movie right in the middle.
  • Intentionally done in The Dark Knight Rises; the audience is led to believe that the one prisoner who escaped the prison was Bane, when actually it was Talia Al Guhl. The reveal is shown when after escaping, the child wraps her head and shoulders in a burkha.
  • From the poster for The Fault in Our Stars alone, many people couldn’t tell the gender of either person in the picture.
  • During early promotions for The Force Awakens, many fans mistakenly believed that Dark Action Girl Captain Phasma was a man. The problem being that in the promotional materials initially given, she didn't speak and wasn't seen without her armor on.
  • The cobra in Jungle Book has a feminine voice but is referred to as male. It can be disassociating, especially since Kaa has a deep voice in comparison.
  • Leslie from the made-for-TV film of Bridge to Terabithia. She has an androgynous look and a Gender-Blender Name. This is intentional and even Jess in the books mistakes her for a boy, but this isn't noted in the film so many viewers think she's a boy. Fans of the 2007 film (where Leslie was given a huge Girliness Upgrade) often ask why Leslie is a boy in the '80s film.

  • In Hungarian, pronouns aren't gender based, leading generations of The Lord of the Rings readers thinking that the Witch-King was killed by Merry, not Éowyn. And coincidentally, neither the appendices nor the prophecy (No man shall kill him—it was a Hobbit!) contradicts this. But it's clear in the original.
  • For a long time, half of the Harry Potter fandom thought Blaise Zabini was a girl, since he's just a name until book 6. (Specifically, a name which is masculine in Europe but usually feminine in the United States.) Some who wanted more Slytherin girls used "her" extensively as an O.C. Stand-in in Fan Fic. It's now known that "she's" a he.
  • If you're well-informed enough to know that the Groke of the Moomin series is female, try figuring out Thingumy and Bob, or the Fillyjonk's children from the anime. Too-ticky can also be misleading because of her appearance, but it's pretty clear she's a woman.
    • Too-ticky is at least partly based on Jansson's sculptor girlfriend, which may account for her relative butchness.
    • In the original Swedish, the Groke is called Mårran which manages to sound both feminine and threatening.
    • Thingummy and Bob wear dresses, and in the original are named Tofslan and Vifslan—so there is no "Bob" to confuse people. (Their particular way of speaking is an in-joke on the lingo Jansson and her first girlfriend, Vivica Bandler, used. "Tove" and "Vivica" become "Tofslan" and "Vifslan" when you speak like that...) The whole plot about the Ruby and the Groke is a metaphor for them having to hide their relationship back in the days homosexuality was still a crime and taboo in Finland.
  • A milder form of this occurs in Honor Harrington. The Royal Manticoran Navy has nearly 50-50 gender equality, and many characters are referred to as their title, i.e. Admiral, Captain, Exec., etc. To compound this, many of the women are given masculine nicknames, like Michelle becoming "Mike", while some men are given female nicknames, such as a Gervais becoming "Gwen". You may need to take notes.
    • Possibly compounding the issue is the fact—never explicitly stated—that almost any character, when talking about someone of unknown gender, will use their own pronoun (i.e., men call unknowns "he" while women call them "she").
    • Maybe more of Translator's Gender Confusion, but in Polish translation (where gender pronouns are everywhere) Patricia Givens was a man for two books because she was always referred to as "admiral Givens" or "Pat".
  • Max, from the Maximum Ride series. Considering that the book is written entirely in first person and her masculine name, it's no wonder. It's not clear at all that she's female until at least about fifty pages into The Angel Experiment, when she is finally referred to with a female pronoun.
  • Discworld dwarfs. Most of them look male, but that doesn't mean they are.
    • This is expanded upon with Cherri Littlebottom, a feminist in a race where discovering the other's gender is part of the mating ritual. She would wear makeup, but refused to shave her beard because to do so would deny being a dwarf.
