I posit that the convention - anime or other fandom like fantasy or science fiction - is a carnivale, a place where everyday norms are transformed in the space and time of the convention. Where else can you find it common to see not only masks, but also tails and ear headbands made out of faux fur, or security volunteers wearing kilts, or to see costumes range the gamut from Starfleet to Ghostbusters to Ouran High School and everywhere in between?
But in this space and time - in this duration of the convention - I wonder at what it would mean to transgress in this space and time. Often in convention space, "crossplay" - dressing up as a character identified with a different gender than the actor - happens, but what does that mean when the actor themselves might identify as a crossdresser, or as a transgender person, or as someone who is otherwise testing the waters of their identity and presentation? Crossplay and identity was covered earlier by Mx Deshane, but I would like to again reiterate the point that they make as well; that crossplay can be defined as acting as a differently gendered character, a different gender than one's own. But commonly, it's taken to mean "opposite gender" - which only seems to reinforce gender binary and gender roles in terms of how they are presented.
But what does it mean to transgress in an already transgressive space?
Like the crossdressing customs of the Jewish festival of Purim, what would it mean for a transgender or nonbinary person in the convention space - and, to those interested in more scholarly pursuits, how much of our attachment toward gender and gender binary (strictly boy/girl, masculine/feminine, etc) presentation is socially constructed? If a nonbinary person is dressed as a masculine or feminine character, would that be crossplaying - playing at a binary person - or do we need to invent a new term to describe the phenomenon? And what would this mean for education - and language? I bring up Purim as an example of pedagogy because while it is centered on ritual, it has been a great knowledge base for new sacred rituals and laws stemming from tradition; and in this sacred-carnival space, it is easy to liken it to an animation or science fiction or comic convention. You can see modern thoughts on Purim at Keshet, for example, or thoughts about cross-dressing and the LGBTQ Jewish communities have to wrestle with.
These questions may never be adequately answered, but I end this with a question I asked the great voice actor J Michael Tatum several years ago: I had the ability to interview him briefly at Otakon, and of all the questions I could ask him, I asked: do you also think that the convention space enables more fluid identity? That people play more with these ideas, with their identities, in a space that is so in-between - that might be so far removed from their everyday lives?
His face lit up brightly in response.
That was all the answer I really needed.
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