Transgender

Shinka: How Anime’s Helping Along Evolution

The anime world is one that provides solace, entertainment, and enjoyment to millions of people around the globe.  To many, it’s a weird subculture that reveals just how committed humans can be to fictional realms and characters. What they tend to overlook however, is that like literature, sitcoms, movies, etc., it provides yet another escape from reality, if only for half an hour (the average length of most anime episodes). You get to see just about anything in anime (and hentai: anime porn), and as a person that has seen about 400 anime series/movies (I know, my life is awesome), I much prefer it to the largely depressing, discriminatory, and all around unsavory reality that we live in.

 

Shinka 1

 

Now I could go on about how amazing anime is, and how everyone on Earth should watch it, but a particular notion about anime viewers was drawn to my attention: we are hardly ever sexist, homophobic, trans-phobic, or really discriminatory at all. I say this based upon the members of the anime community that I interact with, and while I have interacted with quite a lot, I can hardly speak for every anime watcher out there. What I will say is that if you do watch heavy amounts of anime, your chances of remaining averse to people that society loves to deem “abnormal” is going to be drastically reduced.

 

Why?

 

The first word that comes to mind is ‘androgyny’. The Japanese, and by extension, anime, is very androgynous in not just their dressing, but their character aesthetic design as well, and the behaviors of said characters.

 

 Shinka 2

This is Haku. He’s a guy. He’s hot. Admit it. 

 

We become attracted to the characters we admire on television, and anime is no different in that regard. I remember the first time I saw some of my friends drooling over anime girls, I was so confused. Like, the fuck? Next thing I know I find myself in love with Haruko Haruhara from Fooly Cooly. It just kind of hits you. But I digress.

 

It’s immensely difficult to maintain sexist views when you find yourself drawn to males/females that you initially thought were the opposite gender. You start subconsciously breaking down those barriers you had put up against them. If you find yourself attracted to an anime guy that you thought looked like a girl, you’re really just one step away from being attracted to males in real life that have the same attributes. Can you really be homophobic then?

Shinka

 

What’s even more fascinating is how these characters behave. Gender roles still exist in anime, but to a far lesser degree than in other forms of entertainment. Men cook, women are frequently breadwinners (it’s REALLY interesting to note that fatherless homes are a lot more frequent in anime than motherless ones, but that’s another discussion entirely), male friends are very openly comfortable with each other… it’s really ideal. So when you watch a lot of this happen, one has to wonder why on earth we so strictly adhere to those roles in reality, when they seem so easily negligible in anime.

 

Women are stronger than men.

 

Shinka 3

 

Scenario: You’re a sixteen year old boy, living a boring life, and nothing exciting ever happens in your town

 

PLOT TWIST: a magical girl bursts through your ceiling, fighting a creature from a different dimension which she obliterates with ease, and you fall in love at first sight with this super strong girl that’s going to change your life forever and make you her bitch.

 

I just described the introductions of probably hundreds of different anime.

 

To be fair, I’m not entirely sure that the roots of female power in anime are righteously rooted. It seems to be more of a fetishizing of the powerful girl, but it’s one that has worked out positively, in my opinion. If you’re an archaic misogynist you do not have a place in anime. Female characters are just as, if not more, popular than their male counterparts. We fucking love them. They wreck shit. They make men do dumb shit for them. They become student council presidents and take control of their entire school (I’m looking at you, Kill la Kill). There is just such an overwhelming amount of anime focusing on female empowerment, from the magical girl variants to the bad ass action ones that you’re just better off learning to love them as much as you should.

 

Cross Dressing/Futanari

 

There is a ton of anime content centralizing around cross dressing and transgender characters. Unfortunately, the latter is still purely restricted to hentai, which leads me to believe there is a large amount of aforementioned fetishizing involved, but I do hope it turns out useful in destroying the very negative stigmas usually associated with trans people. I’m waiting for an anime to actually feature an openly transgender main character, so I can advertise the hell out of it.

 

Cross dressing, however, has been very frequent in anime for many years now. As if the androgynous dressing wasn’t enough already, many anime feature plots where a man/woman is in a scenario where they are either forced to dress as the opposing gender, or they simply enjoy doing so. Now in these anime the initial reaction is always one of disgust, which mirrors society quite aptly. But the beautiful thing is, that these anime use their plot devices to make the cross dresser just as accepted as any other member of the anime.

 

 Shinka 4

Ranma 1/2, one of the most popular comedy/action anime ever released, features a protagonist that changes between a male and a female.

