Let me start with how crazy it is that I’ve been cosplaying for over a whole decade! That’s bonkers! I’ve tried typing a lot of different things about cosplay, like how I started, what drew me into the craft, how I’ve grown as a cosplayer and heck even how it influenced my career path at one point. But after a lot of deleting and retyping, I realized that it was not what I should or even want to talk about. Cosplay has affected my life in the biggest way possible. It helped me find comfort in exploring my gender.
I started cosplaying sometime in 8th grade, freshmen year. I went to a performing arts school filled with lots of closeted kids like me that lived in a pretty small town. It was a different high school experience than most other places, but like any kid not too sure about their sexuality or gender, it was pretty rough. Cosplay made things a lot easier for me. I started reading up on “crossplay” (a super outdated term now) on Cosplay.com’s forums. Oh, how I wanted to be a pretty anime boy so badly for my first convention! I learned binding techniques that I later found to be incorrect and harmful even though binding made me feel good about myself! I would even bind for school. I told myself that I was just “practicing” my binding for cosplay but little did I know I was testing those gender-fluid waters.
My mother was incredibly supportive of the hobby that I had found. Although she would tease me from time to time over how much of a dork I was, she was happy to see me making convention friends, being creative, teaching myself how to sew, learning about budgeting, and staying out of trouble in general. My mind was so consumed with looking like these anime characters. Her attitude made it incredibly more comfortable to present myself more masculine around her after coming out as gender fluid since she was already so used to it already after seeing my “cosplay tests”.
The cosplay community and the people I met through it have also given me the strongest support I have ever received! At every convention I’ve attended lately, I’ve been asked what my pronouns are, and have had them respected! What a concept! I’m not saying conventions are absolute perfection when it comes to the acceptance of the LGBT+ community, but it has been the most accepting I’ve ever experienced.
All in all, cosplay has affected me in many ways. But the fact that it helped me with my identity, who I am, and helped me find it sooner rather than later, is absolutely incredible. I have found myself slowing down in how often I cosplay, but I still get that feeling of freedom whenever I paint myself green or put on that ungodly spiky wig. What cosplay is to me, honestly, is freedom. Freedom of expression. Freedom to be myself even when dressed as a different person, and absolute freedom to just have FUN no matter how sweaty I am in my seasonally inappropriate cosplay.