Trans Characters in Fandom

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A person who is trans or transgender is someone who self-identifies their gender as different than the one they were assigned at birth. In the late 20th and early 21st century, more media creators have specified characters as transgender, by either subtle hints or stating it outright. There are examples of both canonical trans characters and popular trans headcanons in fandom, although some segments of fandom resist the idea of transgender characters being canon. This resistance has been called out as transphobia by other fans.

Like, seriously, here’s the thing. It literally doesn’t matter to what extent a character being a trans woman is canon or not.

Linkle has no direct “evidence” to support her being trans, other than being a “gender-swapped” (ugh I hate that term) version of Link. So people fight me about it.

Samus Aran has some direct “evidence” that she’s trans - a developer comment in particular. And people will fight tooth and nail to “prove” that this bit of “evidence” is irrelevant.

Grell Sutcliffe has literally been confirmed as trans by the creator of the series. And yet people outright refuse to acknowledge it, considering anything less than the fictional character saying the exact words “I am a trans woman” to not actually be canon.

People don’t care. They will do everything in their power to ignore the presence of trans women in the media they love. So why the hell should I have to wait for Nintendo to decree a character as trans (which they will, in all likelihood, never ever do) to consider it the truth? Why should I have to label every character I consider trans as a “headcanon” when there is no more evidence in the media itself to suggest cissness than there is transness?[1]
Lovely how literature is completely up for interpretation by the reader, and how literally everything [...] in fandom is up for grabs, but the second lgbt people start interpreting the text using our own experiences and seeing ourselves in characters, and producing content that’s authentic to us and not pandering to the fetishes of cis and straight people, nothing can be imagined that isnt explicitly written in the original text.[2]

Aside from some fans not even accepting characters as trans, there have also been arguments in fandom regarding the way these characters are depicted in fanworks. For example, when artist ohnips drew the cast of Dream Daddy genderswapped, many fans stated it was transphobic because it depicted a trans man as a woman. See also The Lup Problem for issues surrounding fanart portrayals of a trans woman as more masculine than her brother.

Trans Headcanons

Fans, especially fans who are trans themselves, often have headcanons about characters being trans. These often are shared as text posts on Tumblr or Twitter, as submissions to Tumblr headcanon blogs, as artwork, or as fanfiction. There is occasionally discourse over these headcanons, and some are of the opinion that these headcanons are too often based on stereotypes.

start headcanoning masculine dudes as trans u cowards. if you’re cis and every single transmasc hc you have is some ultra twink ass mfer just know im side eyeing you ultra heavy rn[3]
[chase-is-not-crash]
bad trans headcanon tropes to leave behind for 2018
  • trans man binds with ace bandages until a Good Cis Ally gets him a binder
  • “this is my buff trans wife and i want her to murder me” and other various phrases that make the association that trans woman = violent
  • trans man is in a state of undress when another character walks in on him shirtless, which outs him as trans against his will
  • character who is a man (or uses he/him pronouns) in canon gets headcanoned as a trans woman and then in the trans headcanon fanart she’s drawn even buffer and hairier than in canon just to prove how Obviously Not Cis she is
  • drawing cis characters like regular people but then stylizing your trans headcanons to emphasize the characteristics of their ASAB
  • exclusively headcanoning thin adolescent white boys as trans men
  • headcanoning Real, Actual People as trans
  • referring to adult characters as “boys” if you headcanon them as trans; infantilizing trans men in general
  • not bothering to draw body hair on your cis characters, but always including body hair on your trans women headcanons.
  • having cis love interests say anything along the lines of “i love you no matter what parts you have :)” like they deserve a fuckin medal
  • only writing/drawing trans characters in nsfw situations / fetishization in general
[princelydisaster]
  • Pretty white boy is trans and Mean POC bullies him for being trans
  • Only headcanoning the rough, big female characters as trans, never any gentle or small women
  • Only bi/poly/pan people dating trans people, as opposed to straight or gay people, because trans people aren’t “real” men/women[4]
[Anonymous]
what's your take on nb and butch lesbians hcing male characters as trans women? men are closer to how i present (as a nb butch) and so that's generally why i'll say a canonically male character is a lesbian, but i'm also afab and recognize how that makes it easier for me to present as a lesbian, nb or otherwise, and don't want to continue doing this/making jokes about it if it's disrespectful.
[thedeadflag]
If we’re talking a trans woman butch lesbian, then sure. As a trans woman, she’s trustworthy, and if she feels a canon male character’s worthy of headcanoning as a trans woman, she’s probably got her reasons. Doesn’t mean someone who isn’t a trans woman should necessarily piggyback on that, because they wouldn’t be doing so with an informed perspective, not unless there’s a broader pattern of trans women HCing the character as a trans woman.

If we’re talking someone assigned female at birth, then I would say that this is being done for the wrong reasons. If you ID more with a male character, that’s perfectly alright, but there’s no need to rope trans women into it. You could just leave them as men.

