The Poor Perception of Male Crossdressers in Japanese Media – OWLS June Blog Tour | Team

44 comments

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.”

past-future.png
To be fair, Kako is wearing her clothes without permission.

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.

reversible boy
Tsubaki’s personal conviction regarding his sexual identity.

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.

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44 comments on “The Poor Perception of Male Crossdressers in Japanese Media – OWLS June Blog Tour | Team”

  1. Thank you for this lovely post and for sharing what was undoubtedly a very personal story. Whilst we continue to become more open minded as a society, there are still a large number of people who are set in their ways. What you have discussed really shows how even whole cultures are still very “behind the times” as it were.
    Reversible! sounds like a really interesting manga, I think id like to read it myself 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Personally I usually couldn’t give two shits about what a person does so I tend to just ignore them and let them be, but there are some cases where I just can’t take it. The first is when people become pretty much anti science (like the whole dual gendered, non binary fiasco), the second is when they try to shove it down everyone’s throats, the third is when they become radical with their views. As far as cross dressers go let them do what they want but some of them need to stop being so persistent when it comes to “flirting” with guys they know are straight.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Why is that? Boys can only be boys and girls can only be girls in your opinion?

      Mmm fair enough. Some people do take it too far.

      What do you mean by radical? Are these individuals claiming everyone is genderfluid or something?

      Well, sure, but that wasn’t really the point of the post. That sort of behavior shouldn’t be condoned, though, I agree.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. From a scientific aspect I do think boys can only be boys and girls can only be girls because your DNA determines what you are. There are cases where one can have two different genitals or they can have none but their DNA will usually say they’re either male or female.

        By radical I mean people who say that everyone is bisexual or anyone who wouldn’t date a transexual are transphobic or if you aren’t attracted
        to your own sex then you’re homophobic and people like antifa.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Sorry to butt in but I’m curious too about what you mean by “dual gendered, non binary fiasco”? Because yes, non-binary gender identification is a thing. I should know, I am one such person.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I’m not trying to be offensive but I’ve yet to see any hard scientific evidence from a non biased source that proves non binary is a thing. Now I’m not gonna judge someone if they identify as that but I’m not to see it as a legit thing unless I’m shown scientific evidence. As far as dual gendered I’m talking about people who claim to be both male and female at the same time, my problem with it is pretty much the same reason with non binary. If I’m shown evidence I can possibly be swayed but on some subjects I just can’t be swayed, the whole idea of children going through gender reassignment and transtrender vs transgender thing are two examples.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I can’t give you hard science – I bid science sweet goodbye in high school and never looked back. But Kimmie has answered down below and that may be what you’re looking for.

        All I can give you is my very biased personal experiences but I can see you’re not interested in that. But calling a whole group of people a “dual gendered, non binary fiasco” and adding that you mean no offense doesn’t actually make it non-offensive.

        Liked by 3 people

      3. I’d actually like your experiences, I genuinely like hearing things like that it’s just that I don’t view them with same weight as a scientific study from a trusted source. As far as me calling it a fiasco I literally only used that because I forgot the word I originally wanted to use, I just saw what Kimmie said it’s pretty convincing and agree with some parts to a certain extent but I need to see the source.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I am not sure I agree with your use of the word “non-binary.” Gender identity is not limited to physically appearance and genitalia. As a medical researcher, I will say that studies have shown gender identity development to reflect a complex interplay of biologic, environmental, and cultural factors.

        Studies have explored the role of prenatal and postnatal androgens (ie: testosterone) in gender identity development. These studies looked at infants who were assigned “female,” born with female sex organs, but have increased testosterone levels. When raised female, some of these individuals reported a female gender identity in adulthood– that much is true. With that said, the prevalence of these individuals who identified as transmasculine, or male, was significantly greater when compared to the general population. So this finding suggests that the balance of hormones plays a significant role in determining a person’s gender identity; regardless of their natal gender.

        Just recently, a review on MRI structural brain studies has shown for adult, transgender males, there are a mixture of feminine, masculine and defeminized traits in transgender men. Similarly, feminine, masculine and demasculinized traits have been determined in transgender women.

