Hello! I’m particpating in this month’s blog tour! For June, OWLs members are to write about the topic, “Team.”
To clarify the meaning of this month’s theme, I’ve included an abridged version of the provided prompt:
June is known as “Pride Month” within the LGBT & Queer communities in honor of the Stonewall Riots that occurred at the end of June in 1969. At OWLS, we strongly support individuals who are part of the LGBT & Queer communities as well as individuals who are struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Therefore, June’s topic is “Team”… because it functions in two ways: 1) allows individuals to show their support to the LGBT & Queer communities and 2) allows LGBT & Queer communities to express their love to whomever they want.
So for the “Team” topic, we will be discussing our favorite LGBT & Queer characters in anime and other pop culture related media, the impact of the yaoi and yuri genre within LGBT & Queer communities, our personal stories involving gender/sexual orientation, and etc.
-Lyn, OWLS’ Chief Creative Officer
Intros are overrated.
Japanese media often depict boys who crossdress in an unfair light. To illustrate this point, we can refer to otokonoko manga, a genre consisting of romantic/erotic stories involving crossdressing boys. One of these manga series, Past Future, features an insecure, effeminate boy named Kako. After an instance of bullying as well as some self-reflection, Kako realizes he is actually interested in wearing female clothing.
Kako’s situation is a difficult one. While dressed as a boy, Kato’s classmates mock him for not conforming to societal standards regarding masculinity. As he slowly transitions to wearing more feminine attire, Kako finally begins to gain confidence. This self-assurance is continuously thwarted, however, because Kako’s own family regularly shuns him for being “weird.”
Pursuing this newfound passion causes Kako’s younger sister, Mirai, to decry him as repulsive and to ultimately ostracize the sibling she once admired. Several characters in Past Future share Mirai’s sentiment and admonish Kako’s crossdressing as reprehensible, while other fetishize his feminine transition. Sadly, the only character to consistently treat Kako with any sort of respect or sympathy is Mirai’s friend, Ran. Even so, Ran admits that her outlook would be very different if it was her own brother crossdressing. One could infer that even open-minded characters would feel inherent shame over a family member who does not conform to societal standards. Hikikomori are treated in a similar fashion.
Another otokonoko manga, Reversible!, highlights this negative social backlash towards crossdressing as well. Taking place in a special all-boys school, the rules mandate that students must alternate between wearing masculine and feminine attire at least every other week. Student X, for example, is allowed to wear a male school uniform during week A. However, Student X would then be obligated to wear a female school uniform, skirt and all, during week B because of his decision to wear male clothing during week A.
Markedly different from Past Future, Reversible! fosters a setting where cross-dressing is not abnormal, per se. Instead, the students embrace and adapt to the rules set forth by the school. And in such an environment devoid of female interaction, some boys turn towards the other boys for sexual release. While not all the characters participate in these activities, it is widely acknowledged and at least tolerated among the all-male peers.
This environment is both an asset and hindrance for one of the main characters, Tsubaki, who was orphaned at a young age. At this all-boy school, students are forbidden from using monetary support from family or other outside sources. They instead receive allowances based on individual grades and exam scores. And between the school’s monetary reward system and his naturally cute looks, Tsubaki, who grew up with nothing to his name, sees crossdressing as another weapon at his disposal to earn some extra income. Teaching other students to crossdress allows him to earn high evaluation marks which, in turn, further boosts his monetary gain. While his aesthetic beauty helps line his pockets, Tsubaki is also careful to establish boundaries lest the other males wish to indulge their primal desires.
But as his comments towards a homosexual classmate implies, Tsubaki does not identify as a female or as a homosexual. Naturally, due to his heterosexual orientation and other factors that skew his personal feelings (and which are not mentioned in this post), Tsubaki has no interest in starting a sexual relationship with another boy throughout most of the story. In short, the enviornment is both a boon and a bane for Tsubaki.
These two series exemplify the typical reactions towards male crossdressers depicted in Japanese media, which range between disgust and lust. Other examples of crossdressers being cast in a negative light would include anime series such as Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai and Ouran Highschool Host Club.
Although these series are works of fiction, and should be treated as such, some of the sentiments expressed, as the depicted situations, could easily apply to real life. I should know… because I have crossdressed on multiple occasions years ago.
While I identify as a heterosexual man, I have experienced instances where my own masculinity has been belittled. For instance, because I cried easily as a kid, I was constantly put down by my father. He resented seeing such “weakness” from his son and considered shedding tears unbecoming as a man. I distinctly remember my father forcing me to sit down and write an explanation for why I was so emotional. He simply couldn’t fathom that crying was an acceptable means of expressing emotion for a man.
For a more modern example, I’m currently growing out my locks. When seeing my hair up, in a mini ponytail, my mother openly reacts in disgust. My parents, it seems, are firmly enclosed in their close-minded, conservative views. They are fearful of any hint of androgyny and prefer to have everything labeled into easily distinguished categories. To that end, they want their son to adhere to socially acceptable standards (which, for them, equates to a stoic ‘salaryman’ with close-cropped hair).
As I stated earlier, I crossdressed while I lived away from home in college. The reasons probably aren’t important. I also ended up taking pictures to share with a select few. But then a certain individual ended up sharing with a hostile individual who proceeded to make sure everyone within a particular community knew of my personal hobby by spreading the world.
The aggressor in question also started demanding that I needed to seek mental help, all the while encouraging others to rally behind his claims that I was mentally unhealthy. Some other members of the community expressed overt lust over these images. Neither reaction was what I was after. I just wanted to appear cute.
But I’ll be stopping here now since this post is getting too personal. What I’m trying to say is that I can relate to what Kako and Tsubaki went through to some degree. I also think it’s fine for fiction to incorporate harsh depictions of reality when it comes to LGBTQ, but seeing only these tragic and miserable conditions can be very discouraging for those who can sympathize. However, it would be unrealistic for fiction to only be rainbows and sunshine when it comes to sensitive issues like this. I kind of talked about this in this post I published last month. Just scroll down to the comments to see the visitor’s insightful responses. They do a better job than me, in my opinion!
If you manage to take anything from this blog post, then I would want you to understand that you should be open-minded and treat others kindly regardless of their orientation, sexuality, or clothing. That’s all I ask. It’s not hard, is it?
Thank you for reading this blog post. Please check out Takuto’s post, which can be found here. It’s a lovely post about the importance of being a team and working hard for the sake of others.
Kat will be following my post on this month’s OWLS Blog Tour so keep your eyes peeled for that, as well. Her website can be found over here.