I Want To Be A Magical Girl Part II: Boys Will Be Girls Before Girls Can Be Girls

You know what’s the worst thing about being a trans girl who loves magical girls? It’s that they’ll sooner let boys be the heroes than ever consider you for it, and oh, you’ll fucking lap it up anyway.

The Sailor Starlights. Not talking about them though, but I do have some complicated feelings about them.

The Sailor Starlights. Not talking about them though, but I do have some complicated feelings about them.

Although we’re still on the topic of magical girls, I’ll be going on a tangent and mentioning other things that aren’t magical girl. In fact, that’s how I’ll start this off.

Some years ago when I was still figuring out, I came across Sailor Ranko: a webcomic crossing the universes of Ranma 1/2 and Sailor Moon where Ranma turns out to be the reincarnation of Sailor Sun. I still remember discovering it while reading about Rebecca Ann Heineman, a trans woman veteran video game programmer best known perhaps for The Bard’s Tale III: Thief of Fate. It was the first time I came across the idea of a transgendered magical girl and I was hooked. When I got to the last update (of the time), I wanted more. I saw two choices, either satisfy my childhood curiosity about Sailor Moon or try out this Ranma 1/2 thing I’ve never heard of.

One of those two ended up being among my favourite things ever, and the other made me feel utterly betrayed.

A boy turning into a girl when in contact with cold water sounded more intriguing to me, and so I allowed Ranma 1/2 to set its hooks deep into me. I proceeded to devour every single episode and movie of the anime, and later, every chapter of the manga. And when I was done, the hooks came off, leaving me a bloodied perforated wreck. I hated that those subs used “she” for Ranma in his girl form, I hated that my Philosopher’s Stone is Ranma’s curse, I hated that all the Chinese characters are named after hygiene products, I hated that every girl is weaker than every man, and most of all, I hated that it hates the me who I would eventually realise I am.

You see, the most distinctive memory I have of watching the anime was of that one filler episode where Ranma gets thrown into a pond during a sparring session, hit his head on a rock, and woke up identifying as a girl. A super girly girl at that, which isn’t a problem by itself, but a complete loss of physical power accompanies it because… Fuck, make your own conclusions, and do note that all the martial artist cis girls are more powerful than the average person.

To “set things right”, Akane splashes Ranma with hot water, which has the opposite effect of being splashed by cold water, which is that reverts from girl form. Ranma becomes visually traumatised but gets dragged along to a shopping mall with Akane anyway. Apparently, that hit on the head also removes all knowledge of societal understanding because Ranma saw cute lingerie and immediately express outward glee. Then Ranma had to take a piss, can’t piss in the men’s toilet, sneaks into the other toilet and gets splashed with cold water by Akane from outside the cubicle. That bit was the turning point where Akane accepts that Ranma as a girl.

This being a filler episode, of course the status quo is going to return, so Ranma gets molested by the perverted grandmaster again. Ranma gets molested by him all the time, but identifying as a girl means can’t fight back at all, meaning Akane has to fend off the lecherous piece of shit. She succeeds, but IT WAS SO HARD ON HER, and she starts wishing for Ranma to go back to being a boy. Well, obviously that happens at the end.

I can still remember feeling really bad after it, and yet, I did not give up on the show. It was still the only thing I know of that I felt reflected in. Alas, it wasn’t meant for me. The mangaka, Takahashi Rumiko, was asked if Ranma 1/2 was meant to educate and she said it wasn’t, and I’m thankful for that at least because it would have been fucking terrible education.

It was time to move on.

I knew exactly how the first couple minutes of Sailor Moon played out. When I was still a kid, probably 8 years old, I saw it at a video store when someone bought the VCD and they were trying it out. Never would I have guessed that the scene of a girl with two dumplings on her head running late for school would be the genesis for something that would change my life.

There was no queerness in season 1 and 2, but I expected that and liked it a lot anyway. Then I heard that season 3 had lesbians and I was really stoked for it. Though I question the male/female binary presentation of Haruka and Michiru, they were what made both season 3 and the franchise for me, and they have since become my favourite couple in all of fiction. Before, I never knew what it meant to have a crush on a fictional character which isn’t on a creepy level, and I finally understood that when I developed one for Haruka. Then again, who DIDN’T have a crush on Haruka?

