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.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Just One of the Girls

I had a wonderful time last night at a lingerie shower for a friend. I always love all-women get togethers like this. I haven't had the opportunity to attend many showers like this in my life and appreciate being included as just one of the girls!

This is still a special feeling for me. Though I've reached the point where dressing in women's clothing every day feels natural, being included in gatherings like this still feels unique to me.

As the night went on, the topic of conversation naturally turned to sex. As I've discussed here before, I'm not the most experienced person sexually so I enjoy occasionally getting to here others talk openly about sex. As the discussion grew more animated, someone in the group made the statement along the lines of "what are guys thinking?" I know I, and I imagine many other trans women, dread statements like this as I wait for my companions to eventually turn to me looking for an answer. Thankfully, no one last night even glanced my direction :)

I believe the reason this kind of statement worries me is that I will be seen as the possessor of secret knowledge not available to other women. There's a view of transgender people as possessing intimate knowledge of both sexes; trans women can share knowledge about men with their sisters because of the fact that they were born male. I know I was not immune from this. As I struggled with my transgender identity, I considered myself an average guy for a long time - which actually made me feel that my transition would be that much more difficult and might not even be possible since I felt my gender performance as a guy was okay.

It was only after I began living as a woman that I realized how little I actually knew about being a guy. I realized that what I considered as an "okay" performance was actually just doing the bare minimum to get by. I was actually surprised at how comfortable I felt as a woman and how easy it was to see that being a woman is what is right and natural for me.

So no, I don't have any more idea of "what guys are thinking" or "what guys want" than any other woman.

And just to be clear, these are just my own thoughts about that phrase and the feelings it can evoke for me. It is not meant to call attention to something others should be more sensitive about. It's also not meant to call attention to my friends at the shower. Reading this post will probably be the first time they'll even consider that a question like that would even be directed to me. And that's what makes me happiest of all - reaching the point in my life as a woman were no one would even consider that I might have knowledge about men different from any other woman. I'm just one of the girls! Now, hopefully, I'll eventually reach a point where I won't even think that someone would direct a question like that to me. I may still have a ways to go on that...

Monday, February 7, 2011

Life Gives You Shoes

It's funny how things work out sometimes.

There was a pair of black heels I had seen on so I went to the the store here in town this morning after teaching class to try them on. They fit well and looked cute but I decided that I didn't really need them that badly and they didn't really add to my wardrobe so I left without getting them.

Often when I'm shopping, I'll find something that I like that fits well but I won't get it immediately. I'll wait for a while as I try to convince myself that it really would look good and that I should get it. So a few days later I'll go back to the store and get the outfit.

I really felt that I didn't need this pair of shoes but it seems that life had other plans.

This afternoon, a friend asked me to go get coffee. As we left the building, I wasn't paying close enough attention and tripped going down the stairs. I was able to catch myself and wasn't hurt at all, except for some embarrassment. I got down the rest of the stairs without incident. Everything seemed to be okay so we went on to get coffee.

After I got back to my office, I found that not everything was alright after all. I checked my shoes and I found that a big gash had been torn in one of the heels. It wasn't bad enough that I couldn't walk in the shoes anymore but it would be pretty obvious to anyone when I wore the shoes.

So the heels I had convinced myself that morning not to get were now something that I actually needed. Sometimes, life gives you shoes.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

What's Your "Type"?

What's your type?

This question is probably familiar to most people, particularly single people. It's usually asked to determine the physical and personality traits that a person would find attractive in another.

Most people, I feel, may have certain qualities they're looking for in a partner, but they don't limit themselves solely to these options. For example, a friend of mine has specific characteristics he would like to find in a woman but he's not going to wait around until he meets someone who is a perfect match.

As I've written about previously (Dating), I'm really just looking for someone who can love me for who I am. This would seem to imply a lack of a "type." The more I've thought about it, though, the more I've come to realize that my "type" is feminine people. And I do use the word "people" very specifically. Whether the person happened to be born male or female doesn't really matter to me. I just find myself more attracted to feminine people.

As I said earlier, I'm not necessarily limiting myself to just this type. Even though I'm writing this now, I could be dating a very masculine person in a few weeks. Though I will say that probably my biggest turn off is overly masculine people.

So, what's your type?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Wandering Son - Hourou Musuko

Wandering Son is a new anime series that debuted January 13, 2011. The main character of the series is Shuichi Nitori, a boy beginning his first day of middle school. Shuichi has a number of close friends and is well-liked by his classmates. Shuichi, though, has a secret that is not known except to a small group of friends - Shuichi feels that he should be a girl.

