Friday, August 1, 2014

On Finding Trans Men in Old Manga

So a commenter left a comment on my review of Paros no Ken volume 1 rightly critiquing my initial written interpretation of the titular character of Ikeda Riyoko's Claudine...! for finding Claudine's gender identity somewhat ambiguous instead of "this character is a trans man." They also made a good argument for Paros no Ken's Erminia being read as a trans man. Because they brought up some great discussion points, I wound up practically writing an essay in response to it, and I think those discussion points are worth a blog post instead of being hidden in the comments of an old review.

The primary point of the comment was- why my interpretation of Claudine and Paros no Ken's protagonist Erminia as having some ambiguity to their gender identities?

In response to that, I wrote:

I am much more sure that Claudine is a trans man than I was when I first reviewed it years ago. As you read in my writing about Paros no Ken, it's harder to determine bona fide trans men in old manga because the folks writing older lgbtq stuff didn't have a lesbian lingo vocabulary (or couldn't use it) and somewhat clumsily described some characters (like Oniisama E's Rei and Sailor Moon's Haruka) as having "the aura of a man" (this being in the text of Oniisama E) or "the heart of a man" (which the creator of Sailor Moon said before clarifying that she did intend to write two girls who were a couple.)

I hesitate to definitively call Erminia a trans man (although there are definitely grounds for that interpretation) because of the broader context of the time, and the fact that whether Erminia is "both a man and a woman" or "neither a man nor a woman" is a major plot point in PnK. Regarding Claudine, when I first reviewed it, I was looking too much at historical context and not enough at how Ikeda Riyoko went the extra mile to make it more trans-specific than the other examples I mentioned in my discussion of trans straight male vs cis gay female identity in old manga. I will add a note to my review of Claudine...! about that.

In response to the points that "even in clearly trans stories like Hourou Musuko the mangaka have missed the importance of the chosen name. Since Nitori is a girl, the title should have been Wandering Girl and not 'Son'. (The same goes for Claudine and Paros no Ken's Erminia :/)", I wrote:

Re chosen names, yeah, Hourou Musume would better reflect Nitori's gender- ditto with Claudine...! being changed, although it's better there imo because Claudine himself didn't mention wanting a different/true name, like Nitori did. In the cases of Claudine and Erminia both not saying they wanted different names, I'm also pretty lenient because Claudine lived in the early 20th century and subsequently didn't seem to know what being "transsexual" is and how it applied to him until right before the end of the book, and Erminia (assuming the trans reading to be the right one) lived in some kind of Medieval kingdom. I'm reminded a little of how at the women's college I attended from 2008-2012, there were some trans men who didn't realize they were trans before they started school and were exposed to the queer awareness on campus, causing them to realize what they were and start publicly identifying as such- that's my reading of what went on for Claudine until the doctor told him what being transsexual is and what might be going on with Erminia. I realize that I am not the best judge and could be wrong about something, though. Anyway, that is the end of my long rambling!

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