Their absence was a reason why I liked season 4 the least. Another reason is that the method of the villains in the first half came across as rather rapey, what with them picking their victims based on how attractive they find them, and then the process of extracted the season’s plot macguffin from the victims… I skipped most of the filler in the first half because of it.

But season 4 wasn’t devoid of queerness. The villains of the first half, the Amazon Trio, are all androgynous. The most feminine-looking among them is Fish Eye, who only goes after male targets, and always goes about the human world presenting as a woman. While I’m pretty sure Fish Eye is supposed to be a dude, I ignore that because she seems like like a trans woman written by someone who has a limited understanding of gender (the US dub made her a cis woman). Yes, a queer villain, how original. Nevertheless, like Zoisite and Kunzite in the first season, Fish Eye still came across more humane than most other characters of her type. One of the most interesting moments of this season is when Usagi finds Fish Eye (disguised) sitting in the rain and offers kindness despite only knowing her as someone who wants to be her rival in romance.

As for season 5, I haven’t see anything yet where we can get any closer to having trans magical girls in the form of the Sailor Starlights. In the manga, they are girls who disguise themselves as a boyband in their mission to find their princess, while in the anime they take the disguise further by changing their bodies. Now, I have no idea why they made the change, and my best guess would be that they want a new love interest for Usagi and so they decided on giving the Starlights male civilian identities because the title character can’t be bi for reasons.

This does raise the question of whether we should read the Starlights as female. The anime does not touch on the issue of their gender identity, and although I find that there are a lot of ways you can read the Starlights, I believe it is implied that the Starlights are really girls. Granted, I am only drawing this conclusion by taking the manga into consideration and also because of one scene where the Starlights’ princess asked Seiya about their male forms, indicating that they never took those forms until they went to Earth. Not exactly trans girls, but I can empathise somewhat with it. To the rest of the world, they’re male but the truth is otherwise, and only among the people they can fully trust, each other, are their real identities known.

And although the Seiya and Usagi romance angle was likely written with heterosexuality in mind, it did eventually become accidentally gay when Usagi non-reciprocally accept Seiya’s feelings for her, after being aware of the Starlight’s identities. There was no disgust whatsoever when the rest of the Sailor Senshi learned of it. No, I don’t believe for a moment that Sailor Moon had me in mind either, but it managed to not shit on me. Fuck, I’ll even say that girls like me get to be heroes. In a world where everything hates us, the Sailor Moon provides comfort even if it didn’t intend to, and that’s unfortunately the best we can hope for.

What else is unfortunate is that I’ve laid my eyes on fucking Kampfer. It was just a click on a curious YouTube link, the first minute was interesting enough, so I looked it up and I was disappointed. It was not a magical girl with a trans girl protagonist, it was a boy who could turn into a magical girl, and it’s heavy on the male gazey fanservice. I knew exactly what I was getting into, and I must have been desperate then because I got in anyway. By episode 5, the barrage of boing boing was too much for me to handle and I quit. It’s pissed me off enough that I don’t even want to check out Is This a Zombie?, at least until I feel desperate again.

I haven’t given up on the webcomic Sparkling Generation Valkyrie Yuuki, but mind you, it isn’t because it actually has a trans girl protagonist. As of now, Yuuki is still a boy who gets accidentally turned into a magical girl and remains stuck with boobs and pussy even after undoing the transformation. It even has a lot of sexiness, which I wouldn’t mind if it didn’t feel so male gazey despite not being written and drawn by a male. If I were to take a shot in the dark, I’ll say that I’m hoping Yuuki’s past crossplaying turns out to be a hint that Yuuki’s actually a girl.

And if we count SheZow as magical girl, it’s a children’s show made in the West, and we all know how ass badwards the West is.

It’s not just the magical girl. Every single “boy magically turns into girl” thing out there is exactly what it says. The only exceptions I can think of are Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl and Cheeky Angel. The former is a cute yuri where it’s easy to read the protag as trans, but it’s unintended and turns out that way from bullshit logic (you can read it up on Wikipedia) and it’s also aimed at a male audience which makes me suspicious of the premise. The latter, well, is only an exception because of its fucked up transness-invalidating ending.

You could all probably throw in your own examples and we’ll still not find a single one which is actually about being trans. Yes, I’m this pessimistic. Why shouldn’t I be? No one’s trying to prove me wrong.