        My point is, studies that shed light on the biologic underpinnings of gender identity alone run the risk of potentially underscoring the concept that, much like sexual orientation, gender identity is not a choice.

        Liked by 3 people

      5. Kimmie, thank you for the information about the scientific side of gender identity. I’m really not good with the more technical aspects of things so it was interesting and helpful to read about this in understandable language.

        But I’m not sure if your response was intended for me or if it was for Valentino Senpai. Because at no point did I imply that genderidentity is based on genitalia or that it was a choice. I know it’s neither of that. If it were a choice, I wouldn’t have spend years in denial and then end up with a truckload of confusion that I’m still shifting through.

        Liked by 2 people

      6. I know you well enough, through your posts, to realize that you would never imply that gender identity is based solely on natal gender or “willing oneself” to be a certain way.

        I’m proud you are taking steps to grow into the person you are truly meant to be. It is not easy, by any means, and societal expectations make it all the more difficult. I fully support you and I’m here if you ever need scientific fodder to support what should be common sense.

        Liked by 2 people

      7. Thank you, Kimmie, for the support. It means a lot. I think I’ll keep this post bookmarked. The data you linked may fly over my head (no good with hard science oops) but it’s comforting in a way to know that it’s there.

        Liked by 2 people

      8. I’m not too sure if this is directed at me and I’m not sure if we’re using the same definition of non binary but if it is directed at me here’s what I have to say. When I said non binary I meant people who say they aren’t male or female whether it be biologically or mentally.
        I can agree with what you’re saying to a certain extent, it makes sense that a male with higher estrogen level might identify with or as a female and vice versa with females that have more testosterone.

        Yes, gender identity isn’t a choice and I never said it was a choice. My whole problem with the gender identity subject is that a lot of people in my experience who identify genderfluid, non binary, etc try to make it like it’s a biological sex when the concept of gender revolves societal and cultural norms.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. I see. You mean non-binary as someone who doesnt fit neatly within natal gender labels of
        male OR female– ie: they can be a combination of male and female, a fluid back-and-forth, or totally outside of the binary.

        I am not certain how you expect this to be measured biologically, other than the examples I already gave. Gender expression and the way in which someone identifies are not necessarily dependent on one another. Why should they be?

        You are free to adhere to your own belief system on this. That is the beauty of living under a law that allows for freedom of choice. With that said, individuals should not be bound by outdated societal labels that serve little purpose other than to make the masses feel comfortable in knowing what category to shove you in.

        Liked by 3 people

      10. what I mean by non binary are people who say that they aren’t male or female in any way.

        I don’t expect or really care if it’s measured biologically. What I would like is for people to realize that just because they identify as another sex doesn’t mean they’re the other sex. I often find that a lot of the people who identify as the opposite sex do so because they simply don’t fit the norm or stereotype for their sex and sometimes they don’t understand how someone who’s like them doesn’t identify as what they are my friend for example isn’t your typical feminine female and she doesn’t identify as transmasculine or transgender and it confuses some people for some odd reason.

        I agree people shouldn’t be forced into labels but it also doesn’t help when they’re making more labels and then some try to shove people who are similar to them into those labels.

        Liked by 2 people

      11. No problem. Here is one of the publications where you can find the data I referenced. https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article-lookup/doi/10.1210/jc.2014-1919

        It was a process of studies published in the journal of clinical endocrinoloy and metabolism; some of the work was conducted in our lab, which is how I knew to reference it.

        Be advised that the language is written for scientific medicine, so it may get a bit confusing. I simplified the statements to include in this post.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. As normally the case with your posts, I found this one to be intriguing. I was especially drawn to the story about Tsubaki. With gender being traditionally represented as male or female (in most parts of the world), society unconsciously accepts this binary without a second thought.

    Tsubaki’s presence in Reversible! shows the audience that gender is much more complex than this ideal of “male” and “female.” Gender isn’t something that can be labeled. Instead, it is more akin to a human fingerprint, unique to the individual. Because of this, a person may opt to cross-dress for various reasons. In Tsubaki’s case, it was partially due to his desire for monetary gain and awareness that his “cute looks” were an asset when it came to cross-dressing.

