Internet Culture, Fandom, and the Tendency to Offend

I’m someone who’s interested in anime and manga about “nerds,” be they otaku, fujoshi, geeks, or any number of labels. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at this stuff, and I’ve noticed that often when a character speaks using internet lingo in real life, the translation to English, whether it is official or fan-derived, often utilize some fairly offensive terms. A riajuu (someone who is content with their real life situation) becomes a “normalfag.” An otoko no ko (a boy who dresses rather convincingly as a girl) becomes a “trap.” On the one hand, it would be simply a matter of just not using those terms. On the other hand, I could see the argument that if a character is, say, someone who spends most of their time on internet messageboards, that the Japanese equivalent terms should be met with equally ubiquitous terms among English speakers. If term A comes from 2channel, why not look to 4chan for the English equivalent? However, the very fact that the vocabulary has this negative quality makes me feel that there is something buried deep within how internet anime fandom has structured itself that tends towards insults.

Obviously not all anime fans use these terms, but they pop up in a number of places that are not directly connected to the fandom that populates 4chan and similar sites. In this respect, one thing I’ve noticed is that when it comes to how these phrases are used, it’s not simply a matter of trying to offend or upset others. For example, just as often as someone will call another person a “normalfag” or something similar, internet posters will use these terms to refer to themselves. At the same time that such phrases are clearly derived from words being used as insults, they’re also embraced on some level, becoming what I see as self-deprecating badges of honor, somewhat like willingly calling oneself an otaku or a geek. That said, the –fag suffix is clearly meant to maintain its offensive qualities, and as much as attempts are made consciously or unconsciously to separate the purely insulting quality of the phrase from its origins deriding homosexuals, it is nevertheless still present.

In contrast, “trap” is  a term where the connections to homophobia cannot be denied. This is not to say that everyone who uses the word is trying to be insulting, and even I’ve thrown the term out in the past before later reconsidering my own vocabulary, but the origins of the term and the implicit meaning behind it is obvious. The basic etymology is that an extremely feminine male character excites a presumably straight guy, and when he finds out it’s really a boy it makes him feel “tricked.” The important thing to consider here is that this is not merely some imaignary scenario but that people have genuinely felt this way, and the term is on some level a way of maintaining a sense of heteronormativity. Just the same, however, is the fact that some of those guys who have been “fooled” into arousal eventually realize that they are especially sexually attracted to the concept of the crossdressing boy. Whether or not that makes them actually gay or not (Is attraction towards men somehow solely about the “penis” or is it something more holistic? For that matter, what about the Kinsey scale?), often I see the term “trap” then used willingly, from people asking for more. Again, as with “-fag,” there’s this sense of mild self-hatred with use of the term trap, because just as people announce their love for them there’s also the implicit idea that they are not normal because of their interest and do not consider themselves normal. In some cases, they might not even be realizing what they’re saying.

What I find is that these terms are turned against others, as if to maintain divisions (we’re this way, you’re that way), or they might turned inwards to be used as a defense mechanism to keep outsiders away. Can a person survive the barrage of insults they receive and still be there? Are they “one of us?” To share a common vocabulary, after all, is one of the easier ways to become “accepted” in a community. At the same time, the fact that these phrases are often used in a self-deprecating manner communicates the idea that they don’t necessarily feel as if they belong to the majority, be that the majority of society or the majority of an immediate online community. The easy thing to say would be that this all derives from “hate,” but the fact that it appears to be “hate” not only for others but also for oneself leads me to believe that the use of these terms is an attempt to carve out an identity while feeling somehow “abnormal.”

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34 thoughts on “Internet Culture, Fandom, and the Tendency to Offend

  1. So I share your interest in stories about outsiders. I especially like stories about creative outsiders who are interested in communication like dojinshi
    or manga.
    As for the less than approving names, people do internalize the biases of their culture. This is clear in the self-destructive behavior of male homosexuals who may do various things that risk their health and safety
    and is known as internalised homophobia here in the USA. They do not
    believe at some deep level that they have a right to be happy and to enjoy
    life so they frequently indulge in alcohol and drugs.
    In Japan it seems that we have a femiphobic male culture that colors any
    homosexual manifestations. Certainly though families are formed and
    children raised they are not done in the same way we in the USA who prefer
    to idealize marriage and family think they should be done.
    As for internet culture it is heavily weighted in manga, anime, game fandom by adolescent fears of the other which is where the odious “trap” designation comes from.