Transgender themes and stories are not unfamiliar territory for anime. What is impressive about Wandering Son in terms of anime, or any other media for that matter, is the sensitivity and honesty with which the series handles its transgender subject matter. Absent are the usual external motivations for crossdressing or the fantastical elements that make the transgender elements seem to be just part of a larger-than-life narrative. Shuichi wants to be a girl because that is part of who he is. While Wandering Son is supportive of the transgender identity of its characters, the series is also seeking to realistically present the continuing struggles of transgender people to live in this binary-gendered world. Shuichi has come out to a group of supportive friends, but his sister yells at him and calls him "sick" after discovering him wearing her clothes.

Shuichi is not the only transgender character in the series. His female friend, Yoshino Takatsuki, wants to be a boy, though Shuichi is the focus of the first episode. The two young characters are still trying to figure out who they are and their place in society. Yoshino, for example, is envious of another girl in her class who comes to school wearing a boy's uniform just because she feels like it. After running into a sobbing Shuichi, Yoshino starts to give him the boy's uniform a friend gave her but then stops and says "this isn't what you need right now."

Reaction to the first episode has been mostly positive, though I will take a little issue with Gia Manry's characterization of Shuichi's transgender identity as a "hobby" in her review of the first episode on Anime News Network. While it remains to be seen how the series will develop over its entire 11 episode run, it seems pretty clear that Shuichi's desire to be a girl is more than just a hobby.

Wandering Son is currently steaming in the US on Crunchyroll - the first episode is available now for subscribers and will be available on Thursday, January 20 for non-subscribers. The first volume of the manga will also be coming out sometime this year from Fantagraphics Books.

Wandering Son follows last season's Princess Jellyfish - a series featuring a crossdresser that is available on Funimation Video. Check out either series if you want to see some of the most positive and supportive examples of transgender representation airing in Japan or anywhere!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Looking Back on 2010/Looking Ahead to 2011

Looking back, 2010 was a mixed bag year for me, as I imagine it was for many people. Around this time last year, I posted on this blog that my only goal for the year was to spend more days as a woman than as a man; that goal was easily achieved, as I spent maybe three weeks, at most, living as a man all year. So that was a very positive thing :) Other good things that happened in 2010 include passing Comps, taking my final class as a graduate student, presenting three papers at two conferences and getting two papers accepted to a conference next year. On the down side, 2010 continued the struggle to live as the woman I am. Whether it was family or others, the year included many heated arguments and discussions with people attempting to browbeat me into accepting their view that my identity is somehow "wrong," culminating in my sister chewing me out in early November. 2011 hasn't entirely gotten off to a good start in this regard, with my mother texting me today that she hopes I made "good resolutions" for the year, which I'm trying to take positively but can't help seeing as a passive aggressive dig at my transgender identity.

Looking ahead to 2011, I have a few goals I hope to achieve.

(1) Write my dissertation. I know this is a fairly ambitious goal but to finish my degree on schedule, I need to have at least the first draft completed by the end of the year. I believe this goal is achievable if I put in the necessary work. Being productive on the dissertation will also help counteract the reputation I seem to be gaining in my department as someone who is very ambitious but doesn't follow through on things.

(2) Get above 4.0 on teacher evals. I did well on evals this Fall but I've generally hovered around the 3.6-3.8 range. This isn't bad but I'd like to generally be above 4.0. This Spring will also be my first opportunity to teach an upper-level course that falls within my interests as a scholar so I hope I can make the subject as interesting for my students as it is for me.

(2) Go on a date. This is a little more personal, rather than professional. In 2011, I'd just like to go on a date. I don't necessarily need to be in a relationship but I'd at least like to go on a date, even a bad date.

Those are all I have right now. We'll see how things go with these goals around this time next year!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What a Difference a Year Makes!

I was looking at some pictures the other day and I couldn't help but notice how much I've changed in just the past year. This first picture is from last September, around the time I began living full-time as a woman.

Now here is a picture from yesterday.
My hair is the most obvious difference but I think there's more to it than just that. I think back to how I felt even a year ago and I feel that I've changed a lot. Not only do I feel that I've developed more of my own personal style and have learned what looks good on me, but I just feel more confident in who I am as a woman. I remember buying that outfit in the first picture and feeling that I looked really cute and feminine (that outfit still has a soft spot for me because it was one of the first I purchased after deciding to live full-time). I felt really confident in myself when I went to class for the first time wearing that outfit and while I would obviously make different choices in hairstyle and makeup now, I needed to feel that confidence then or I wouldn't have been able to walk out the door and say "I'm a woman."

I've generally placed the turning point between living as a man and living as a woman but I guess I was surprised to see how much I've learned, at least in terms of physical appearance, about the woman I am in just one year.