No Shame here
COSPLAY – The practice of dressing up as a character from film, book or video game.
I started cosplaying roughly 8 years ago, I remember that this was such a huge step for me personally, and my nerves rendered me subdued to my surroundings.
Growing up, the social landscape of this country was difficult fo me to navigate, to say the less. In no way, shape or form, comparable to the state of the world our ancestors or Elders had to grow up in. I try to remind myself of this in everything I do, it prompts me to be respectful in how I carry myself and honour those footprints that I both am guided by and continue on from.
The very act of putting myself, in public, in a costume, terrified me! In my very small journey so far in life, I had built up a perspective of shame that I had come to find comfort in. This, in all my being, is not the way. For me, or our community! The concept of being the outer, the outlier, the weird one, the last one picked, the rebellious one, the one out of line was such a ‘dirty word’, but a concept I would come to call friend.
So, the day came and went, it involved me stepping out of my house, catching a tram and train and walking through the Melbourne CBD… all while in a costume! my heart was pounding and I was freaking out big time!
But the day also included extending my circle of friends to some of the most supportive people I still keep in contact with. Some who are going through similar experiences to me, some who have come to use this creative outlet as a calming agent and some who find solace in creating/self expression or healing through this artform. Cosplay can be anything to anyone but it is everything to many people.
Over time this little act of my putting myself out there, revealing my passion, helped me across many other aspects of my life. My public speaking grew, my social skills grew, even my posture and how I walked changed. Cosplay did so much for my self-esteem and self-confidence, I began to stand fearlessly in the face of what would’ve feared me if cosplay wasn’t such a crucial part of me.
I began to speak to all my cosplay friends about what it means to them also, I began to adopt new ideas and perspectives around many conversations, such as sexuality and self-expressionism, and how cosplay have tended to influence these discussions. The amount of raw creativity some cosplayers go into is something I haven’t really encountered or gave thought to previously. From creating a backstory, crafting a costume from hand with every mark, scratch and burn being a deliberate strike with purpose. To expressing yourself in a new form, without judgement, just love and passion.
Understandably, while writing this it did bring up some of those more difficult conversations I have been forced to have. As a cosplayer I promote being Indigenous, after all it is my background that I am extremely proud of, but it has meant that I have had to have my ‘racism conversation card’ on hand at times. Either while on panels or in a small circle of cosplayers, I have had to have discussions of race, blackface, raceface, appropriation and racism.
I say ‘racism conversation card’ because it seems like all discussions related to race follows the same narrative and, almost as an instinctive trigger, an automatic response begins.
These conversations are not bad or negative, but they are difficult, but also necessary for progress. Particularly in the cosplay world, where platforms are created for people portraying characters.
For our community, the concept of breaking particular mindsets, such as shame, is not a new concept. I just saw a way to bring it to light through my own platform of passion of pop culture.