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.
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!