    It may be that all these conflicts are behind the great stories and art we
    see in anime and manga.
    And as far as homophobia goes people will drive 80 miles round trip
    to get to San Francisco and attack a gay man or someone they only
    believe to be gay. This has happened to my friends i.e. one friend
    had his front teeth knocked out and broken off and others have been
    simple robbed and left unconscious on the street and it has happened
    to other people as well.
    So Japan is not the only place with homophobia internalised or externalised
    as vicious attacks on people believed to be gay.

    Oh and by the way I am 77+ years old and only really got into anime and
    manga when I was about 65 years old. I am an old woman reading
    the most mature manga I can find. Genshiken is my favorite.
    G Senjou Heaven’s Door is another that I like.

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    • Thank you for sharing your story and your thoughts with me. I have limited my analysis to online communities, but of course it connects directly to the real world and real people. I recall being younger and in high school and feeling that I had to defend my fondness for girls’ manga because people automatically assumed I might be gay for liking feminine things. I am not gay, but in hindsight it shouldn’t have even mattered, yet I remember wanting to “protect” myself from the eyes of others.

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      • I remember when most of the VHS fansubs in circulation were of Ribon magazine shows, which were marketed to young females in Japan. If you were in public school you did not want anyone to find out you had these or watched these as the negative connotations would start surfacing as mentioned.

        There is a good Youtube video titled “THE 40 YEAR OLD GAMER – Happy Console Gamer” which a little after the 8 minute mark has similar recollections.

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  2. I can’t say I’ve ever seen normalfag, or similar phrases like newfag or drawfag used in anime/manga translation. It’s pretty wholly exclusive to 4chan, where it as you said, used partially to keep outsiders away and primarily because the phrase has just become accepted as normal there. While it’s obviously not the most polite term, it’s not really considered an insult either.

    As for trap, I can see how people could make the connection to homophobia, but that’s a connection I only ever see from people who are unfamiliar with the term. In nearly 100% of cases it’s used in a positive context, both by people who like traps and by traps themselves. I have even asked a few “traps” I know before out of curiosity and not only have most of them referred to themselves as traps before, but not a single one of them felt the word was negative.

    I do agree it’s generally better to avoid using 4chan slang outside of 4chan since most people will misunderstand it or even be offended by it. It’s a bit much to actually describe it as “hate” though. They’re mostly neutral, and if someone uses them hatefully that’s a problem with that person, not the words themselves.

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  3. This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I can’t find old Usenet archives – and I’m too young to have ever participated in them – but even at some forums today, slang and attitudes – such as “Assume everything is bad and everyone’s taste is bad” – seem to have originated on 4chan, and I’ve often wondered if having 4chan set the tone of discussion for the anime fandom, even at places outside it, has ever been the best thing for the greater Western anime fandom as a whole.

    Which is why I’m glad that places like Tumblr can set the tone for fandom discussion today as an alternative, or at least as a place that’s carving out its own identity.

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    • You can thank Fox News sensationalism for reinforcing 4chan’s “Anonymous” and “internet hate machine” identity. The initial report (with the exploding van) is completely one-sided and does not accurately portray that “David” was trying to utilize 4chan for his own nefarious purposes i.e. “/b is not your personal army”. I guess no one remembers the old days with Yotsuba and crew (& MOOT) being the hot topic on 4chan prior to the report.

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  4. Out of personal experience of crossplay, I dislike the term trap, but i ain’t gonna stop anyone from using it. Some people just have no other word for it. While i wish they’d adopt a word that doesn’t suggest ill intent on my behalf, I am deliberately confusing people about my gender which is a key marker in social interactions. I hope people can accept and tolerate what I sometimes do, and in return I’ll accept and tolerate their response.

    Kids however. Kids will throw around the words they see the bigger kids using without any of the subtlety undertones we have already described. I dislike the method of attaching the word fag to things, but it doesn’t keep the overly sensitive going to other places. I’m less worried about what the adults do rather than the kids on the internet. read some language on 4chan and use it in the classroom and here comes trouble.

    I will say, I do find the overall discussion of anime in public spheres to be far too negative. Even shows we love and adore we can’t praise. It all comes down to what show sucks the least to something, and renders most conversations about anime into some war over stupid crap. Burns people out, y’know?

