At any anime, comic or game convention cosplayers tend to attract a lot of attention. As such, there are a number of rules, informal and formal, that both cosplayers and their viewers should follow to make sure no one gets offended.
Many of them are just common courtesy. If you’re an observer, don’t take a cosplayer’s photo without their permission. If you’re a cosplayer, don’t show excessive amount of skin.
However, there’s one cosplay regulation seen frequently at Japanese conventions that some would argue doesn’t make very much sense: no cross-dressing.
Naoko Tatibana is a photographer who has built a career from her work with sexual minorities, focusing her creative energies into LGBT events, drag shows and transgender model portraits. In 2010, she opened Taiyodo, a cross-dressing studio in Tokyo where, in addition to her photography services, she offers guidance for men who want to learn how to become more beautiful women.
In her new column on our Japanese site, Naoko writes that, “despite all the exposure transsexuals and cross-dressers are given on TV and in magazines in Japan, men are forbidden from dressing up as the opposite sex at the one place you would think it would be most acceptable: cosplay events.”
The practice of dressing up as a character of a different gender is known in English as “crossplay,” and while it does carry a degree of social stigma overseas, it’s still something that can be seen fairly often at anime conventions.
In Japan, however, whereas female-to-male crossplay is both universally accepted and incredibly popular, most major events forbid male attendees from dressing up as female characters.
Presumably, this is because organizers fear the event hall will be flooded with middle-aged men in schoolgirl uniforms and other oddities most people don’t want to see, but Naoko argues that this concern is misplaced and that these days, male-to-female crossplayers are a visual force to be reckoned with.
“Regardless of gender, cosplay is about transformation, which is why it presents so much possibility for cross-dressing,” she says. “Even if you’re a regular guy, there’s nothing to feel ashamed about! Give female cosplay a try!”
If you’re still not a believer, we suggest you check out the gallery below, which contains some of Naoko’s best male-to-female crossplay shots. We think you’ll agree they deserve a chance in the spotlight just as much as the countless women who dress up as androgynous male characters.
▼ Model: Iori Endani
▼ Model: Nariki
Model: Kou Yamada
Model: Kanaharu Nakane
Model: Mio Ogura
▼ Commercial for Taiyodo