    • Never really resolved in Unseen Academicals with Madame Sharn. She claims female terminology but never really a female identity, and her lover is a gay male (biologically human) dwarf. Thanks to the weird interactions between dwarf and human ideas of sexuality she could equally be male, female, transgender, or not fit cisgender terminology at all.
    • Many characters in Monstrous Regiment are very convincing crossdressers.
  • In the kid's magazine Muse, four New Muses are guys, four New Muses are girls... and nobody can agree what gender Egyptian-born Pwt (pronounced "pwit") is. Word of God confirmed that Pwt is a male, but some readers still think he's a girl.
  • In Goblin Moon, the anthropomorphized Nine Seasons are the setting's equivalent of gods. Four are male, four are female, and one (corresponding to mid-spring, a changeable season) is depicted as androgynous in religious art.
  • The first two chapters of To Kill a Mockingbird leave Scout's gender very much in question. (She's a girl.)
  • The Timothy Zahn novella Cascade Point is told in the first person, and the narrator's name is not gendered. Only the cover art assigns a gender.
  • The Cherub in L. Frank Baum's John Dough and the Cherub. The publishers wanted the author to end the confusion, so he agreed to a write-in a contest. Since the first two winners chose differently, the gender of the Cherub remains unknown.
  • Zom-B by Darren Shan: One of the two big twists at the end of the first book is that main character B Smith is a girl. The book had done a damn good job of leading the reader to believe otherwise, from the fact that most of B's friends are boys to the illustrations always showing her from behind (with a slim build and shaved head.)
  • In the original Winnie-the-Pooh books Christopher Robin wears flowing blouses and has medium length hair. While this may have been unisex looking or even masculine in the 1920s, to modern audiences he's easily mistakable for a girl. The more well-known Disney incarnation averts this.
  • In The Cosmere, the first time Bavadin was referred to, it was without a gender pronoun. Maybe because it was in the same sentence as (confirmed to be male) Rayse, but for the next two years, everyone was confident that Bavadin was a man until Arcanum Unbounded explicitly said "she". Also, Word OF God has muddied the waters since, implying that Bavadin's gender is a bit more complicated then usual, leading to some debate over the proper pronouns, though most fans stick with 'she'.
  • Warrior Cats suffers from the authors being confused. The series has several writers and Loads and Loads of Characters (over a thousand, mostly composed of extras and bit characters). Many characters suddenly change pronouns between books. For example, as a kit and an apprentice Sedgewhisker was male but she turned female once she became a warrior.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Data's cat Spot from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Spot was always referred to using male pronouns. Then Spot got pregnant. She later gave birth to a healthy litter — despite being de-evolved into a lizardlike creature at the moment (It Makes Sense in Context) (well, not really, but whatever).
  • X-Play had a segment called "Guy or Girl", where the viewers were asked if some androgynous video game characters were either male or female. It was later re-used as "Robot or Human."
  • Grace Polk from Joan of Arcadia, although it was addressed in the first episode when the character got mistaken for a "very rude boy" by another character.
  • George from the British kids TV show Rainbow. Despite being pink with long eyelashes, having an effeminate voice and being the girly one of the group ("ooh, you are naughty!"), the character was male. The name should have been a clue, but the hugely popular kiddie book series The Famous Five did feature a girl called George, as does the Nancy Drew series...
  • Snoop from The Wire confused a lot of viewers. She dresses exactly like the men, hides her braided hair under baseball caps, makes suggestive comments about other women, has a very gravely voice, and generally makes her way as a stone killer in a man's world. The only time she wears feminine clothes in the entire series, she's also wearing a face-convering motorcycle helmet on a drive-by shooting. Marlo's first words to her are, "Your turn, girl", however, so the series is never trying to deliberately confuse the audience.
  • Doctor Who
    • Alpha Centauri, in the classic series serial "The Curse of Peladon" (and "The Monster of Peladon", its sequel). A bit different, given it's not even vaguely human. The voice and body mannerisms are all very definitely feminine but nearly every character refers to it as either "he" or "him", despite the visual and aural indicators being for the opposite, and in actual fact, Alpha Centauri's race is genderless. (Word of God from the actress is that she was told to play the part as a Camp Gay civil servant.)
