Ouran High School Host Club

Ouran High School Host Club is one of those things that everyone can look back at with some level of fondness and cringe. Don’t worry, I’ll rant and rave about cringe-culture of the early 2000s later. But for now, we’re going to talk about how incredible Ouran was for nonbinary folks.

Haurhi Fujioka was probably the first “gender-bent” character I had ever been introduced to. This was back when that was the term commonly used by the very vocal straight girls and women who made up a good chunk of online fandom for a character who presented as their opposite binary gender. Since then, Haurhi has been referred to as nonbinary by most fans because the character is more genderfluid and doesn’t ascribe to one specific gender (though does use she/her pronouns in her mind).

As the main character of a “reverse harem” anime, Haruhi subverted pretty much every trope that would normally be thrown at her from the idea that every single character should be in love with her (only two people in the long version of the manga want to date her) all the way to the fact that her role in every other anime/manga of this category were demure girls with no idea that she was the token of everyone’s affections. Haruhi enjoyed being seen as a boy because she both liked all the attention from the girls and didn’t have to deal with the “back-stabby” culture that the more controlling elite girls dealt with.

She was also raised by a father who began drag after his wife died in an attempt to give Haruhi some form of a maternal figure. While Haruhi does criticize him about it, it’s not about him doing drag, it’s about how over the top protective he is about her. She is uncaring about the overt lesbians who try to draft her into their all-girl’s school, enjoying the attention she gets from them and even agreeing that the guys who she hangs out with are pretty much dingles when it comes to emotional reciprocation.

In the very first episode we learn that Haruhi is uncaring about gender-norms, that the boys in her new club aren’t perturbed about the idea that a gay boy came to their host club (just surprised that Haruhi swings that way), and that despite the set up for Haurhi to be hyper effeminate after the big reveal that she was born a girl, she remains excited to continue letting everyone believe she is a boy and would begin using the more masculine Japanese pronouns when talking about herself.

For the most part of the story, Haruhi seems aromantic and asexual, something that hadn’t really been done before in a reverse harem anime/manga. It’s a good while before she even entertains the idea of entering a relationship with anyone, and even then it’s only with people who she is incredibly close with. Majority of fans argue that because of this is demi-romantic (possibly demi-sexual, however this topic is never explicitly brought up in the story). The story definitely lends itself to this, because despite very obviously being a romance, it appears one-sided with various boys and girls easily falling for Haurhi and her personality and then her shutting the possibility of a budding romance with her.

 

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Steven Universe

It would be remiss of me to not mention Steven Universe and how it has influenced the way representation in mainstream cartoons is presented. From the iconic ending of season 1 where we find out that Garnet is a fusion of Sapphire and Ruby to the angst-riddled “It’s Over Isn’t It,” the overt queer themes have built up kids questioning their identity and understanding each other. Even Steven’s gender-non-conforming personality has helped change the way boys look at what’s considered “girly.”

Back when season one first aired, quite a few people were skeptic about the quality. It was in the age of cartoons where everything was a reboot or Uncle Grandpa, there was a lot of hesitation about trying to get into new shows. Steven Universe quickly proved itself as a show breaking the social norms by having the surrounding heroes as women, never ridiculing Steven for being effeminate, and Steven being raised in a non-nuclear family. Not only do we get wonderful characters and development, we have a great deal of songs to jam out and feel.

As much as I could go on and on about the nuances and how great the show is, there’s one major thing that happened recently that anyone who watches cartoons were buzzing about: the wedding. Steven Universe has officially shown the first ever animated same-gender proposal and subsequent wedding. It also featured Ruby in a dress and Sapphire in a tux to subvert the assumptions of presentation in butch and femme relationships.

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Ruby and Sapphire sealing their marriage with a kiss.

With the heart dropping ending and no season 6 release date, things seem to be going into hiatus hell again, but we do have confirmation of a movie in the works, though it’s place in the timeline is not yet mentioned. In the meantime, we can rewatch our favorite episodes and theorize how they’re going to work in the fandom’s favorite theory: is Onion actually White Diamond! But in all seriousness, this hiatus has no sign of breaking aside from the fact that the next season is confirmed and will have 32 episodes. All we can do is bunker down and wait.

Queer-Wise: Taylor, Alex, and Victor

Today I get the pleasure of interviewing three incredibly queer folks in a poly relationship: Taylor, Alex, and Victor. Taylor is a trans woman, Alex an agender lesbian, and Victor a nonbinary ace. Taylor is a full time student at Texas A&M University; Victor is on sabbatical for a year; Alex is finishing up their last year of high school. The following has been transcribed word for word, for better or worse.

What movie or show growing up was really important to you?

Taylor: Scooby-Doo and Zombie Island where they- [Victor: Hex Girls!] OOoooo yes! They were my gay awakening! That’s when young me decided to become the big tiddy goth GF of my dreams.

Alex: 50 First Dates – but NOT for Adam Sandler. I liked watching Drew Barrymore because she was really hot. My mom told me when I was little I would sit with my hand in my diaper watching it.

Victor: I genuinely can’t think of any one thing. Ha, you guys think I have good memories growing up!

Looking back, what do you think about it would still impact you?

Taylor: The Hex Girls. They’re still really hot.

Alex: I had my gay awakening at a very young age, and I think that really impacted me. I mean Drew Barrymore is still really hot.

Victor: I can’t think of anything! I’ll think of something later!

What’s the best queer representation you’ve seen recently?

Taylor: Tipping the Velvet. It’s got the Gayest Feels of twenty-gay-teen.

Alex: Probably Queer Eye. I haven’t seen a lot of queer things.

Victor: [Alex: Me, bitch.] Sure! Um… okay. Recent would probably have to be Rock and Riot. It’s on Tumblr.

How long have you been openly queer?

Taylor: Mmm. My senior year of high school. I came out that year as trans and queer. And getting gayer every year.

Alex: I came out in seventh grade after falling in love with my best friend. [Taylor and Victor: Gay!]

Victor: I’ve been out since sixth grade. I came out as lesbian. And in eighth grade I came out as not cis. I’ve been open ever since.

How has this changed how you see movies and TV?

Taylor: There has to be queer in a show to watch it! Come on! There has to be queer!

Alex: Since coming out, I’ve been more critical of heteronormativity in TV shows, and I look forward to queer-centric stuff.

Victor: Excellent Gaydar. It’s perfected my Queerdar.