If it’s just about presentation, change the way female characters present accordingly. Like, I’m confused how that’s not the solution that immediately comes to mind. I don’t understand how a person can say they like a way a guy character looks, and come to the conclusion that they’ll just make him a trans woman so they can see themselves in the character better. I don’t get how the first impulse is to equate trans women with cis men, and not make a shift in presentation/expression of an existing woman character. Or, I DO get how it can happen, because cissexism makes these sort of decisions so rooted in common sense and instinct that people don’t even think twice about them. It becomes the easy solution, because of course a person will jump to HCing a man as a trans woman due to gender-related expression/presentation when they connect trans women with men, or at least overwhelmingly more with men than with other women.

If you absolutely have to have the character be a woman for whatever reason, I’d honestly prefer you rock a genderbend/cisswap. At least then you wouldn’t be directly equating trans women with cis men, even if similar cissexist underpinnings would be guiding the alteration. Still transphobic, but nothing that could pretend to masquerade as trans-positivity like trans HCs often are positioned as.[5]

[steven-universe-official]
“I’d like to imagine this character is trans”

✔ Fine

“THIS CHARACTER IS TRANS. THEY ARE MY SMOL BABY AND THEY ARE TRANS. AND IF YOU DON’T THINK THEY ARE YOU ARE A TRANSPHOBIC ASSHAT AND ARE GUILTY OF TRANS-ERASURE”

✘ Yikes
[steven-universe-official]
This post managed to hit 20k with minimal discourse and I’m just glad I’m not the only one who’s tired of this.
[oldfashionedtransguy]
This is why I can’t stand the Spiderman trans headcanons. I’m a whole ass fucking transgender man, don’t call me ‘transphobic’ because I don’t give two shits about a character who has always been cis, has always been played by cis men, and only became a trans headcanon when he was played by a young baby-faced actor. I’ve literally seen Spiderman referred to as 'an endlessly adorable trans boy’, and it makes me want to be sick. I’ll be over here headcanoning masculine MEN as FTM characters. Keep your fetishisation and infantilization away from me, and don’t fucking whine when a TRANSGENDER MAN has OPINIONS that deviate from your own. Fuck’s sake. I have never, NEVER read a FTM headcanon fic that hasn’t made me want to die. I’ve had to write my own FTM fic just to read about MEN like me, because trans headcanons only ever seem to produce cute uwu boys. And it makes me so. Fucking. Uncomfortable.[6]
[spacefroggity]
Cis people with trans headcanons are.. suspicious
[spacefroggity]
If you’re cis & you immediately go “hehe he’s trans” when a male character is short or thin or whatever…….. I don’t trust like that
[spacefroggity]
If you’re cis & you immediately go “ooh she’s trans” when a female character is tall or muscular or whatever, I especially don’t trust like that
[spacefroggity]
Cissies can and should reblog this but y'all best not be clowns in the notes
[two-nipples-maybe-more]
hey op I’m trans so i hope you don’t mind if I add:

transmasculine/trans men need to check themselves about this too.

we have to ask ourselves: hey, why do i headcanon that female character as a trans woman, while i think this other female character is cis? is there a (possibly hurtful) pattern?

just because we’re trans too it doesn’t excuse us from transmisogyny

[spacefroggity]
You’re right and you should say it
[lis-and-chill]
As a trans woman, we have to keep an eye out for this as well! Making headcanons that a character is a trans man because they’re “small” or “thin” or “soft featured” is really suspect and not great![7]

Examples

Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.

Canon (Or Ambiguously-Canon) Trans Characters

The following are clear examples of canonically trans characters in fandoms:

  • Samus Aran, protagonist of the Metroid series, was stated by Hirofumi Matsuoka in an 1994 interview to be a "newhalf" (a Japanese term referring to trans women who have not had gender confirmation surgery). Some Metroid fans dispute the canonicity of this.[8][9]
  • Lup from The Adventure Zone: Balance was a character teased for a long while, but then formally introduced in episode 60 and stated by Griffin to be a trans woman. (Griffin had sought input from fans on how best to introduce a trans character.[10])
  • Eric Cooper from Assassin's Creed mentioned that he has had surgeries and a doctor friend helps regulate his hormones. Not all fans picked up on this and some believed he was "just gay".[11] Eric being transgender was confirmed on Twitter[12], and again in an AC Encyclopedia some years later.
  • Erica Anderson from the game series Catherine is a trans woman.
  • Damien Bloodmarch from Dream Daddy is canonically a trans man. Additionally, the player can create and play their protagonist as a trans man.

There are, however, canon examples where because the characterization is mostly done through subtext, without direct creator confirmation, they're more ambiguous and fans argue about whether or not their identity is truly "canon."

