One panel I was particularly looking forward to at Geek Girl Con was “Crossplay 101: A Guide to Cross-Gender Cosplay”. For those of you who aren’t familiar with cosplay, it’s a short term for “costume play” and generally refers to dressing up as fictional characters, often for conventions like Geek Girl Con. Crossplay is cosplaying when cis men take on women’s costumes and cis women wear male costumes. The panel was hosted by the Crossplay Society’s secretary Sam Faris, and featured society members Kato Shiori (aka Curt White), Jeremy Holt, and Carlos Pardo.
The Crossplay Society came out of Seattle’s anime and manga convention SakuraCon and its mission is to enjoy crossplay, support other crossplayers, give positive demonstrations of crossplaying and educate those interested in learning about it.
While I thought the presenters were great, as someone who wasn’t looking for personal instruction I was a little disappointed. I was hoping to have a bit less of a how-to do cross-gender cosplay in terms of logistics (makeup, hair removal, etc.) and a bit more analysis of the opportunities for subverting gender roles. As someone who’s always on the lookout for gender-bending subcultures I think crossplay has a lot of potential for subverting gender norms. For a cis man to dress as an anime princess challenges gender boundaries. It’s different than just appropriating another gender or race in dressing as a generic “woman” or “Asian” because the focus is really on taking on an already created character.
But the panel’s only answer to why people crossplay was: “Because it’s fun…and you get to wear cool costumes.” That’s great but I’d also love to hear from people who crossplay about why they choose it over cosplaying in the same gender.
One intresting takeaway from the panel other than the how-tos (which you can find links to on the Crossplay Society’s website at at Crossplay.net) was the Crossplay Society’s position is that crossplay has a long history, going back to the time when women were barred from the stage in some places in Europe, forcing men to play women’s parts.
I also thought it was helpful that the panel distinguished between crossplay and cross-dressing (crossplay not being an everyday thing and being focused on particular characters), and between crossplay and being transgender/transsexual (being trans not necessarily related to clothes, usually not about imitating a character, is about having a gender identity other than the one you were assigned to at birth).