Haruka, how I wish I could race with you to the sunrise!

9 thoughts on “I Want To Be A Magical Girl Part II: Boys Will Be Girls Before Girls Can Be Girls

  1. Oh! I love Kashimashi. I’ve only ever seen the anime, but it was what gave me the courage to come out as trans. I honestly think it stopped me from killing myself, because I was considering doing so until I found it. It has problems, but I identified with Hazumu so much, being a trans girl and a lesbian – I’ve heard people that say it’s “unrealistic” for a character to be both trans and queer, but that’s exactly what I am, so no, it’s bloody not unrealistic at all.

    I’d really just write my own damn magical girl story with a trans protag, but it probably wouldn’t sell. I published a children’s book with a lesbian protagonist, which completely failed to sell, all the while Rick Riordan was being praised for having a single gay character in one of his many books.

    • I’ve heard people that say it’s “unrealistic” for a character to be both trans and queer, but that’s exactly what I am, so no, it’s bloody not unrealistic at all.

      Funny thing, every trans woman I personally know are either lesbian or bi. And I’m not het either.

      Also funny is how when people argue that something is unrealistic or historically inaccurate, their idea of what’s realistic and historically accurate is ironically the furthest from being realistic and accurate.

      I’d really just write my own damn magical girl story with a trans protag, but it probably wouldn’t sell.

      I want to do the same too, and it probably wouldn’t sell, but I just want something like that to be out there.

  2. I… remember that episode of Ranma 1/2 and gods am I ashamed to have laughed at it.

    And I read Valkyrie Princess Yuuki too, but damn, the cheesecake in that is insane at times. It’s like watching a Gonzo anime and there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of exploring gender in it either. It looks to be played up for laughs almost as much as Ranma 1/2 was.

    And if there was one thing I could say about Sailor Moon was that it never went out of its way to have any kind of transphobic slur in it, as far as I could remember, but that’s basic 101 level stuff there.

    Last I heard, there was going to be a Magical Girl Transgender cartoon coming to the Cartoon Network, but I can’t remember what the title of it was.

  3. Not canon (sadly), but possibly of interest to the conversation…

    My girlfriend has a headcanon that Kyubey in Madoka Magica is not just ambulance chasing car accidents, but is ambulance chasing trans girls (“Since I’m upgrading your body anyway… Two wishes for the price of one! A special deal just for you!”).

    She’s willing to argue for a universe in which /every single magical girl in PMMM is trans/ (though it’s easier to justify for some than others) and is working on fanfic in which it’s explicit for both Mami and Kyoko. She hasn’t published it quite yet (too busy writing trans Homestuck) but it’s in beta; she’s Arjache on AO3.

    This does not, of course, change the maddening lack of /actual representation/ we’re discussing here. I just thought of it because PMMM is already commentary in so many other ways that Kyubey preying on trans desires resonates with me as a commentary on this lack of representation.

  4. I feel like there is some info missing that might influence how you felt about the Starlights, so I wanted to leave a comment about that part in particular… I would assume that the reason Takeuchi-san was edited regarding the Starlights was religious censorship. Most of the character in the show are based off of real deities from various world mythologies. In the case of the Three Lights, I would assume the issue was religious censorship, due to which deities they are. Rather than being old mythology they are the Hindu Holy Trinity (also called Trimurti or Tridev) from the religion of Hinduism, which is a present day monotheistic religion. Just to share a little bit of info about them… in the Hindu Holy Trinity, the first one is called Lord Brahma, the Creator (sometimes translated as Maker). He is a rather aloof intellectual who prefers to stay out of the business of humans, citing the existence of karma. He is married to the goddess of water and wisdom, Saraswati (Benzaiten in Japanese, as she has reached Japan via Buddhism). He creates the universe and life in the universe. He wrote the Holy Vedas and other texts which are in a poetry format, which was why Taiki was listed as interested in poetry. The purple color of Taiki’s eyes would have meaning in India… it is the color of sahasrara, the crown chakra, associated with the brain and enlightenment. Taiki also carries a white rose, which is actually goddess Saraswati’s favorite color. They reside in the Satyaloka spiritual planetary system. He has four heads.