    All in all, the experience of cross-dressing is mixed with a range of emotions and feelings (despair, relief, excitement, etc) that come with realizing, expressing, and disclosing an individual’s gender identity. Cross-dressing as a means of self expression and identity should be celebrated, not admonished.

    At one time, in the US, women who wore pants were considered radical and non-conforming. While social gender expectations have shifted over time, the recognition of gender fluid clothing choices are not equally accepted among all segments of society. Though small strides are being made to break down these barriers, we (as a society) have a long way to go. Posts like yours, highlighting unfair depictions of cross-dressing, is a step in the right direction.

    Also, thank you for sharing your personal stories, Remy. It is my impression that seeing something in media may not resonate and impact an audience the way personal, “true life” stories do. If your experience can get even one person to rethink their views on cross-dressing and gender labeling, then you accomplished much. Never let anyone make you feel guilty for the choices you make. Only you can define who you are as an individual.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you, Kimmie.
      I guess it’s easier to just separate gender, but doing so is a disservice for many individuals. Gender is more complex than that and Tsubaki, as you said, is a good example of that.

      I agree. Personally, I think the world would be a better place if cross-dressing was more widely accepted and celebrated. But we have a ways to go before that happens.

      Mmm it’s incredible how far we have progressed in some areas yet haven’t budged much in others. Baby steps are all we can really wish for at the moment.

      Well, thank you once again. I also hope I was able to help someone re-think and reconsider their stance on gender and cross-dressing. Mmm that is some wonderful advice.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks for sharing this post, it was an interesting read! Have you ever watched Princess Jellyfish? This one presents a very positive view of a character who enjoys cross-dressing just for the fun of it. It does offer a glimpse at his family, who blames his mother for the behavior that they find unacceptable, but some members of his family and any of his friends who know about it don’t have a problem. The character isn’t fetishized either. He’s just cute for the sake of being cute. I haven’t watched many series where a cross-dressing character just does so because they enjoy it and not because they’re transgender or gender fluid.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay, you’re welcome.

      Oh I’ve been meaning to watch that one. Not that many series seem to depict cross-dressers who do so in order to be cute, you’re right. Thanks for sharing and for dropping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is part of why I love Prunus Girl so much. Aikawa’s crossdressing is totally accepted, and when he and Maki get together the whole cast sees it as natural. At the same time he isn’t particularly sexualized. Works like that shouldnt be everything, but it’s nice that they exist.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did like Prunus Girl and its direction. It is nice that works with a more positive portrayal of cross-dressing are out there, but yes, you’re most probably right in saying that not every series should be like this.

      Like

  6. Such wonderful post 💜 I’m so sorry to hear about your experience. I feel like my husband would really relate to this story so I’m going to share it with him. Unfortunately I think the lack of diverse cross-dressing characters is a real shame. I agree that it isn’t all sunshine and daisies but I feel like there is room to have depections of many different types of characters and experiences. I loved your post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, thank you. Ah, what’s done is done. Hopefully your husband also enjoyed reading about it.

      Mmm there’s some variation to some degree but not as much as I would like. Maybe in the future that could change. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Remy, thank you for sharing both your views and your experiences. You’re a seriously brave guy. Now I’ll try to respond in kind.

    Addressing the cross-dressing first; I can’t recall any specific examples because my memory is a sieve but I do know that the vast majority of cross-dressing men I’ve seen in media are either degraded or fetishized, neither of which are in any way fair to those who like to cross dress. A boy wearing skirts or dresses isn’t ‘wrong’. And it sure as hell isn’t about sex. Sure, it could be but that’s individual preference not some sacred truth. I think you’ve nailed it by saying that lust or disgust are the major emotions directed towards cross-dressers and that’s pretty fucking sad. But hey, things are oh-so-slowly changing so maybe people will get their heads out of their butts before the sun explodes and kills us all.

