It's Not Just Women

April 24th, 2017

Content Warning(s): Gender, Rape Culture, Sexual Assault, Catcalling, LGBTQ+

Day twenty-four! April is Sexual Assault Survivor Month! This post will contain sensitive material; please exercise caution if you see a topic that could be upsetting to you. A final caveat: these are written from my limited perspective as a bi woman who was raped. I don't have all the answers and I'm still working through my own journey. There are many other kinds of sexual assault and abuse that are relevant this month. Take time to consider the needs of your diverse fellow survivors. Speak up for them when they can't speak up for themselves, but don't speak over them. Thank you!

When I speak about my experiences at cons and online, I speak from the aforementioned limited perspective I have as a woman. But women aren't the only survivors of sexual assault, abuse, and harassment. I've already briefly spoken about statistics related to LGBTQ+ populations, but even that doesn't cover the scope of what I'm talking about.

I've found that the cosplay community is an incredible space for trans people to be themselves. I'm lucky enough to be in a corner of the community that's very trans-inclusive and supportive, where we take accountability for others' pronouns and don't need to question the concept of what being trans means. Most conventions have harassment policies, but few are specific about providing consequence for what's known as "bathroom policing," or trying to report someone for using the wrong bathroom based on your assumption of their gender.

Unfortunately, even a non-policing policy doesn't cover every instance of harassment for trans cosplayers. I can't speak for my trans friends, but I know that I'm fed up with the kinds of harassment I've gotten both being a woman and being a cosplayer, and I can't imagine what it's like for someone to harass you for your gender identity on top of that.

The best way to be an ally is to ask your trans friends how you can help and truly listen to their answers. Many young cosplayers just beginning to explore their identities and orientations especially need your help. The same bystander rules apply for a situation in which you might see someone being consistently misgendered or disrespected-reach out to the person who looks uncomfortable, attempt to distance them from the person harassing them, and get them to a safer place.

I'd be remiss if I didn't speak about men of every orientation as well. Like the trans population, I can't speak for men when it comes to being sexually assaulted, abused, or harassed because I'm not a man. However, I know that men in the cosplay community get a fair amount of harassment. At least in the U.S., it would be unacceptable for a man to playfully grope a woman, but when it's a woman playfully groping a man it might go under the radar (that is to say, not "acceptable" but not something many people stand up to fight against). For example, think about an older single woman hitting on a younger male dance teacher. (Not that I've seen that, or anything.) She might grope his muscles to comment on how "strong" he is-even that violation of space is not okay if the man doesn't want it. Anyone can be an offender, not just men to women or women to men. In that vein, I know that some male cosplayer friends of mine have been surprised by hands groping their abs or butts when they didn't invite it. Others have been verbally harassed or even catcalled for wearing revealing cosplays. Certain as there are more survivors like me, surely there are male survivors of sexual assault who cosplay. And none of them were asking for it, either.

I know the "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes" march to end domestic violence happened this past weekend. It made me think about how survivorship among females tends to be about "sisterhood," but we need to make it more inclusive. Trans people have the highest incident of sexual assault and abuse of any orientation group. Men face a stigma of being "weak" if they're affected by being assaulted, abused, or harassed. While the majority of the cosplay community likely identifies as female, we aren't the only people cosplaying. We need to be sure we're standing up for ALL cosplayers who've struggled and emerged survivors, not just the ones who fit the mold of someone like me.

Thanks for reading! Tomorrow's topic will be Presa from Tales of Xillia, the character who drew me back into cosplay.


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