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    • “It all comes down to what show sucks the least to something, and renders most conversations about anime into some war over stupid crap.

      That’s discussions about most things on the internet and society in general. I mean, look at politics. Or even worse, videogames!

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      • Yeah, though it seems a bit harsher for anime. “Oh that’s a different culture, everything’s wrong!” I think I blame a bit of it on how a lot of people ‘like’ things ‘ironically’ nowadays. you can’t just have a guilty pleasure, or have abnormal tastes, even the act of liking is unlikable.

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        • Ah, I totally misunderstood, I figured you meant like console war type anime conversations between fanbases. I can’t stand the ironic stuff, I’ve also read things going “I love KLK but it’s totally parodying fanservice anime and showing how bad it is”, and I mean come oooon, who are you even kidding? They always have to have some excuse for why they like something like they’re trying to keep up some social image, because I mean hey anime is obviously all shit right, it’s so japanesy and silly and fanservicey and sooo not mature enough. I wonder if certain people watch everything imagining their friends looking over their shoulders, and judge it with that “is this something a NORMAL person would like!? I can’t be not normal!” pressure in mind.

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  5. What your trap paragraph comes down to, you’re okay with vicious perfidy as long as the offender is a queer, because they can do no wrong and anyone who’s betrayed by their actions or offended by their duplicity is a homophobe and thus does not count. Which is frankly awful and simply shows how deep you have gone down that rabbit hole of identity politics already.

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    • Man, if you consider the failure to conform (or lack of interesting in conforming) to a given person’s vague ideas of what gender and sexual orientation should look like to be “perfidy,” “duplicity,” and “betrayal,” you must live in a really frustrating and confusing world. It’s your sort of logic that got my ass beat for not looking “straight” enough to some guys in my high school. I didn’t change myself, because fuck them implicitly telling me how I should look, and they eventually got over it, because we all grew up into adults. Hopefully, you will, too.

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    • This. Falling in love with a transvestite and then realizing you’ve been lied to sounds awful from the stories I read. The thing to consider here the disappointment and betrayal does not come down to gender alone.

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  6. The nature of internet subcultures tends to attract those who probably felt excluded from real life socializing, so they holed up alone together and basically grew up on the internet. Enthusiasts of any particular hobby or interest tend to gather around each other to form subcultures, and then the internet itself works as another level of subculture for social outcasts in general, so putting the two together sometimes exacerbates everything. I think it’s only natural for there to be some self-depreciation (like comedians do), but there’s also a sense of pride in that self-depreciation rather than outsiders doing it for them. Calling yourself “abnormal” can be a lot different than somebody else doing it. Also, perhaps comparing self-disparaging internet subcultures to gay and black subcultures for their use of offensive slurs positively and endearingly (and sometimes negatively) would be interesting.

    I think the real reason the -fag suffix is used is because of it’s versatility, and it’s perceived offensiveness makes it certain that the language would never be used outside of very particular internet spaces, making it very potent as a linguistic signal that you understand the group (which reminds me of a certain board who, after seeing that a certain beloved self-depreciation meme was taken by “normalfags”, they made a billion edits of it with all matters of gore and scatological black humour to “protect it”). But while it adds some bite and edge because of how society perceives it, I don’t think the suffix itself actually adds anything itself. In usage, I don’t see a difference between someone insulting somebody as “A goddamned normal” (which I still see a lot) or “A goddamned normalfag”, just like “I’m a PC fan” or “I’m a PCfag”. You need so many qualifying tone words and context like “Deluded” or “proud” or “fanatical” etc to actually determine if the statement is at all positive or negative, the suffix itself doesn’t mean much outside of “I know the lingo” rather than “Oh so you hate homosexuals too? Welcome to the club!”. I don’t think it works as some kind of subconscious conditioning either, considering the relentless openness of everybody’s sexuality everywhere on those kinds of sites, honestly I think places like 4chan has been getting gayer and gayer over the years (it’s great).