    The second in the trinity, is Lord Vishnu, the Preserver. Vishnu is worshiped by Vaishnavas as the supreme form of God, and he is considered to be the original being in the universe. His role is that he maintains goodness and order in the universe. He is very kind, and comes across as very stylish and very beautiful (he has blue skin, four arms, and long black curls, he usually likes wearing yellow silk pants and a lot of gold jewelry, and he likes peacock feathers), however he is also extremely fierce if angry. He incarnates to the world many times in various forms, having many faces, many of them part animal. He is often seen slaying demons or tricking them into killing themselves. His most popular incarnation is Krishna, who is normally depicted as a beautiful boy playing a flute. He loves animals and supports vegetarianism. He also requires a lot of sleep and is often depicted sleeping in front of a background of the cosmos. His wife and soul mate, that he always goes looking for, is Lakshmi, the goddess of beauty and prosperity, who was born from the frothy ocean foam. Vishnu and Lakshmi (particularly in the forms of Krishna and Rukmini) are considered to be the parents of Kama deva, the love god who shoots things with flower arrows and makes them fall in love. The green color which was used for Yaten’s eyes is the color of the heart chakra, anahata. the goddess of beauty loves gold and red colors. Yaten was shown carrying a yellow rose over the chest, which is where Lord Vishnu asked to be permanently marked with Sri Vatsa symbol (the mark of Sri, which is another name for his wife.) :)

    The third one in the Hindu Holy Trinity, is called Lord Shiva the Destroyer. Lord Shiva is a very wild looking dancer, with perpetually messy hair. He has been criticized before by those who didn’t like him for being supposedly wild, uncivilized, not dressing properly, always hanging around with ghosts in graveyards, etc. He is considered a very benevolent God. He does have a bit of a temper and can be quick to anger, but also calms down quickly. He contains the energy to destroy the universe, and will destroy it at the end times (when it has become bad) so that the universe can be made anew by Lord Brahma. Shiva has no interest in material things, and frequently sits for long periods of time, meditating outdoors, on his stone bench on Mount Kailash. His signature attack is a holy fire instant incineration beam, which typically comes from the third eye (which symbolizes enlightenment, also the blue color is the same as third eye chakra) on the center of his forehead. His wife and soul mate is Parvati, who is a benevolent goddess of spiritual purity. They are worshiped as supreme God and Goddess by Shaivite Hindus. She is usually shown wearing red. He can very serious (especially compared to Vishnu who is more playful) and has some angry forms, like Bhairava, or the angry sage Durvasa.

    The set of the three of them together, manage the life cycle of the universe. There is also a concept of gender for some deities within Hinduism which is believed to be different from human gender (as it is believed that a human soul could incarnate as a cis man, cis woman, or else they might be third gender LGBT folks), as some deities would possess a spiritual gender. In the case of Tridev, and speaking a bit generally to explain as best I can without getting too long winded, they are considered divine masculine, whereas their wives would be divine feminine. They do have a feminine half, but, they keep the feminine energies in a separate body from themselves, as their wives/lovers. Typically, they do require cis male anatomy, due to spiritual gender being masculine.

    Regarding the gender subject, Takeuchi-san had released an art book back in the 90s with some of her design notes, which had a character concept page for the Starlights and did mention them being masculine in personality. So looking at her notes and portrayal, I don’t think her intention was for them to be cis gender women, but more like, I think she wanted them to get born genetically XX but not be feminine in nature (and I personally had felt her anger over the edits in the anime was transphobic). I hope it makes a little more sense why the Japanese animators decided to edit her. They did make the episode content with them in Stars season to be more based off of Hindu religious texts, and also the ending is different to not show them getting killed. But I would view all of that as religious censorship, and honestly I just wish they had done more edits, and had just gone with a respectful portrayal, where they are not being drawn as sailors. Because I don’t feel like the manga content was meant in a nice way, if you care about trans issues or if you are Hindu.

    Then as kind of a separate subject, I’m not cis either, but I’m trans masculine…. I also wish there was better and more respectful representation of trans characters in anime.

    • For the record, I am from a Hindu-Buddhist background so I’m quite familiar with it but besides the whole Fighter, Healer, and Maker trinity thing the Starlights have going on, I never noticed the other details.

      I never did come across her design notes for the Starlights, except some bit about them having long hair because of toys… Not sure how that relates.