    • Shortly after broadcast This Very Wiki was calling Creet, the pre-teen kid in "Utopia" with shoulder-length hair "the little girl". The character was played by John Bell, now better known as Bain in The Hobbit. According to the Doctor Who Wiki, Freema Agyemen made the same mistake.
  • Tripitaka from Monkey. Despite being male, he's physically played by a woman, and his English dub voice also a woman. Not many know that Tripitaka was meant to be male because of it.
  • Though it's quickly apparent if you watch the show, many people who hear of Angel assume it stars a woman, thanks to his Gender-Blender Name. (The show Dark Angel probably didn't help.) Lampshaded by Cordelia in Season 2 when She says "She could have been Angel because its kind of a Girly name"
  • The title character of Skippy the Bush Kangaroo was female — people tend to mistakenly refer to her as a "he" (then again, Skippy is nowadays primarily known through Popcultural Osmosis). Major clue that Skippy is a girl: she has a pouch.
  • Uni Sax from Super Hero Christmas. Even in the illustrations that accompanied the credits, she could be either or. Then again, this is largely justified, considering her goal was to make everyone look and seem the same, which includes having nothing to define who or what you are.
  • Coach Beiste from Glee. Many viewers believed, or still believe, she is played by a male actor. (She is, in fact, played by Dot Jones.)
    • And then there's Kurt. The combination of his very high-pitched voice, Camp Gay mannerisms, elaborate outfits, and Pretty Boy, sometimes outright feminine appearance make it easy to mistake him for a girl at first, or at least a Bifauxnen. The actor's going through puberty helped to alleviate this... somewhat.
  • Multiple kids on You Can't Do That on Television:
    • Vanessa looks rather gender-ambiguous, having medium-length hair and typically dressing rather masculine, though she does wear earrings.
    • And Doug during the seasons when he had long hair (in the "Illness" episode, he outright states that he got his hair cut because he was sick of people saying he looked too girlish). In the 1985 season, his hair was actually longer than Vanessa's.
    • 1986 cast member Jody Morris may have been mistaken for a girl by some viewers at first, due to his unisex first name as well as his own shoulder-length hair.
  • Saturday Night Live: The "Pat" sketches star a person of indeterminate gender who causes confusion to everyone around them by not telling anyone what gender they are, causing much awkwardness (and hilarity).
  • Perry in Kevin and Perry is played by a woman.
  • Some of the fully suited characters, mostly villains, in Super Sentai cause this when they are voiced by a female voice actor.
    • Toripter from Engine Sentai Go-onger caused some confusion around the gender, because of having a female VA and sounding somewhere between a teenage boy and an older lady. It wasn't until later in the series that Toripter was revealed to be male, since he was affected by a Monster of the Week whose attacks only had effect on men. Furthermore, in the Ten Years After special, his voice has noticeably deepened, suggesting him to have been a prepubescent boy in the series; not to mention that he calls his partner Hiroto "Aniki", which is generally used for an older brother.
    • To this day, fans still can't agree whether Luckyuro from Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger is a male or a female. On one hand, Luckyuro is voiced by a woman, with the voice actress even making a live action appearance on the show as a disguise Luckyuro temporarily donned with the help of a Monster of the Week. On the other hand, Luckyuro's suit does not posses any outward female characteristics and acts more like a little boy. To show how far this confusion goes: Some fansubs refer to the character as male, while the Super Sentai wiki insists the character is female.
    • Izayoi Kyuuemon from Shuriken Sentai Ninninger was an offender of this trope as he also was voiced by a woman and seemed to look and act a bit feminine. However, the confusion cleared up when a flashback showed Kyuuemon's human form, which was clearly a teenage boy.