    As for Trap, while the etymology of the word does exist, I’ve seen it far more often used as a term of endearment for the character in question, and similar to “passing” in the trans community (and the word itself is used often by hobby crossdressers too). I actually can’t recall that particular word ever being used as any kind of actual insult on imageboards pertaining to anime itself (“He’s a fucking TRAP! What a fucking lying tricking piece of SHIT!”). Hell, a lot of what people call “traps” these days are just attractive boys who don’t even crossdress. The whole “>her” and “Goddamnit am I gay now!?!” is sort of a meme at this point, and I see it as a natural expression of the confused+anxious+excited tension that comes with questioning one’s sexuality (whether it be the audience or a character like Madarame), and I think there’s a difference between that and actual disparaging of homosexuals. I think you’d find more legit panicking comments like that on porn site facebook comments or yahoo answers (in other words, “normalfags”), than more exclusive hobbyist imageboards. I’ve read a few too many posts on very particular blogging sites ranting about how capital-E Evil the word is, referencing some terrible real-word crimes, but it sort of reminds me of like when people criticize music instrument subcultures for using the word “god” to describe good musicians, claiming religious worship and deep insidious theological fanaticism and idolatry, and I just don’t buy it. Also reminds me of people saying that the “PC Master Race” half self-appraising, half self-depreciating phrase meant that they’re nazi sympathizers, “whether consciously or unconsciously”.

    Going even deeper into the rabbit hole, since I mentioned trans communities, even they have their own use of language on internet imageboards. “Hon” is almost their “normalfag” slur, mocking other internet trans subcultures that use it seriously, and it’s also fuelled by the fear that they may turn out as an old “hon” themselves (which plays on core fears of being excluded from society, and self-depreciation). They take a once positive word and mock it as negative, but in the end I think it’s for positive reasons as a way of signalling what their group is about to those who feel excluded everywhere else. A tiny subculture defining themselves within another tiny subculture, sort of like /v/ separating itself from neoGAF and reddit, or /a/ with crunchyroll and MAL (and /v/). And imageboards on the whole rejecting society’s views of what is offensive or not (which change constantly), as well as other subculture forums with very strict language rules, just to show how separated they are from the rest.

    I guess my main point is that these kinds of controversial words are ultimately used as tools for socializing, and determining actual moral intent or messages being sent by those tools can’t be done based on origins or generalizations. Playing with the linguistics of society’s moral views does not necessarily mean adopting opposite morals, and while “hate” is a big part of everything due to how these groups work, I think it’s more to do with the users of the particular words rather than what subjects the words themselves refer to. And all these words will stick around until people get bored of them, or until they lose their pizazz by becoming too popular/accepted outside of the niche group (thus losing their primary purpose as signals), or until somebody thinks up new useful slang words that are even more economic in this bite-size internet age.

    Also I don’t really think that this has anything specifically to do with anime.

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  7. Remembered a post (heh, remember those from me?) I had some years back on the term “broken” which was being thrown around at that time. In the chat log copied onto the post, we didn’t necessarily get into the bones of the word, but I think there was a little bit of an idea of why it was used as such. While I didn’t necessarily agree with it because it sounded negative to me, most people seem perfectly okay with it. Often times you’ll have the minority who worry about offending someone or are offended lead the call to change it, as in how “trap” became “otoko no ko” on danbooru some months back.

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  8. Pingback: AniWeekly 3/22/2015: AnimeJapan Antics! - Anime Herald

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  10. The usage of slurs as common language is something that has simmered in my mind for a while, especially as the line moves from race (gypped) to sexuality (fag) to gender (bitch) to ableism, (crazy, insane, fool) each stage more common than the last. The lower stages for gender and ableist slurs are so common that most people use them as non-slurs. Some people would argue that this is reclamation. Others would say it’s appropriation. Some say that words have meaning, the ignoring of which is disrespectful, while others say that meanings evolve over time, beyond their origins. (In an opposite direction example. no one could ever use the term nigger for its original definition of being stingy now. The people who argue that you can probably have dubious opinions on other issues.)

    For me, it’s come down to the people in your space. This article discusses the purpose of trigger warnings, which has a similar intent as monitoring the usage of slurs as common terms. The main takeaway is that these things are not for those who have a personal connection to those terms. (The normies?) It’s not about us.
    For a while I used to argue that the term “gypped” was far enough removed from a racial connotation for most people that it should pass into normal usage. But then I thought about how I would feel if it was the term “chinked” instead, or something similar.

