I consider myself fortunate to have a consistent group of friends to cosplay with on a regular basis since I started the hobby in 2009. They help to keep my inspiration and motivation for the hobby going, even when I’d rather not be working on something that frustrates me. Being a male cosplayer in a largely female-dominated hobby, it has really helped my confidence levels to surround myself with other guys who have some of the same hang ups as me. We’ve never felt the need to tear each other down to make us feel more secure in our costumes. Male cosplayers can go through similar body image issues that female cosplayers encounter when faced with muscled superheroes, and characters who don’t look like us. I am on the thinner side of the scale, so the idea of cosplaying anybody, especially if they’re buff, tends to make me uncomfortable and insecure–especially if it’s an open shirt cosplay. However, the benefit of being a male in the hobby means there’s plenty of characters to choose from when I’m picking new costumes.
I have found unique opportunities I didn’t think I would have access to as a person of color in the cosplay world. What is easily my favorite cosplay experience was when I cosplayed Static Shock. It was my dream cosplay, and the amount of positivity I received.
I admit that I primarily choose characters who are people of color, or wear masks that would leave my race out of the equation when I’m planning a cosplay. I’ve only cosplayed two characters outside of my race since I began cosplay, one of which I’m still very proud of (Luigi). While I, personally, have not had a negative experience cosplaying a character outside of my race, I have had friends who have. That knowledge is something that has, to some extent, impacted my willingness to race-bend or cosplay non-black characters–though I fully support people who cosplay outside of their race, POC or otherwise! Cosplay is for everyone, and you should be allowed to cosplay whatever character you see fit, regardless of body, gender, or race.
As far as my experiences with fandom go, it’s been a mixed bag. In person I’ve had nothing but fun interacting with other people in the fandoms I’m repping. However, online is another story entirely. People can be very quick to tear apart someone who cosplays outside of what they believe a character should be. My friends have been mercilessly hounded for not living up to other people’s ideals, or for cosplaying outside of their race–without implementing racist makeup, or changing their appearance.