      • Ah : ) To be honest, I think it is much, much more than just their names, but pretty much everything they say and do…. I mean even the angel wings, the way they introduced themselves as “sacred”, then a lot of the concepts they were discussing (like duty and reincarnation), and all scenes with them being things that look to be derived from similar scenes in Hindu scriptures, and other television serials with them, etc. Like I think an example you could see pretty easily… Seiya has a theme song singing “Even destruction must occur, for peace day after day! With my hair disheveled, I dance, dance, dance!” Which, yeah… that sounds like Shiva, right? I would say it was all supposed to be clear, just like how Mina was going around saying she is the goddess of love… it was actually intended to be pretty upfront, I think! So, yeah, I did feel that was indeed their intended meaning, was they were actually trying to make a very clear reference to those deities. And I thought I should mention that, as I think that is the most likely answer to your speculations, regarding why they got so much edits and what the animation team might have been thinking at the time. I think probably because of them reading up on Tridev, as they would have had to do to create the episode content, which was vastly more material than was included in the manga, they were likely seeing these concepts pertaining to them, like of shakti + purusha, and reading articles about Shivling going on base of yoni, etc. I think that was probably behind the animator’s feeling that they needed some edits, and it would be appropriate to insist on some edits. I myself would currently doubt their reasoning was something homophobic.

        The character design notes I was referring to was some notes by the author in the Materials Collection Art Book, the yellow one, where she wrote that: Seiya is like a shounen (boy), Yaten doesn’t like females despite being female, and Taiki is 200% like Takarazuka. (Takarazuka Revue are plays in Japan with otokoyaku drag kings). Then, she said in the same book she didn’t like them being men in the anime. Which to me sounded like…. ok, probably she didn’t intend any disguise at all, not in the manga, because how would something be both your real personality and a “disguise”, or your real clothes that you really wear every day, a costume? So to me, I thought she was indeed agreeing their real personality was masculine. I also noticed that in the manga they didn’t stop to present as men after finding Kakyuu-hime, but actually right after finding her they do change clothes. They continued to bind their chests, and put on a new outfit that looks like men’s kurta pajamas. So I thought the suggestion for the manga canon at least, was that was their clothes from their home, meaning they would normally present as men on their homeworld. (Though I recall the anime sounded more divergent on that point). But, I can see she didn’t want them to have XY bodies…. so, I guess if Tridev are normally cis men, then she wouldn’t have felt she was changing them at all, if they were permitted to transition? I don’t understand, really. But I got perturbed about what she was getting at and thought it sounded most likely cis-sexist. I guess I was disappointed, in that that initially as a child I had thought the content might have been a positive inclusion of trans persons. Then I ended up thinking no, this looks more like an actual misandrist (after I found she had actually made a lot of comments in interviews saying things like “moreover, in Japan, boys are quite weak… they want to be dominated” and other things like that which sounded like she was just bashing men) trying to emasculate and belittle foreign deities that she doesn’t even believe in herself, just for being boys and considered inherently masculine as per Hindu theology. I guess it was a huge disappointment for me. So, I was not seeing this stuff as particularly progressive or trans friendly at all! I mean, I feel like if the trans person is *God*, who is normally a cis male, getting drawn like a drag king or trans man or perhaps other non-binary type of trans* person, but not permitted to have a cis male body, or even get to transition? To me, I felt it didn’t come across as particularly respectful of others beliefs, nor as trans friendly… Especially not with all the other things in there, like the lines about about Seiya being too low social class for Usagi, which looked to me like a jab about the varna system, and then them getting defeated and killed off, etc. It just… I don’t know, but honestly the manga content in particular really troubled me, for multiple reasons. I don’t think I have a very good feeling about that manga author. I am incredibly tired of everything I see around me in the world, being so hurtful, and I think initially I really wanted the content to be something other than what I now understand it to be. Though I did and do and likely always will adore the Starlights/Three Lights themselves, though. <3 Though now I have seen a lot of great Bollywood, and ended up learning a lot of the years, so I can't claim to really be disappointed in the end, with what I found and learned… just with some comments and decisions from the BSSM manga author, I think.

  5. If you’re looking for an anime dealing with transgender themes, there’s one called “Wandering Son”. The two main characters are a transgender boy and transgender girl. It’s a slice of life story dealing with transgender issues..

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