    It doesn’t matter how much “straightfag” disrupts its slur origins with its oxymoronic nature. To someone for whom “fag” has negative memories associated, it’s like a slap in the face, not just the word itself, but who is using it.
    What this means is, that if you want a space where you can honestly engage with someone that has a personal connection to the term “fag,” you probably shouldn’t be tossing around “fag” terms. There’s probably a reason that there aren’t so many trans* people getting into anime. (as opposed to someone realizing their trans* nature because of anime, as you describe) That entire space feels unfriendly and tinged with violence to them, because that’s what “trap” means to them.
    In very specific spaces, I avoid using ableist terms, despite it taking a huge chunk of my vocabulary out of play. In other spaces, where everyone’s okay with the terms, and isn’t stigmatizing mental health issues with their usage, I still use them. Same with some gender slurs.

    The more slurs that a certain space’s internetspeak incorporates as casual terms, the greater number of people who have been actually hurt by usage of these slurs they are excluding from having baggage-less conversation. The latter are much less likely to engage with the former, knowing that an instrinsic part of them has already been somewhat dismissed by the other party. So diverse dialogue breaks down, and echo chambers form.
    I’d rather not use a few words, than miss out on the chance to have my perspective challenged, to enrich my life experience, and to connect with other people I wouldn’t have otherwise.

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    • “There’s probably a reason that there aren’t so many trans* people getting into anime. (as opposed to someone realizing their trans* nature because of anime, as you describe) That entire space feels unfriendly and tinged with violence to them, because that’s what “trap” means to them.”

      To me that only applies to a certain segment of fandom, and even then only in Western fandom. The Eastern fandom has many works created and distributed around that lifestyle i.e. the magazine WAaI!!

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      • “and even then only in Western fandom.”

        Only specific parts of western fandom as well. If anything, whenever it comes up, I always see comments of “Wow there so many trans* here” in anime spaces, and people outside of anime asking why there’s so many of them that watch anime, regardless of the website I go to.

        Those “safe Spaces” where one may hear the kinds of opinions he was talking about are not necessarily more diverse, they usually just attract a specific kind of audience that don’t like going elsewhere for various reasons. To get truly diverse opinions you would go to many different places.

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        • Interesting. Can both of you elaborate on these? The Eastern fandom bit doesn’t surprise me, since anime’s a much bigger presence and influence on Eastern media, but I’d still love to hear more specifics. It’s actually pretty interesting to see Eastern fanart of Western shows.

          My personal experience is that the biggest queer-themed websites that purport to cover all queer media (f/f or m/m) have a huge anime/manga blind spot. You’ll see maybe one or two obligatory mentions of Sailor Moon, maybe Utena if you’re lucky, but in all of the round-ups, not a peep about the latest stuff. Previously, I would have chalked it up to anti-genre bias, but many of the (western live action) shows with the most popular queer ships are genre nowadays, like Teen Wolf, The 100, or Once Upon a Time. But even in their huge media round-ups, including one website that put out a fanfic author survey call and received hundreds of responses, huge blind spot for classic and current queer anime pairings.
          Either I may be missing out on the actual media-hubs for queer people, which is entirely possible. Maybe most of the queer people who like anime/manga are those who liked it before they realized their queer nature, which was my original argument. (And was my case.) And the latter category is going to be quite large, simply considering the size of the animanga fanbase. But there doesn’t seem to be much integration of the animanga sect with the rest of Western media, and I wonder if their somewhat prickly surface, with their casual appropriation usage of slurs, plays a role.

          And I absolutely agree with your second paragraph, birabuto. Reading blogs like Fantastic Memes and Omonono and the like have been just as critical to my forming an educated perspective as has been learning from the super-liberal corners.
          One thing to consider, though, is that those “safe spaces” technically aren’t so diverse because there’s an assumption that everyone is already visiting the mainstream spaces, so it’s already an addendum to existing voices, and thus contributing to diversity. Since a mainstream space inherently leans towards reflecting the majority perspective, there need to be places where the minority voice is favored and thus appearing less diverse due to the absence of the majority voice.

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          • “My personal experience is that the biggest queer-themed websites that purport to cover all queer media (f/f or m/m) have a huge anime/manga blind spot.”
            “But there doesn’t seem to be much integration of the animanga sect with the rest of Western media, and I wonder if their somewhat prickly surface, with their casual appropriation usage of slurs, plays a role.”

