With all the excitement surrounding the first(ish?) female Doctor, there's lots of cries of misogyny for taking this long to have a female Doctor. This has me curious now. I can't think of too many cases where a character changes sex. Shows I can think of are:

  • Doctor Who
  • Predestination (Heinlein's All You Zombies adapted to film)

What's the earliest release date of a movie or TV show where a major character changed from male to female or vice versa? For purposes of this, I'd like to exclude hemaphrodites, which just make things confusing.

I'm more interested in permanent changes, because my interest lies in the side effects of such changes, but if there's a particularly good reason to include a temporary change, I'd entertain it. I'd be looking for a transition which occurs during the time frame of the movie/show.

  • 4
    I do find it amusing that now that there is a female Doctor, people are complaining that it was not done soon enough. I don't care which side of this debate you fall on, that is pretty petty. Cool question btw. I am very interested to see the answers. Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 20:30
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    Several important points here. 1. This probably doesn't need the doctor-who tag. Although this might have been what inspired you to ask the question, it is not about Doctor Who. 2. You talk about changing gender, but do you mean sex, external sexual presentation, or gender? The Doctor probably is changing all three, but a transgender person who undergoes surgery is merely affirming their pre-existing gender, for example (and arguably thus changing only number two).
    – Adamant
    Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 20:48
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    3. You talk about excluding "hermaphrodites" (presumably intersex individuals), but you also mention All You Zombies. Isn't the character in that intersex?
    – Adamant
    Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 20:49
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    The Gender Bender list at TV Tropes has a lot of listings, mostly some sort of personality implantation, but you might find an answer there.
    – eshier
    Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 21:24
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    @CortAmmon Just to clear up part of the All You Zombies confusion, the character was able to impregnate him/herself and give birth to him/herself. This means both male and female sex organs were functioning - something known as "true hermaphroditism", and has never been documented as having occurred in humans in real-life.
    – Izkata
    Commented Jul 20, 2017 at 0:39

9 Answers 9


The 1940 film Turnabout-- an adaptation of a 1931 novel by Thorne Smith-- comes to mind. From the synopsis:

Tim (John Hubbard) and Sally Willows (Carole Landis) are unhappily married. Tim spends his days working at an advertising agency, while Sally lounges around the house. One day a distant relative sends the couple a statue of an Asian deity. When Sally and Tim argue about which of them has the better life, the statue comes alive in the form of Mr. Ram (George Renavent). Hearing their argument, he casts a spell. The next morning Tim wakes up inside Sally's body, and Sally wakes up inside Tim's.

Hilarity ensues!

The film ends with the revelation that (now male again) Tim is pregnant. This infuriated censors, who found it obscene.

Turnabout was also turned into a 1979 TV series with the same premise.

  • "Turnabout was also turned into a 1979 TV series with the same premise." And was likely the inspiration or the *30 Rock episode Believe in the Stars. Commented Dec 12, 2018 at 21:25

A Florida Enchantment from 1914 features a woman who is given a seed from an 'exotic' land and which turns her into a man. She gives one to her unbelieving fiance who turns into a woman. At the end of the film it is revealed to be a dream - fortunate for him as while society is quick to accept a woman who kisses other women and behaves in a 'masculine' fashion, he is run out of town like Frankenstein's monster, and off the end of a pier, never to be seen again.


An interesting example of gender switching is in Ranma 1/2 which became serialized in '87. The protagonist is 'cursed' to switch between genders depending on being dowsed in either hot or cold water. Basically he and many others fell into these magical cursed springs, and he fell into the girl spring, as compared to his father falling into a panda spring, who becomes a panda when dowsed.

It's certainly a mostly positive depiction, as Ranma ends up often enjoying his time as a girl, and usually acts more girly and cute, though he retains his original mind and sexuality.

It's undoubtedly not the first gender swap ever, but was a very positive one that didn't involve Freaky Friday body swapping.

  • That unfortunately doesn't seem to be as early as the top answer which was at 1940.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 18:19
  • Yeah I wanted to give an example of one that wasn't body swapping, but actually transforming into the gender yourself, more similar to the Dr Who example.
    – Liam Purdy
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 18:20

Barring some sort of "personality exchange" as happens in Freaky Friday, Turnabout, and The Hot Chick, the earliest I know of is the 1992 adaptation of Virginia Woolf's Orlando.

Tilda Swinton plays the title character who mysteriously a) changes sex for little/no reason and b) lives for hundreds of years since "he" promises Elizabeth I to never grow old. There is no change of actor, just make-up, hair, and clothing alterations for this.


There is also "The Land of OZ" Shirley Temple Storybook 18 September 1960 which is a body change and not a personality exchange. I guess that might be the first gender change in a TV program for children!

  • Looks like you might need to merge accounts.
    – eshier
    Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 20:22
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    @magolding: You probably could still merge the accounts...
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Mar 31, 2023 at 0:12

I'm not sure if this is what you're looking for but the film Myra Breckinridge was made in 1970, adapted from Gore Vidal's 1968 novel.

The main character has a sex change operation and plastic surgery to go from male to female (in the book at least, the movie doesn't try to make sense).

Earlier movies such as Ed Wood's Glen or Glenda are along these lines but I'm not sure if you're looking for a realistic change or a SF/magical.


Not the earliest, but "Charmed", Season 2, Episode 5, entitled "She's A Man, Baby, A Man!" (1999) had Prue (Shannen Doherty) change into a man when a spell backfired. She changed back again before the end of the episode.


This is a hilariously vague answer, but possibly either Land of Oz, the 1910 Selig Polyscope Oz film.

I say possibly, because according to Wikipedia, the film is only known by its catalog description

The Emerald City in all its splendor with all the familiar characters so dear to the hearts of children - Dorothy, the scarecrow, the woodman, the cowardly lion, and the wizard continuing on their triumphal entry to the mystic city, adding new characters, new situations, and scintillating comedy. Dorothy, who has so won her way into the good graces of lovers of fairy folk, finds new encounters in the rebellion army of General Jinger [sic] showing myriads of Leith soldiers in glittering apparel forming one surprise after the other, until the whole resolves itself into a spectacle worthy of the best artists in picturedom. Those who have followed the two preceding pictures of this great subject cannot but appreciate "The Land of Oz," the crowning effort of the Oz series.

However, the description mentions General Jinger, who is based on General Jinjur from The Marvelous Land of Oz, a story whose primary character is Tip, a boy who is later discovered to be the transformed lost Princess Ozma. So it is entirely possible that Tip/Ozma is present in this film - but we don't know.

The Marvelous Land of Oz was also adapted into The Land of Oz, a Sequel to the Wizard of Oz by Meglin Kiddies in 1932. Tip is definitely in this one, but so is Dorothy, so it's not quite a faithful adaptation, and the fandom wiki I found doesn't believe that the Ozma reveal made it into the movie. It's hard to say for certain, because this film is partially lost too.


This is clearly not the first incident (as there’s already an answer referring to 1940), and it’s debatable whether it even qualifies, but: in the “What Price Gloria” episode of Quantum Leap, Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) “leaps” into the body of a woman, Samantha Stormer.  (“His” first contact with another person is when somebody addresses him as “Sam”, and he muses that, on this leap, he won’t have any problem remembering “his” name.)  Sam leaped (leapt?) into women's bodies a few times; IMDb says that this episode, which aired 25 October 1989, was the first.

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