  • Mettaton (from Undertale) is often perceived by fans to be a transgender character based on Undyne referring to his old identity with they/them pronouns.
  • Urushibara Ruka from the game and anime Steins;Gate is seen by many as a trans girl; one of the plot arcs involves her altering the past so that she is designated female at birth. Ruka being transgender is disputed by some, however, including the game's English localization staff, who stated "he believed his romantic feelings towards Okabe would no longer be unfounded if he were born female".[13] There was a huge debate over which pronouns to use on Ruka's Wikia page.

Popular Trans Headcanons

  • Some Les Miserables fans believe Enjolras is written as a trans man and trans!Enjolras is a fairly common tag on AO3.[14] Jehan is also often headcanoned as nonbinary.[15]
  • The headcanon that Danny Fenton from Danny Phantom is a trans man is a widespread example of a trans headcanon. Fans have pointed out many parts of canon that seem to indicate this[16], and persist in the headcanon despite Butch Hartman shutting it down.[17] Hartman created The Fairly Oddparents as well, and fans also spotted parts of that show seeming to indicate Timmy Turner is a trans boy.[18][19][20]
  • Pidge from Voltron: Legendary Defender is also commonly headcanoned as trans: either as a trans girl, trans guy, or nonbinary. As of March 2019, there are 487 works in the "Trans Pidge | Katie Holt" tag on AO3 (312 in "Trans Female Pidge" subtag, 62 in "Trans Male Pidge" subtag), 874 works in "Nonbinary Pidge | Katie Holt", and 1,436 works in "Gender-Neutral Pronouns for Pidge | Katie Holt". Trans headcanons are also common for the other VLD characters. In February 2017, the "Trans VLD Week" event took place.[21]
    • Trans male Keith has also become very popular, particularly among Sheith or Klance fans. The former camp often does this to avoid writing actual mpreg if they want to give the couple biological children.
  • Toyosatomimi no Miko, a character introduced in the 13th Touhou Project game, is interpreted to be trans female by some. In canon, her true identity is that of the real life Prince Shoutoku, a male Japanese politician from the sixth century. In the events of the game, Miko is resurrected in the modern day Gensokyo. A profile from Symposium of Post-mysticism indicates that she and her fellow shikaisen had some degree of freedom in choosing their forms when they reincarnated, since they'd already abandoned their body and flesh. Supposedly, most shikaisen tend to choose something similar to their old appearance, but Miko opted to change to a look "more suited to modern times".[26]

Meta

See also

External links

References

  1. DJ (November 13, 2015). "Like, seriously, here's the thing". Queer Headcanon of the Day. Retrieved March 27, 2019. 
  2. Henry (April 4, 2018). "thread by deadgreeks, enjoloras, and newtgeiszler". Retrieved March 27, 2019. 
  3. halexander. "start headcanoning masculine dudes as trans u coward". Retrieved March 27, 2019. 
  4. bad trans headcanon tropes to leave behind for 2018, January 2, 2018
  5. Anonymous ask, January 5, 2019
  6. Thread by steven-universe-official and oldfashionedtransguy
  7. Tumblr thread, May-August 2019
  8. destinytomoon (May 23, 2019). "Im not a really big fan in say that samus is canon canonically super mega canon trans. BUT I can see where it comes from..." ⚢random+art blog⚢. Retrieved May 26, 2019. 
  9. Brianna Wu and Ellen McGrody (September 1, 2015). "Metroid's Samus Aran is a Transgender Woman. Deal With It". The Mary Sue. Retrieved March 27, 2019. 
  10. Tumblr post by bryn (otohimeheart), April 6th, 2017
  11. krablord. "Fun Fact: back when the AC Initiates site was all story and plot stuff". Retrieved March 27, 2019. 
  12. Tweet from AC Initiates, May 12 2014
  13. Reading Steiner (March 7, 2016). "So why isn't Luka trans?". ASKfm. Retrieved May 26, 2019. 
  14. Trans Enjolras tag on AO3. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
  15. Nonbinary Jean Prouvaire tag on AO3. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
  16. "tumblr thread by avicular, plasmas-king, eternally-a-dreamer, and ghostboyhost". Retrieved March 27, 2019. 
  17. Me on a date: How do you feel about that trans Danny Phantom theory that's going around?, July 17, 2015
  18. I just had a massive realization about the fairly odd parents, January 27, 2018
  19. Trans Boy Timmy Turner Headcanon, February 24, 2017
  20. trans timmy turner headcanons, July 3, 2015
  21. Trans VLD Week
  22. Lyan (July 22, 2016). "TRANS LARS: THE MASTERPOST". Retrieved March 27, 2019. 
  23. agassyantelope and chipschallenge (2015). "LARS IS TRANS PASS IT ON". Retrieved March 27, 2019. 
  24. Tumblr tag search for #trans peter parker
  25. Chase (July 12, 2017). "peter parker is a trans boy". Retrieved June 17, 2019. 
  26. rabbiteclair (13 January 2018). Is Miko Toyosatomimi canonically trans, or is that a popular interpretation of her backstory?. Tumblr. Retrieved 28 March 2019.