            To be honest, I’m pretty sure that can be explained by anime/manga still being very niche on the whole, because it’s foreign media. So not a genre bias, but a medium bias. It’s just the same thing anime has been dealing with in the west for decades, far before any prickly internet imageboards or communities or controversial words even existed. Even if people look to general “nerd culture” media sites who talk all about videogames and comic books and the latest Avengers movie or GOT episode or whatever, they usually have an extremely narrow or nonexistent view of anything eastern, limited mostly to references of Toonami shows like DBZ, or old dubbed OVAs, and some Ghibli and Akira, or even just Avatar/Korra, even by from their own resident “anime expert” writers. I can’t imagine it’d be any more in-depth if the focus was around queer media, just due to the writers still being mainly western focused. Anime’s not usually something ‘normal’ people just get into on a whim (even with streaming services, which still usually attract people who are already one foot into the subculture). I know when I was younger and more naive, I used to try getting some friends into some of the most accessible ‘cool’ stuff around and they just refused to “cause it’s weeb shit lol”, or “cartoons are for kids”, you know the deal. And for manga, some won’t because it’s all black and white, or it’s all backwards, etc. I don’t know if any amount of cleaning up bad behaviours would ever fix those kinds of basic cultural barriers.

            It also reminds me of when some video game media sites talks about games for females and try to be very socially conscious and well-researched, yet are repeatedly unaware that otome games even exist at all, or maybe they just pretend they don’t even count as real because they’re not localized. Or the comic industry wondering how in the HELL to get more women to read comics, when shoujo and josei have been a successful industry for decades. Or certain opinions regarding gay fan ships in western series like it’s some new revolutionary thing that women have never done before. Or animation forums wondering if animation not for kids could EVER even conceivably be made…you get the picture.

            It’s all a huge blind spot for the majority of people, and I don’t think certain odd language is to blame considering only people really close to anime communities in the first place would ever even become aware of situational slang (most of the complaints of Trap I’ve seen let’s say on tumblr were very much anime fans in some way and involved in the subculture). Outside of speciality blogs like these or actual anime communities and message boards and fan blogs, you’d be lucky to find any awareness of this foreign medium, especially for even more niche stuff like BL or even super niche trans* related manga. Subcultures within subcultures. I remember some nice articles about Hourou Musuko when it got brought over though, I think?

            “Maybe most of the queer people who like anime/manga are those who liked it before they realized their queer nature, which was my original argument. (And was my case.)”

            This is an interesting idea and quite true (I’ve read probably hundreds of confessional posts and threads relating to it). But I think, for both these communities and anime as a whole, people tend to grow up with them and have been something they’ve been with for a long time, so it’s natural for something like that to have happened when they reached that age. Whereas the opposite usually doesn’t because, again, anime’s still really not that popular and widespread a thing for people to first get into when they’re already quite older.

            I tend to stick to imageboards, wordpress blogs like this and others, and a few tumblr image blogs for BL stuff, so maybe you should write for some of those queer media sites you mentioned and spread the word of some good series apart from just Utena and Sailor Moon so they can see just how much stuff is has to offer them.

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          • I don’t know the specific communities you are referencing, but I think you may find the next sponsored Patreon post insightful.

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  11. i’m just gonna say this, but trap, while used in manga as an extremely unrealistic and fetishized vision of male crossdressers, it’s used pretty much entirely to talk about trans women in real life, and while some women use it to refer to themselves… it almost entirely revolves entirely around some really gross internalized self-loathing and trying to fit into really gross and disparaging internet communities. i have a number of friends who used to be a part of those communities when they were younger, and went happy along with it, and referred to themselves as traps and the whole nine yards, and all of them pretty universally see those experiences as some of the most damaging and filled with self-hatred they’ve ever had.

    like someone referring to people as ‘traps’ is harmful, it tells young women trying to figure themselves out that they’re only valuable or attractive to others in the context of some ‘trapping fetish’ where they’re disrespected and their gender is treated like a joke,

    that’s why characters like hato, or the writing that surrounds them is so damaging, outside of word of god, all of hato’s actions and feelings revealed in the manga come-across from as a trans woman who’s figuring herself out and is working through her denial about it, especially to trans women who relate and have repeatedly said how similar those experiences are to their own. hato’s shown consistently they are someone who’s coming to terms with both uncomfortable and dysphoric (hato’s extreme reaction to facial hair and being perceived as not female in the context of genshiken) who’s depictions of their inner selves and the people they aspire to be are female (the stands) and is trying to juggle how their perception of self ties into their sexuality (how hato’s personal hatoxmada bl drawings ended up becoming images of hato presenting as female with madarame). hato’s consistent folding and lying about the reasons they do what they do and being shown to be wrong and in denial just at to this.

