Crossplay is a popular term for cosplaying as a character of a different gender than your own (not to be confused with genderbending). It’s beyond common in the world of cosplay for a variety of reasons.
Gender Freedom: Part of the joy of cosplaying is being able to be someone other than your day-to-day self in a safe space. And this certainly extends to crossplay. Anime conventions are a very open and accepting space in my experience, and whether you identify as trans* or just want to be someone else for the day, a con is an excellent place to explore that freedom. Crossplaying is all about performing a different gender than the one you were born with.
Character Preference: I think this is a big one. Let’s face it—sometimes your favorite character’s gender doesn’t match up with your own. This is an especially common problem for female cosplayers, because, let’s face it, anime in general can be pretty lacking when it comes to strong female characters and/or realistic-looking female characters. Sometimes it’s fun to be what I sometimes call a ‘hair-and-boobs’ character (think, Yoko, Erza, Shura, Blue Rose, Mikuru, Patty, etc) but sometimes you just really want to be Kamina or Gajeel or Mephisto or Kotetsu or Kyon or Blackstar.
The reverse is also true, although less common: compared to the number of females cosplaying as dude characters, I’ve only ever seen a handful of guys cosplaying as ladies. I think this is because of a combination of factors: firstly, as I pointed out, there tends to be a dearth of awesome ladies in anime; secondly, guys have to face a lot of weird societal stigmas when they crossplay as girls that girls are less likely to face.
My cosplaying husbando Nakura, whose crossplays wildly outnumber her female cosplays, put it rather eloquently when I asked her her thoughts. She says that crossplay can be a challenge, especially considering the often extreme body types of both male and female anime characters, which can make it harder to cross over. However, she says, “If a crossplay is good, however, it’s not gonna matter if it’s a girl or a boy; people will love it either way. Good costumes are good costumes, no matter which gender it is and which gender is wearing them.”
Are there any cosplayers in our audience? Have you crossplayed, and what was your experience?