by Tony Ortega
October is my favorite month of the year. Not only is it my birthday month, but it is also when New York Comic Con comes to town. Now why do I love NYCC so much? Well, quite simply, it is four days out of the year that I can be in a convention center filled with people and just be myself and feel fully accepted as I am. Whether you are gay, straight, person of color, transgender, or anything else, NYCC tends to be all-inclusive to all fans of the various genres represented. Also, having been a fan of comic books since I learned how to read, just being around all of the books, memorabilia, and cosplayers, I do feel at home, more so than attending the American Psychological Association Convention.
So last year, I decided to cosplay for the first time. My greatest heroine since Uncanny X-Men 137 was published was Jean Grey – Phoenix. She represented individuality and resurrection in one character. Now, never having cosplayed before, I began the process of procuring a costume. Folks, let me tell you one thing about spandex: it is very revealing and unforgiving. However, attending the Saturday festivities in cosplay attire, I noticed that most folks were actually down with the gender bending cosplay idea and even had my picture published online (much to my boss’ dismay).
This year, I wanted to continue the trend of gender bending cosplaying. Now you are probably asking why the gender bend? Well, in my work with clients (as an LGBT specific clinical psychologist), I encourage my clients to break through the “should” that society places on our community. Be your authentic self is my motto with my clients, no matter what that is. I feel that gender-bending cosplaying breaks the mold of what men “should” cosplay as. So I acquired fishnet stockings, vinyl bootie shorts, a vinyl tank top, some gloves, choker, boots and a leather jacket and viola – a male Black Canary.
Now, walking into the convention center in my cosplay attire was quite the sobering experience. I was very self-conscious that I am a man (with no aspirations to be a woman or a drag queen) walking around in fishnet stockings and very tight (plus warm) attire. I made a commitment to myself to complete the day in my attire regardless of the response for the purpose of breaking the mold. Low and behold, lots of positive responses and picture requests occurred throughout the day. For the most part, attendees appreciated my cosplay. Although, I did hear this rather morbidly obese guy say, “I’m going to have nightmares about that.” All I had to say about that was “Bye Felicia.” I even got asked to take a picture for Buzzfeed and state my profession on a large notebook they provided. I must say that I rocked the Black Canary (Stephen Amell and Alex Kinsgton of Arrow fame both thought so as well).
Two days later, the Buzzfeed article was published. I was thrilled with excitement to see that my picture got chosen to be in the article. What I wasn’t prepared for was the haters commenting about it. So amongst my favorite comments were: “you don’t have the body for that outfit,” “I would never walk into a psychologists office who would cosplay a female super hero,” “this guy is the one that needs help,” etc. There were some positive comments like “he is my spirit animal” and “he gave me a good laugh.”
Okay, Dr. O gets on his soapbox now. Why in the world is my professional capacities being questioned because I attended comic con in gender bend cosplay? Oh, okay, so because I am a licensed clinical psychologist (and yes, I have a doctorate degree and licensed to practice in two states), I am supposed to stay home Saturday nights and re-read Sigmund Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams? Psychologists have a private life outside of their profession and one has nothing to do with the other. How about (insert profession) who goes to clubs and bangs hoes on Saturday nights? Does that affect their ability to do their jobs? Off soapbox now.
What this experience has taught me is that I will continue to live my life breaking molds that are placed by society and/or ignorant internet trolls and continue to gender bend cosplay every chance I get (I am thinking about doing disco Dazzler next year). I will also continue my work with clients (and myself) to be our most authentic selves despite what people may think. Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one. All in all, I have no regrets about my decision to gender bend cosplay. More folks would benefit from doing so.