What is Crossplay?

Hi all, given that Crossplay has become a more popular choice recently, it’s time we take a moment to clarify what it is, especially given the gender politics of the present. [*Due to the gray areas of what constitutes crossplay for those of us who identify as agender or other forms of non-binary, I will focus primarily on the binary genders in this introductory writeup. (Don’t worry, my dear non-binary folk. You get your OWN piece)]

Crossplay is when a person dresses as a character that is a different gender from their own gender identity. 10 years ago, it was more common to see cosplayers genderbend a character to do a rendition of the that aligned with their gender identity. While genderbending is still common, in recent years it’s obvious there’s been an uptick in crossplaying instead.

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Crossplaying is a unique part of the community, and it’s very influential on the individual’s perception of self. Often, what starts as ‘crossplay’ is revealed to actually just be cosplay. This facet of cosplay in the anime community allows individuals to explore their own gender identity in a safe environment, however, there remains gender dichotomy.

Female-to-Male (FtM) crossplayers tend to have an easier time due to cultural factors contributing to feminine malleability complexes (i.e. cis and cis-passing women have more freedom of expression in terms of appearance). That said, typical prejudices against queer people have been known to be expressed at FtM crossplayers, regardless of if they actually identify as queer. FtM crossplay includes cis and trans women who are dressing as male characters.

MtF crossplay includes cis and trans men who cosplay female characters. They tend to crossplay either for the art form or for humor. Men who do it for humor are generally accepted with a laugh. On the flip-side, only men who are able to recreate the image of their character to the point where they pass as women are generally accepted. Unfortunately for cosplayers in-between “large hairy man in sailor uniform” and “elegant, perfect waifu portrayal”, there are a lot of strange glances and skepticism about interaction waiting to happen. While the community is working on conquering the idea that the male image cannot be malleable, we’ve got a long way to go. Hopefully with the rise in crossplay, we’ll see a rise in acceptance of crossplay on all levels.