The majority of these anime take place in school settings, where, say, a boy/girl “accidentally” gets into an all-boys/girls school, and is ergo forced to dress as a boy/girl to not get caught (it wouldn’t be anime if they did the sensible thing and just transferred schools, now would it?) They almost always play out the same way: guy/girl starts cross dressing, and is exposed to the various stigmas members of that gender face, which changes their opinion of said gender, and they slowly start enjoying the cross dressing. The climax occurs when the class/school find out about the cross dresser, and they are usually subjected to initial bullying. In the resolution though, the classmates/school members eventually realize they were all changed by the cross dresser(s), and accept that they are just as normal as anyone else.

 

I think that the effect that anime has on breaking down these discriminatory notions is much needed. The messages conveyed of acceptable differential norms are ones that needs to be widespread in our world, in our cultures, and become rooted in our humanity. We cannot continue being so wary of change and difference, and continue to subject the people that are different to negative labels.

 

I guess what I’m trying to say is, go watch some anime and become a better person.

 

-Charles

 

**Charles says “Coming up with bios is difficult” so there’s that.

Find him on Twitter or read his work here.

Martin Taught Me

No, not Luther King, Lawrence.

He was Madea before Tyler Perry.

Sans the perpetuating of all Black stereotypes and monotonous story-lines.

Here’s a list of things Martin taught me with a wig, press-on nails and lots of sass.

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1. When it comes to trans people, refer to them as they’d like to be referred to.

We all knew Martin was Sheneneh. Sure. It was evident. But I love how no one, at any point in time made any negative remarks or questioned her authenticity as a woman.

That was a valuable lesson I think he was trying to get across.

Gina: Maybe I can give you some advice on girl stuff or something like that..

Sheneneh: …You thinking like your friend huh? That I ain’t ladylike and stuff huh?

Gina: No, that is not true. Look at your hair, your nails and your jewelry, I think you’re very ladylike.

Sheneneh: Because Sheneneh is a round the way fillet.

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Respect it.

2. “If a man don’t like you for you then he can just step off, aiiiite?”

3. When it comes to drinking 40s.. Or if you’re down here, Black Label quarts, you don’t drink it outta the glass, you got to take it to the head. 

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4.  Sometimes 

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5.  “Don’t be trying to trip, if you ain’t rich. Sheneneh ain’t no trick. Better have a grip. And if you ain’t got no rims on your hooptie, don’t be tryna scoop me.”

If you don’t understand..the message is similar to Destiny Child’s “Independent women”. Basically.

6. Never be afraid to tell someone you’ll buss their ass. Even if you never actually do.

7. You better work. 

Sheneneh was a focused woman.  A weave technician with her own salon and designer weaves, including the “My man just got paid” weave. She also had numerous awards from hair shows.

Work.

8. Know you’re Fine, don’t need anyone to tell you. Know you’re Fine.

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9. Don’t be that person

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Very valid message actually, just overlook the threat at the end.

10. Evaluate everything.

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Things I’ll probably never fully understand: Men, Race and Gender

  1. What it’s like to be  a Man

It’s easy to complain about men’s behaviour isn’t it? So many of them mess up so effortlessly when interacting with women.  If one isn’t calling you a bitch he’s groping you or one of the straight ones is going on about how “homos” are an abomination. They’re quick to point out how they don’t do certain things because they’re “not bitches”, think feminists “are just angry lesbians” and when out, it’s shocking to find one who isn’t getting sloppy drunk, sexually harassing a woman or looking for a fight.

Now no, I’m not saying that ALL men do this, I’m saying a lot do. Too many.

And some genuinely have no remorse. Some think this is what it means to be a Man.  Some are unwilling to grow.

Why? Because this  is what they’ve been taught it means to be a Real Man. These are the thoughts that’ve been ingrained into their minds.

A man doesn’t cry.

A man doesn’t read books that aren’t about nude women, sex or money.  Wondering about the World and feelings is for women and homosexuals.

Nobody’s opinion matters more than a heterosexual man’s.

You need to be your own man, but only as long as your father and society approves.

Do not feel. Do not think anything you haven’t been told to think. Do not be anything other than what you’ve been told to be.

And a lot of men refuse to acknowledge that they aren’t living for themselves. That they live with a chronic fear of being considered feminine because, whether they’ll admit it or not they believe a woman is a horrible thing to be.  That it gets heavy sometimes, having to always be on your toes because someone may catch you slipping and wearing pink, only to question your sexuality.