    And I am so damn sorry your parents treat you like that and that some asshole thought he had the right to police your freedom. They’re wrong but I’m sure you know that. If you want to look cute or grow out your hair, then hell, go for it. I can identify with wanting to not conform to ‘traditional’ attire or appearance. Hell, I’ve been trying my best to make my looks as androgynous as possible for a while now. It gets me weird stares and a lot of hushed comments. I feed off their scandalized asses like a psychic vampire because it’s either that or go crazy.

    Sorry for the long comment and my language. Before the end, lemme repeat that you’re seriously amazing.

    (Also, I kinda responded – more like asked a question – to one of the above commentors. I hope you don’t mind.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, thank YOU, D. You’re also brave for putting yourself out there, too.

      Mmm I guess that’s how it is globally. Maybe change will be more uniform in the future!

      Ehehe it’s fine. They don’t understand. Same with the other guy. I think he had some obsession with me since he would talk about me in Skype group chats that I weren’t a part of. Or analyze my personal posts on Tumblr. This went on for over 2 years, wahaha.

      More power to you. I wish to be androgynous in the future, too. You keep being amazing and keep showing them, D!

      No need to apologize. And so are you!

      (No problem at all)

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Really interesting post!
    I don’t know if being too open-mined can be a thing, but I don’t really care about what people do with their life as long as they enjoy it and feel good about it, I really don’t see here is the problem.

    I read was interesting cross-dressing manga a while a go that I really enjoy Princess Princess

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Remy, thank you so much for this post.

    I loved hearing about your personal story. My fiance is a biological female, but dresses as a guy, and eventually wants to transition fully male. However, I have never really had an experience with a biological male that cross dresses, so hearing your story helps me become a more understanding and well-founded person.

    I am biologically female, but I am gender fluid. Sometimes I feel like a girl and other times I feel like a boy. It is nice to hear stories from other people who don’t always follow traditional gender practices. Thanks again!

    As a side note, have you ever seen Maria Holic? There is a boy in that cross dresses as a girl. He is a jerk and some of the other characters make comments about his cross dressing. The show is extremely silly and shouldn’t be taken seriously. Because of this, I don’t take the negativity seriously either. However, I was wondering your opinion of it considering your personal experiences. If you haven’t seen it, I think you should check it out (it also has a lot of yuri).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Rai. Thank you for dropping by. I’m glad you liked the post.
      And thank you for being so open about your fiance and yourself. It is indeed nice to hear from other people who don’t follow traditional gender practices and customs.

      I did watch the first season of Maria Holic and I enjoyed it despite some of the negative connotations expressed in the show. Its humor makes it easier to swallow as you said. Thanks for reminding me about the show – perhaps I’ll rewatch it once again.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m really happy to see that this post is out there. From my own standpoint, I can relate to a lot of what you’re saying. There are certainly enough pics out there of me dressing outside my biological gender. I’m lucky that the reactions I’ve had have msotly been positive, and for that I’m thankful. How people wish to identify in terms of gender and orientation is their own business, and i’m always happy to accept waht they’re saying (after all, no one else is in their head but themselves, so who would know better?). Hoenstly though, I do wish there were more positive examples of crossdressing in anime and manga. Ridiculing and making crossdressing the butt of jokes simply helps to negatively shape the public perception of people that they believe are dressing against their gender.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the kind words.

      It also nice to hear that you can relate to what I’m saying. Believing what people claim in regards to their gender and orientation is also fair.

      I also hope that there will be more positive examples of crossdressing in anime and manga in the future.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Finally getting around to reading peoples posts now !

    Remy Dear, You have guts for writing what you wrote here especially bringing your personal aspect into this. I feel like I know you a lot better from this post, the whole topic of this month I’ll be honest is not my strong suit as some discussions tend to confuse little old me, as people can get so enwrapped in it. What you said here was more than understandable to me that plainly all your saying is Who is right to critique how we define the nature of ourselves?”. I feel from your personal place coming from it’s something you can’t forget, you may want to never think about it but I can feel how strong you are just from reading your words.

    Thankyou for letting me get to know you better and for a post that has inspired my brain !!

    Liked by 1 person

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