  • This happens with many monsters in Power Rangers, given the fact that there are rarely even Tertiary Sexual Characteristics to go by, all you have is the voice actor. For example, although Invenusable Flytrap is female, Soccadillo and Fighting Flea (played by the same voice actress) are male. Also, Wendee Lee has played villains of both genders, such as the male Stag Beetle and the female Witchblade.
  • Kamen Rider Double: Phillip actually passed for his sister Wakana for some time, mostly thanks to youth and crossdressing.
  • Kamen Rider Zi-O: Time Jacker Uhr may be confused for a girl as he is short with feminine features.

  • Victoria Lengrand from Beach House has been mistaken for a man on multiple occasions due to the tone of her voice.
  • Taylor Hanson from the teen pop group Hanson: ambiguously pitched voice, long hair, and gender-neutral name.
  • Kalan Porter from Canadian Idol definitely confused many people.
  • Pick a J-rock band. Particularly male jrockers that dress in Goth Loli, like Mana. (Of course, young Japanese men tend to look androgynous to gaijin anyway.)
  • Pick any J-Pop boy band, especially those under Johnny's Jimusho. Those guys make prettier girls than most of their fans.
  • Visual Kei musicians can easily cause this problem, as a common theme amoungst the bands is to highlight their feminine sides or just full-on crossdress like Hizaki from Versailles.
  • Back when the Culture Club was all new, a good few people assumed Boy George was female.
  • Similarly, during one of the episodes of I Love the 80's, when discussing the Dead or Alive video "You Spin Me Round", one of the commentators said that growing up he thought Pete Burns was either the prettiest man or the ugliest woman he'd ever seen.
  • Bill Kaulitz of Tokio Hotel is this trope personified.
  • Many were surprised to find out that Noodle of Gorillaz was a girl. Much less once she started being depicted as a teenager who sometimes sports makeup and more feminine clothing, though she still leaves a few confused. Less so in Phase 3, where she has some very feminine characteristics.
  • Jody "I'm not a girl" McBrayer fits this trope nicely. He most definitely looks masculine, but if you don't know who's singing... Well, just listen.
  • Tracy Chapman. Judging by her voice, rather muscular physique, and most pictures, it can be pretty tricky to tell. Her gender-neutral name (although it's usually female nowadays) doesn't help.
  • The lead singer of Placebo, Brian Molko, has confused many with his highly androgynous appearance. Pictures like this definitely do not help.
  • An anecdote from the early days of ABBA relates how Bjorn Ulvaeus initially got a number of letters from fans who thought he was female. The explanation he gave was that the letters had come from Eastern European countries, where photo quality broke down through multiple copying, leaving his defining characteristics as his androgynous clothing and long hair. But it probably didn't help that he dressed more effeminately than Benny usually did, either...
  • Marilyn Manson: This trope is actually one of his trademarks. (Ironically, he copied Alice Cooper, who was always definitely male despite his stage name.)
  • Amber from the Korean pop band f(x) to the point where her group members even thought she was a boy at first. It doesn't help that she's "pretty" enough to look like most male pop stars or that SM Entertainment always puts her in masculine clothing, such as a boy's school uniform or a male hanbok.
  • Michael Jagmin of A Skylit Drive tends to have this effect on people: long hair, girly voice, short stature.
  • Japanese goth/electronic/visual kei/oh who knows vocalist Selia (one half of Seileen, along with DJ Sisen) falls into this all too easily. He looks like a woman, but in Japanese music this isn't anything new. No, the real confusion comes when he starts singing.
  • The same goes for Arch Enemy vocalist Angela Gossow, who's death vocals cause many to mistake her for a man at first listen.
  • The Silversun Pickups's lead vocalist Brian Aubert has a somewhat effeminate voice when singing, leading to some confusion—especially since even when you know he is a guy he looks nothing like you'd expect for a guy with that singing voice. His speaking voice is unquestionably male, though.
  • Justin Bieber. He's made his career over the fact that he's a teenage boy whose voice hasn't cracked, so this is a given. If you just listen to his music and don't know his name, you might think he's a lesbian. The amount of confusion has become memetic due to his Hatedom. He has gotten better, though not by much.
