As the final weeks of the semester approach faster than we want to think about, I am finding solace in looking forward to my summer vacation plans. This year I am kicking off my summer as I always do by attending A-Kon 25 in Dallas. For those of you who don’t know, A-Kon is an anime and Japanese culture convention, so basically a place where I go to massively geek out in my overly adorable, frilly outfits (I mentioned in an earlier blog that I participate in a Japanese fashion style known as Lolita). I’ve been going for years and honestly, I measure my relationships based upon who I went to A-kon with; this year will be my third year going with my current partner! ^_^ I have yet to see the schedule; they usually don’t come out until a week or two before the convention but I am excited see what type of programing they are offering this year and whether or not they will be hosting any “queer” panels. You can learn more about A-kon on their website:
Although I have seen “queer” programing expanding at anime conventions in the past few years the majority of the panels presented are either “yaoi” or “yuri” panels. “Yaoi,” also known as “boy love,” and “yuri,”also known as “girl love,” are terms used to describe homoerotic relationships depicted in manga and anime which are generally targeted at teenage female readers. These relationships are comprised of beautiful, feminine characters, mid-embrace surrounded by sparkles and hearts and everything kawaii. Needless to say, this is problematic and honestly I kind of dread leaving the progressive, forward thinking LGBTQ community here to vacation in a community were LGBTQ relationships are fetishized and placed on display for others. However, I am still looking forward to the convention because there are literally a “bazillion” other aspects of it that I am excited about and as much as I hate to admit it I love these panels because that is where I can find other LGBTQ identified attendees with whom I can connect.
Now, I wish I had the time or the ability to host my own panel, one possibly titled “Ways in Which Yaoi/Yuri are Harmful to the LGBTQ Community and Ways in to Challenge the Negative Perceptions Perpetuated by them.” In it I would share my feelings about having my sexual orientation objectified by fan girls and tell them about some of the negative behaviors that these manga and anime seem to be reinforcing; behaviors like obsessing about and expressing how “cute” gay relationships are. I am not going to lie, I have seen young female attendees photograph LGBTQ couples showing each other affection, so that they can “enjoy” the moment later. Such attendees lead me to believe that they think that those relationships exist purely for their enjoyment.
Marie Antoinette and Lady Oscar
from Rose of Versailles
It is also hard for me to hate “yaoi” and “yuri” because I believe that some of its worst depictions have been accompanied by some amazing LGBTQ characters in manga and anime. Let’s be honest, as Lolita I am basically obligated to love Rose of Versailles; in this particular series I am a fan of Lady Oscar who was born female but raised as male because her family lacked a successor. She is a military officer who serves as the leader of the Palace Guard while also having to navigate gender (she is a female bodied individual serving as a top military officer in pre-revolutionary France) and her affections for Marie Antoinette, the queen who it is her duty to protect. What I find most amazing about this series was that it was released in 1979! I feel that manga and anime is becoming more progressive but I feel it is not where it should be considering how early some of its most groundbreaking series arose; check out the following article which discusses queer and feminist characters in the extremely popular series Attack on Titan, which I will be extremely excited to see as the dubbed version begins being released next month! (Sadly, because of my dyslexia I have yet to have the opportunity to see what all the hype is about because I cannot read fast enough to enjoy subtitles :’( )