    while authorial intent is important, kio shimoku, and many writers and magaka who’ve made similar ‘trap’ characters have essentially created characters that are trans women in everything but word of god.

    look into any of the blogs or threads about ‘traps’ you will find countless blog posts and articles from trans women angry that their selfies or nudes have been re-posted or stolen without their permission and labelled and tagged with a variety of slurs.

    at this point trying to say that ‘trap’ is used mainly to refer to male cross-dressers is taking the view of people who support the use of it and not really looking into it any deeper than that

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    • “i have a number of friends who used to be a part of those communities when they were younger, and went happy along with it, and referred to themselves as traps and the whole nine yards, and all of them pretty universally see those experiences as some of the most damaging and filled with self-hatred they’ve ever had.”

      I’m not disregarding those people at all because I know how bad it can get, but I have a number of friends who don’t say the same thing too. I understand these people have had very bad experiences especially with photos, but it’s not universal, it depends on the space, the people, and the particulars of the language. And just to say in my experience, I’ve most often seen trap used to refer to pretty much anything even remotely androgynous, male or female, or even anything that plays with gender in some way, not really referring to a “trapping” scenario. Also not everybody who had used the word for themselves is transsexual, although obviously it’s pretty intersected with it.

      As for characters like Hato, I don’t think him not explicitly being called transsexual by word of god (yet, mostly) is really that important or “harmful”, it doesn’t stop him from being extremely relatable to certain people, maybe even more so because his confusion is/was so hard to tie down and understand. It’s also not true that, even if it seems obvious, that they then must therefore be transsexual, for both characters and real people. I also think it’s good for artists to play freely with gender stuff (along with other concepts) without necessarily trying to categorize/classify/label everything they do in exact accordance with reality. I’m also pretty sure a lot of LGBT-specific language and terminology or even things like modern transitioning are centered around western culture and education (and pretty niche ones at that), so I don’t really expect mangaka to know the ins and outs of it all when exploring the same issues in their stories, I think having the characters and issues themselves is enough, sometimes it even helps them not get bogged down. There was this one manga I read called IS Intersex, which is a great subject and virtually nonexistent in media, and was interesting at first but it ended up turning into a really lame story with constant PSA health pamphlet dialogue.

      And I’ve seen characters who plainly say what their gender issues are and making it obvious they’re “trans”, even when they don’t use the word itself like in many more lighthearted silly manga, and then there are some who do spell it out pretty plainly too in more serious seinen manga like Kyou Kara Yonshimai (which is explicit), Hourou Musuko, Bokura no Hentai (which plays with the concept of gender in various ways), and others (there’s also this one called Juukyuusai no Seifuku which is just really twisted and cool). I even know of a pretty well-known otokonoko doujinka who had one of their characters pretty explicit with a big sad speech about their childhood feelings of dysphoria, etc.

      Anyways, the trans question in Nidaime was actually floated to Hato earlier in the story (which he denied), just like the gay question was, and there’s of course all the hints and the stands, and even that Spotted Flower chapter, and the whole full-time thing, so it’s not like it’s out of the picture yet, that and I don’t feel his development is fully resolved yet. I think I’d be cool if it became a big thing for Hato to go through, I mean that’s how I read the character too, but even if nothing clear ever happens with that, I still got a lot out of it, it’s more about the journey and the conflicts themselves that really interest me.

      Maybe it’s sort of like…how Jim and Pam got boring after they got together?