That they’re often confused and feel confined by the word “Man.”

With the help of one, I have little difficulty understanding their experiences and their behaviour. I encourage my male friends to explore their feelings. To be honest about their desires, their fears and their dreams. To draw the line between What Society Wants and their Wants.  And there, I’ve found a lot of pain. A lot of confusion.

A lot of women are guilty of stripping males of their humanity too. Girlfriends who laugh when their partners cry or confide in them, mothers who tell their sons to “man up”, there’s always someone ready to continue the process of dehumanizing the Man, and yet who complains when said Man begins to act like the animal he’s been led to believe he is.

Men need healing too. They need acceptance too and for us to acknowledge their struggles with identity etc. They need to be taught.

I know some of you, especially women, are reading this and saying “Well they don’t do that for us” and I know, they don’t. Some of them are lost causes. But some men really do want to be better. They know there’s more to Life than being “Real”. If you come across one, nurture them. Is all I’m saying.

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2.  What it’s like to be Black, In America

“Diaspora”. I first heard the word in High School as my History teacher discussed “the African diaspora”. The conversation led to how hard life must be for Black people  in America. We all rolled our eyes.

What was he on? Evidently someone didn’t listen to Hip Hop. Hadn’t he seen all the sexy women with long weaves chilling outsides their yards, hanging out with their high yella lovers as kids played on the streets and expensive cars passed by with drug dealers behind the seat? Hadn’t he ever witnessed that Utopia? Well..yeah..random shoot outs would occur and that was sad..Yes, Tupac said it was rough over there but..It couldn’t be THAT bad, right? Right?

We thought for a long time that because America was “civilized”, because everything that we knew to symbolize success came from there or was somehow connected to it and the American Dream, it wasn’t possible for anyone to be unhappy there.

We thought Black Americans were ungrateful.

You need to understand, we got to see them through the eyes of the privileged White people who create the shows and the videos.

So we thought: Thugs. Prostitutes. Crackheads. Drug dealers. A few trying to make it out of the hood. Black on Black violence.  Unappreciative. Lazy.

We were led to believe the circumstances that many live under were of their own doing. That America, the land of Milk and Honey, provided equal opportunities to everyone. Everything was there, the Blacks just wouldn’t get up and take it because they still believed they were victims, that they were still being oppressed.

Delusional Blacks, living in the past. Tut tut.

It wasn’t until I stopped paying attention to the media that I began to somewhat understand the effects of oppression, the difference between what Is and What’s Shown etc. Social networking sites began my growth as a person, as a person of colour, as a woman, and for that, I’m eternally grateful. Meeting and interacting with not just African Americans but Black South Africans and hearing their stories made me appreciate my country and experiences that much more, as I understood theirs.

Botswana’s never really had any hostile experiences. Our country’s filled with Batswana and to be honest, most of us are shocked to see White people among us walking.  They’re an addition to our society, we aren’t an addition to theirs. We don’t know what it’s like to be Othered.  To be treated as Less Than. To be viewed as parasites in our own Land.

When the Trayvon Martin case began, some ignored it because they felt many more kids had been murdered, why focus on one? But I remember someone saying it would be an iconic case and we all waited to see whether that would be true.

Zimmerman was acquitted.

The case was simple. We all knew.

He saw a young Black man walking, he stalked him, confronted him and murdered him.

And he was let go.

It’s not that we didn’t know chances were this would occur, it’s that many were hoping it wouldn’t.

Now?

The racists are coming out to play.

Black boys are scared.

The Black community is outraged.

Simply, the facade is falling apart.

I cried.

I still do.

It’s heavy. It’s heavy on the heart and it’s heavy on the Soul.

I continue to watch this all unravel.

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3. What it’s like to feel like a stranger in your own body

Growing up I thought you were either a man or a woman. It was that simple to many. If you’re a woman, act like one, is you’re a man, act like one.

I didn’t acknowledge the Trans community til later on in Life, and even then, even now, it’s still something I’m learning about. Someone explained it to me simply “I just don’t feel comfortable this way. It doesn’t feel like who I am. Who I should be” and it’s something I still think about.

To a lot of people, the fact that they can’t relate means they should  reject something.  I thinks it’s silly.  I don’t relate to your struggle but that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t understand it.

One of my closest friends is undergoing hormone treatment. When she told me she intended to go along with it, she was cautious. I could shun her. I could tell her it was a waste. I could tell her anything that would dismiss her feelings and crush her spirit. I understood why she tiptoed around it.