  • If you're over 30, you've probably heard the theme song to The Never Ending Story, sung by Limahl. Even if you knew the (seemingly gender neutral, in fact seemingly made up) name of the singer, it's very likely you assumed he was a woman. Even watching the video doesn't help. He looks like a guy but sounds so much like a woman that you assume he's lip-synching. Seriously, listen to the song and try to find anything masculine about that voice.
  • There are a lot of K-Pop idols that fall under this. Super Junior's Heechul and Shinee's Taemin are two of the worst offenders. Even the more masculine ones are prone to this... Shinee's Minho was once mistaken for a labelmate's girlfriend.
  • JD Samson of Le Tigre. An out lesbian who identifies as female, she nonetheless uses a very macho variation of her given name (Jocelyn Samson), dresses in traditional male clothes, maintains an extremely masculine appearance, and proudly sports close-cropped hair and a robust natural mustache. Even when you know she's a gal, seeing pictures like these makes it pretty tough to grasp.
  • Shelly West (daughter of Dottie West) has a rather low, rough voice for a woman, particularly on her Signature Song "José Cuervo". If you didn't know the artist's name, you'd certainly be forgiven for thinking a man sang that song.
    • Dottie had a fairly husky voice as well.
  • Ryan Ross, especially in the early years of Panic! at the Disco.
  • Rocker Aldo Nova's voice can easily be mistaken for a woman's in his hit single "Fantasy."
  • Steve Marriott (Small Faces, Humble Pie) had a high-pitched voice that could sound a bit womanly at times, which combined with his boyish face probably threw some people off (that might explain why he had a mustache for a while).
  • Sigh's Dr. Mikannibal's screams are frequently lower-pitched than those of the band's male vocalist, Mirai Kawashima. Listeners often have difficulty telling them apart. Female Black Metal vocalists get this a lot; Kriegtalith of Darkestrah and both vocalists of Astarte (Tristessa and Kinthia) both were subject to it as well.
  • Some people though there were female vocals on Alcest's EP Le secret, but frontman Neige performed all of them himself.
  • When The Beatles redefined pop music, other bands (and teenagers who could get away with it) started growing their hair long, starting a lot of consternation over gender appearance norms. One band, The Barbarians, with the longest hair around ca. 1965, had a record "Are You a Boy or a Girl?"
  • Cherry from Studio Killers is a fictional female character voiced by a man. This confuses new fans considerably.
  • The singer of the band Rough Trade is a Butch Lesbian with a very deep voice. Their most famous song, "High School Confidential", is about the narrator's Perverse Sexual Lust over a hot, bitchy blonde (who is the Alpha Bitch), so it's pretty common to mistake the singer for a man.
  • Jaymes Young is male however many mistake his voice for female.
  • Imogen Heap has a somewhat androgynous singing voice which has caused some people not familiar with her to mistake her for male.

  • Chinese Mythology: Nezha is a seven-year-old boy and is often depicted with long flowing hair with Odango, bright pink facial makeup, and wearing a Stripperific mini dress. Resulting in people easily confusing him for a girl at first sight.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Sesame Street
    • Big Bird is sometimes mistaken for a girl, thanks to his high-pitched voice, his lack of Tertiary Sexual Characteristics, the show's young target audience, and the puppeteer's Gender-Blender Name. Yes, Caroll Spinney is male.
    • The Dutch version of Sesame Street features a blue Big Bird called Pino, who started out being played by a man. When he retired a woman got the role, there was actually some debate among the creators about whether they should make the bird a pink girl and rename her Pina. In the end they chose gender confusion over gender bending.
    • The German version once got a snail called "Fienchen" note . Fienchen started out being male, but due to his "cute" name and high pitched voice, he caused so much gender confusion, they actually changed him into a girl.
      • That's the one case where gender confusion would be appropriate. Snails are hermaphrodites.
  • Bear in the Big Blue House: Treelo's a boy and Ojo's a girl?