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      • look, i’m not saying anything vague or baseless or even just a handful of people, it is the vast majority of the interactions between these women and ‘trap’ culture, if you ask me to i can bring up dozens upon dozens of internet comments from trans women asking to have their pictures taken down from ‘trap’ sites with sources and cross references to the images in question. and let’s be real there’s not a single site with images of ‘real-life-traps’ that aren’t almost entirely reposted selfies of trans-women or images from trans-women involved in sex work (who allow people to call them all kinds of horrible shit because they wouldn’t make money otherwise), it’s not a kind or friendly word. it’s a concept that has the same roots that things like the trans-panic defense have a basis in. it’s also not a cutesy word trans women us amongst themselves, it is, even just conceptually, insulting and disrespectful to the women it’s referring to. trans women are not men pretending to be women, trans women are women.

        i’ve read all the manga you’ve referenced, and the only one i would say gets what trans people are is bokura no hentai and only then because it’s basically a subversion of trap tropes, and actually in it’s latest chapters directly addresses one of it’s characters being trans in a responsible and respectful way.

        people are allowed to write whatever story they want. but that doesn’t mean that makes them right about this. or even right about the kind of people they’re portraying? have you seen black characters written by white writers sometimes? or women written by men? now imagine a writer ignorant on these issues wanting to write about a character that a) was assigned one gender at birth but presents another in their day to day life, b) has dysphoria about their body, c) wants others around them to refer to them as female and wants desperately to be seen by others as female, d) self-deprecates about not being perceived as a “real girl” and e) is explicitly shown by the story through abstraction that even their mind/soul/w/e is female, the thing that needs to be understood is, is that character if they were a real person, is trans. i would recommend that person if they’re confused about whether their trans or not, to speak to specialist cause it’s basically a 99.99% chance they are trans. look understand this is a subculture and fandom where the majority of people still argue that grell from black butler isn’t trans and is just a flamboyantly gay man even though both she, in canon, and word of god has explicitly stated it. the identities of trans people and just as importantly their experiences are to be respected to. like the reason it’s damaging is you have a character that is basically a trans girl and the audience is told basically that no they’re really just a gay crossdressing male, is 1) an insult to

        also don’t give me this “westernized sexuality and gender concepts” bullshit. now there ARE some serious cultural discrepancies between japan and western culture on assumptions about gender and sexuality and on the way it’s talked about. but there are plenty of actual real living breathing japanese trans women who can speak for themselves, don’t go pontificating on “cultural difference” when it’s just an assumption. seriously go listen to an interview from aya kamikawa and hear what she has to say about being trans in japan. she’s an elected official in tokyo for christ sakes i’m 100% sure she has more insightful things to say about this than you do.

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  12. [Unrelated to my previous comment]
    It may be notable that that stronger slurs used in 4chanspeak (trap, fag, trash) usually do not originally refer to the state of geekdom. Especially with “fag” as a suffix, they have to be adapted with an additional word to make the term relevant as self-description.
    There’s a luxury associated with 4ch users being able to commit that kind of appropriation, though. That is, the ability to strip themselves away from fundamental (usually demographic-based) identities through the anonymity of the internet, reducing them to action-based identities, such as their objects of lust, or their targets for collection. Even ignoring the original slur nature of the terms, there are power plays contained in their usage that are still based in fundamental identity aspects, though they are not so immediately apparent to those who can “get away with it.”
    See also, that the practice of self-identified geeks taking on descriptors of other oppressed populations (relating to that sense of being the underdog) is an old one.

    And finally, a character of note would be that of Spencer Porter from Glee, a “post-modern gay” who is an out quarterback that still slings around “homo” as an insult about masculinity. (Most analysis of his character I find is that only people who already share his exact and very limited perspective agree with his stance)

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    • I guess my takeaway (much the same as sdshamshel’s, but less charitable) has been that geeks, who spend time at the bottom of the social ladder, (or so they perceive) envy the ability of others to punch down. (despite their perception of valuing underdogs punching up)
      So they create the ability to punch down even within their “bottom rung” group by gatekeeping, finding pleasure in identifying those “who can’t hack it,” such as not being able to handle slur-filled speech or using edgy slurs as self-descriptors, thus characterizing their actions as both punching up (identifying themselves as part of a marginalized group) while getting to feel the pleasure punching down, (looking down on sheeple who subscribe to PC) an action they previously could not take without the outlet of geek chic.

      Much like the girls of Yuri Kuma Arashi seeing themselves as prey to bears, and responding to that perceived lack of power by creating an in-prey hierarchy, getting to enjoy the power of declaring one of their own Evil. They get to feel like they’re punching up by blaming Evil Ones for their bear problems, while actually punching down by refusing a fellow student peer status.

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  13. Pingback: Out of the Shadows: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for April 2015 | OGIUE MANIAX

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