The Erasure of Gender-Nonconforming Male Identities

While the transgender community often assumes that those who dress in women’s clothing and act feminine are women (either transgender or cis), this is not always the case. There are those who display gender variance through dressing or acting like women, but still choose to identify as male.

These gender-nonconforming men are often discriminated against or fetishized by society, and have very little positive representation in the media. The little that they have is being appropriated by the transgender community.

Every time a character appears who is a crossdresser or female-presenting, I inevitably see someone going on about how they’re really trans, and insisting on using female pronouns with them/talking down anyone claiming them to be male. I understand the reason for doing this, I really do. But it’s important to realize that in doing this, the transgender community is appropriating characters who could act as representation and role models for gender-nonconforming men. This act reinforces the idea that feminine things are for women (including trans women) and that you can only either be a man or a woman.

A major idea popular in trans circles is that gender should not decide what we enjoy or how we act, but appropriating representation like this flies in the face of that and smacks of hypocrisy. It places pressure on people who are already facing great societal stress, and encourages the gender binary that the trans population seeks to defy.

One character I’ve recently observed this happening with is Saki Mizushima, a crossdressing male idol from the game THE iDOLM@STER: SIDEm. From the moment of his announcement there were many people insisting that he was trans, and immediately defaulting to “she” and “her” pronouns for him. But I find the actual story behind him far more interesting.

Mizushima was inspired to embrace his feminine side and dress how he liked by Ryo Akizuki, a character who was (unwillingly) made to crossdress in an earlier game. Akizuki was a somewhat controversial character, due to the nature of him being forced to pretend he was a girl. The fact that Mizushima was inspired by him, however, ties into the notion that media representation can encourage people to come out/become the person they want to be. In this way, Mizushima’s character shows how important media representation of the oppressed can be.

Mizushima is also of the mindset that his gender does not matter, and that gender should not restrict him from wearing what he wants and acting how he likes. This, again, ties into the idea that gender and gender identity should not restrict one from acting how they wish. There’s a lot to Mizushima’s character that would be useful to those who wish to embrace femininity without identifying as a women, Yet all that is lost when we insist that he must trans and shut out any suggestions to the contrary.

There absolutely needs to be better trans representation. But it need not be appropriated from others who face discrimination and hardship.

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