  • Lamb Chop's Play-Along: Lamb Chop is sometimes mistaken for a boy, due to her lack of Tertiary Sexual Characteristics and the fact that her "brothers" Charlie Horse and Hush Puppy are both boys.

  • BIONICLE: The toys have little room for Tertiary Sexual Characteristics due to their modular nature (it is a LEGO product line), so the only reliable way to pick out which one is the girl is the series' color-coding — the blue heroes were mostly girls. Same thing in-story, but at least the characters can use voice and body language to tell genders apart.
    • Roodaka, despite wearing black instead of blue, is the only woman with an actual feminine figure — but males of her species look exactly like her, causing confusion in the other direction. One comic colorist tried to color-code a male by painting him green, but Word of God says that picture is non-canon, and all of the members of the species (the Vortixx) have the exact same colors. Yes, even the males have huge breast-plates, wide hips, a ponytail, walk around in high-heeled boots, and not one of them has any variation in their coloring. The only way you can identify the genders is that if you see a Vortixx suffering or doing some incredibly tedious and tiring work, it's a male.
    • Things wouldn't be so difficult if the female sets had been designed to look the part. Jaller Inika, for instance, was the manly leader of his group, yet he was the only one who looked at least a bit feminine — the real girl, Hahli, received a huge chin, a bald head, and a mustache and goatee in the form of breathing tubes! The Inika were of course a Deconstruction of certain Toa-related tropes, but only in the story. Sets could have followed a more conventional approach. Although there is nothing to suggest this wasn't the result of test groups' dissatisfaction with female-looking toys.
    • Hahli's infamous tube-stache wasn't the first instance of a female character receiving a misleading mask. There was Macku, who had this long, pharaoh-beard like structure on the underside of her mask. The first movie redesigned that mask-type so that it would have a mechanical "beard". Macku's movie-mask got a shortened version, but it still looked off.
    • Arguably The least feminine of them would be Gali Nuva Thats right, the one with dual battleaxes, wide chin and ahnold pecs is the female.
      • This is Gali Nuva again, in her Adaptive Armor. With her flat chest, wide shoulders, gorilla-arms, hunched posture, and broad, protruding chin, bald head, waffle-eye and jet-wing ears(?), not only does she look even less feminine than her "base" Nuva form, she doesn't quite look like anything else seen in the story. As a result, it's one of the most unpopular figures of the franchise, and perhaps the main reason why the "Mistika" set-line got such an unfavorable fan-reception.
    • One prime example was with the "Mistika" characters, as Word of God had said one of the three Makuta in the set was to be female, and since none of those three were blue the color code wasn't going to be any help. When the fanbase got pictures, many guessed it was Krika, a sleek white character with a feminine-ish name and an elongated head/mask reminiscent of a ponytail. It turned out that the female was actually Gorast; a short, squat, green-and-black hag with four arms.
    • And did we mention that when the series got ReTooled with a new setting, the color code ceased to apply to gender? (The girl is still blue, but there's also a male blue character.)
      • But at least that one single female character was designed to actually have some feminine physical characteristics, like a slender body, and... wait, that was it.
    • There are some subtle hints sometimes though, such as Nokama Metru's smoother mask design, Hahli Mahri's sleeker mask and her angel wings, and Gali Mata's inverted legs and extra chest-piece. But that's as helpful as it can go.
    • When the original line first hit, there was next to no supplementary material to educate buyers on which gender the characters were, but thankfully the narrator on the early promotional CDs, which only saw a limited release, made a point of referring to Gali by using female pronouns as many times as possible. On the other hand, he did call Nokama, the only other female set sold at that point, a "he", thus muddling up the then-introduced "blue=girl" rule.
    • BIONICLE's successor Hero Factory has Breez, who is female despite looking just as manly as the others.
      • It helps that her full name is Natalie Breez, though others mostly just call her Breez anyway. As for her looks, her helmet's eye-holes at least looked feminine at first. Then, she switched them to a generic design, along with adapting this huge, manly chin underneath.
