Monday, June 13, 2011

Transgender Cosplay

This past weekend, I spent Saturday at A-Kon 22 in Dallas, TX. It was my seventh straight A-Kon to attend and the 17th anime convention I've attended overall. I generally spend the entire weekend at a con but teaching and financial concerns limited me to just one day this year.

I've always loved anime conventions and only wish I'd discovered them before I was 23. One thing I've always enjoyed doing at cons is cosplaying. Below is a picture of me cosplaying as Yuki Nagato from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya at A-Kon this year.

I've always appreciated the generally open and accepting attitudes of con attendees. Anime cons like A-Kon were the first and, for a long time, the only spaces in which I felt comfortable expressing my transgender identity. While occasionally someone gives me a strange look or make a rude comment, I've found con attendees to be accepting of crossplay, the term coined for cosplaying characters of the opposite sex.

It was only last year that I thought a little more about crossplay as it applies to me and other transgender cosplayers. The key phrase in my definition above is "characters of the opposite sex." For a long time I fully embraced the term and appreciate the value of the term for creating a space for people to express their love of anime characters, regardless of gender. But I'm now beginning to wonder about the applicability of the term for me. I no longer consider cosplaying as a female character crossplaying for me personally; as a woman, it's only natural that I would choose to cosplay as a female character. Crossplaying for me now would be dressing as a male character should I ever choose to, as unlikely as that may be.

The tradition and acceptance of crossplay among anime fans, while a positive thing overall, becomes problematic for a transgender cosplayer. I noticed this weekend in comments about a "male Yuki" or a girl correcting her use of the pronoun "she" to "he" when explaining to her friend what character I was dressed as. Another example from last year would be a con acquaintance asking my name and after I replied "Lucy," he then asked for my "real" name instead of my character's name (which was actually Azmaria).

The acceptance of crossplay means that anime cons remain a generally safe space for transgender fans. I'm still deciding how to take the next step and figure out how to more fully communicate my identity as a woman and as a cosplayer.