Gender Exploration and Cosplay

Before I knew I was trans, I got into cosplay. At first, it didn’t even occur to me that I could cosplay outside of my gender. I was a teenager who was still trying desperately to cling to my assigned gender, to find a way to make it comfortable. My first convention was an eyeopening experience, with people cosplaying regardless of gender, race, or age. My next cosplay, and the majority after that until I realised I was trans, were crossplay, or cosplaying outside of one’s gender.

Being able to explore gender in this safe way, where I didn’t need to acknowledge to myself what I was doing, was instrumental in my finally accepting that I was trans. While I was bordering on realising, someone took me for the gender I was cosplaying. I was filled with a joy and pride that I couldn’t contextualize. I didn’t know it then, but that was one of my early moments of gender euphoria.

Image Description: A young Kian cosplays Road Kamelot from D.Gray-man, a character with short and dramatically pointy blue hair, four pointed stars in a line across her forehead, a white shirt, short black skirt, and stripey socks.

When I did finally realise I was trans, cosplay became something I could use to experiment with gender. I could publicly present as male without feeling vulnerable. It was a community where gender wasn’t so important, where there were several other trans and gender diverse people around me. Half the people I knew in the community were questioning their gender. Most didn’t care that I was trans, many were even delighted by it.

Image Description: Kian cosplays a generic pirate with drawn on facial hair, short dark brown hair, a black coat, stripey top, and a couple of pendants.

When I began, again, questioning my gender, cosplay was once more a safe way for me to explore. It gave me an outlet for my masculine and my feminine, and a chance to explore what they meant to me, individually and in conjunction. Finally I was able to accept that I am trans genderfluid.

Image Description: A black and white photo of Kian cosplaying Misa Amane from Death Note, a character with long blonde hair and a gothic style of clothing.

Unfortunately, I found that as helpful as cosplay had been while I was figuring out my gender, it’s not a good space for physical disabilities. My first convention with a mobility aid was rife with people asking about my “prop” walking stick and even borrowing it out of the assumption I didn’t actually need it. There was also next to no accessibility. I tried to cosplay on my own for a while, but my passion fizzled due to being cut off from the social aspect. Still, I had fun while cosplay was an option, and now that I have a couple of wheelchairs, I may be able to get back into it.

Image Description: Kian cosplays Natsume Takashi from Natsume Yuujinchou/Natsume’s Book of Friends, a character with short blonde hair, a short sleeved white shirt, black pants, and a large living Lucky Cat statue (substituted by a plush toy Lucky Cat). Leaning against the seat Kian is sitting on, rests a walking stick.

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