    • The sheer number of occasions that LEGO and associates mistakenly or by necessity made men out of their women is enough to confuse every outsider. Besides the thing with Nokama on the promo CD mentioned above, Hahli also got a male voice in the online Toa Mahri mini-movie and in the video game BIONICLE Heroes (Roodaka, perhaps the only obvious female toy of the franchise, also received generic male grunts in that game), the Voya Nui On-Line Game referred to Dalu as a "he" at one point, and more recently, the web bio of Hero Factory's Natalie Breez also used masculine pronouns. Then, there are the Direct-to-Video movies, which gave random background Ga-Matoran (all female) male voices.
    • The 2015 reboot continues in this tradition: in addition to being ambiguous visually, Gali is named the Master of Water (and foreign translations also refer to her by masculine designations); and the online animations, which have a male narrator "voicing" all the characters, further this confusion.
  • The Beanie Baby Erin. Paired up with the Princess Diana bear. Green, as opposed to Diana's more feminine purple. Especially if you were unaware of the differences between Aaron and Erin (phonetically identical in some varieties of English) as a child.
  • The toyline-only character Sonar from Beast Wars is considered female by some fans due to the lack of gender-specific pronouns on the toy's bio.
    • Confirmed in the comics, which took advantage of the lack of pronouns to add another female to the ranks.
  • My Little Pony:
    • Mainly thanks to the cartoon adaptation many ponies were considered male, such as Gusty or Applejack. There are some collectors who played with the toys as kids in the 80s who still insist 20+ years later Applejack was male; it wasn't too unknown to see debates on it in the 2000s.
    • G1 is mainly known for being almost entirely made up of mares and fillies but males existed, most popularly the Big Brother Ponies. They're not that much masculine from the females, the only real difference having fetlocks and being associated with 'masculine' roles (American football, pirates, sailing, etc). They come in pastel pinks and yellows and have have long eyelashes.
    • Kingsley is a lioness with a mane and masculine name. Most people consider her male but everything official states otherwise.
    • Prince Firefly from G2 is purple and shares the name of the most famous Pony until G4. But he's not called "prince" for nothing.
    • Prism Glider, a background pony from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, is clearly a stallion in the show and on his collector's card, but his blind bag figure uses the standard female Pegasus mold (as opposed the male design used for Thunderlane, Flash Sentry, etc.). Likewise, Neon Lights' blind bag toy is a palette swap of Vinyl Scratch/DJ PON-3.

    Web Animation 
  • The titular Salad Fingers.
  • Happy Tree Friends:
    • Flaky is thought to be a boy because, unlike Giggles and Petunia, Flaky doesn't have eyelashes but is given a distinct feminine voice, it shows neutral characteristics for any gender but the voice actor suggests female, even the creators are undecided. It's even lampshaded a few times.
    • Cuddles can even be mistaken for female by some who are watching the show for the first time.
  • YouTube comments on newer Baman Piderman episodes frequently ask if Pumkin is a girl, perhaps due to his cute, awkward nature ever since gaining a body and his actions towards Piderman, despite him being unambiguously referred to as male In-Universe.
  • Breeze Rider from Dusk's Dawn is a boy. A cursory glance at the works trope page will show you how difficult it is for the audience to pick up on that.
  • Nerris from Camp Camp was mistaken for a young boy by several people watching the trailer due to her boyish clothes and hairstyle, with her most girlish feature (the eyelashes) being easy to miss. Even when she actually speaks in the show proper, her female voice actress could be mistaken for a case of Crossdressing Voices and the first line that establishes her gender is easily missable due to being said at the same time as another line. She's even this in-universe in the episode "Egg Benefits", when Cameron Campbell falters on whether to call her a mom or a dad.
  • Busy Beavers had a character named Baby Kangaroo, who was mistaken for a baby boy, due to her lacking eyelashes and a bow. It wasn't until the "Characters" song that Baby Kangaroo was actually a girl.

    Web Original