My main concern? Was she sure? Would it make her happy? Then sure.

We already live in a society that’s dismissive, you don’t need to be one more person who’s a total asshole to  people because they aren’t like/don’t feel like you.

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I’ve had my own experiences as an African Cisgender Woman, and I am always aware of what and who I am. I appreciate it. But I’m always fully aware of the fact that there are so many more stories out there. An endless array of feelings and experiences that I’ll never fully feel, and I appreciate that too.

The World is larger and more diverse than your existence and your experiences, I’ve learned.

A Real Issue

“A real woman has curves”.
“A real woman never lets her man leave the house hungry or horny.”
“A real woman always puts others first.”
A “real woman” is something that I , as a woman, find hard to define, so who is attempting to? And failing dismally while at it.
TheFreeDictionary.Com has several definitions for the word “Woman”, some of which include:
wom·an (wmn)
n. pl. wom·en (wmn)
1. An adult female human.
2. An adult female human belonging to a specified occupation, group, nationality, or other category. Often used in combination: an Englishwoman; congresswoman; a saleswoman.
3. Feminine quality or aspect; womanliness.
4. A female servant or subordinate.
5. Informal
a. A wife.
b. A female lover or sweetheart.

I have to wonder, which definition are we attaching “real” to? The first one? The second?
To me,it seems the Fourth. A real female servant or subordinate because let’s face it, we live in a misogynistic, patriotic world. And from the quotes above, doesn’t it seem like we’re merely preparing these “real” women to be the ideal servants?

While writing this I had to ask,what makes a Woman? We could be biological and say XX Chromosomes. We could say “The acceptance, cultivation and use of overly feminine character traits/qualities”, but would that even begin to graze what it is that really makes a Woman? Can it be defined? I find myself stepping out of the regular mold  of puberty making every girl a woman, and wonder on the men who feel trapped in their bodies, the transgender community and realize  beginning to even attempt to say what a Woman is is firstly downright rude,and second, possibly impossible.

I tried none the less and what I could come up with was this: “Strength”. And as with anything or anyone that is considered ‘Real’,the strength to be as one REALLY is, as is in one’s nature to Be.

It is degrading to attempt to box in Femininity to such an extent as to define what is “Real” and what isn’t. As there have been women who’ve nurtured and taught, the Winnie Mandelas and Mother Theresas and Joy Phomaphis, there have been women who’ve conquered and blazed new frontiers  the Joan of Arcs and Ellen Johnson Sirleafs and Unity Dows. None has made a lesser contribution in their respective fields because of their body shape, or been seen as a failure because they were not there for every meal at the dinner table.

We must ask, is there anyone out there who is of the mind that “A real man is skinny”, or “a real man never lets his wife leave the house tired and horny” or “a real man sacrifices himself for those around him”?I think not, and in the event that they do exist, their number compared to those who believe in these “Real women” traits would be a mere fraction.

I find myself questioning whether Misandry is the only way to counter Misogyny. Understanding between the two sexes seems to be a far fetched pipe dream considering how things are at the current moment. Women are becoming more vocal and their disgust at how we’ve been treated and portrayed is evident. Women such as Kola Boof,Egyptian/Sudanese-American Bestselling novelist, poet, television writer and author of THE SEXY PART OF THE BIBLE are quite vocal about how they feel regarding how the Media portrays the female,more specifically,the Black woman and I find that women who speak out against such injustices are labelled loud, crass,unruly and bitches. The majority of men view Feminist views as silly, unnecessary, and the condescending ones find us standing up for our rights as “cute.”

Martin Luther King stated “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. Now don’t you find that breaking down the internal make up of females and making them feel inadequate as they already are is really a diversion off other matters? Most men and their need to be Superior seems to be the issue here. Women must be pretty trophies and leading them to insecurity makes this easier. It could also be other women perpetuating this way of thought because it’s what they know and they too would like to feel like “better” females. Either way, neither is winning as far as I’m concerned.

It is senseless to try to say what a Real Woman does, looks like and believes. People have been around long enough for us know we cannot DEFINE,as much as we try. Unfortunately,as much as we’ve evolved physically, intellectually many are still stuck in the stone ages with their beliefs. No group of people is Less than any other. Not Blacks, not women, not homosexuals, not blondes, not the lady with an A cup bra size. We remain separate but equal. But few know this, and even fewer seem to believe it.

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