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Nitori is Not Going to Hell For Wanting to Wear a Bra, Part I: Understanding Gender Dysphoria as a Christian

When the anime version of Hourou Musuko (Wandering Son) aired in 2011, much of the reception in the blogsophere was lukewarm. A lot of folks, having anticipated the adaptation, were disappointed in how different it was from the manga. I, on the other hand, without any previous connection to this story of a boy who wants to be a girl and a girl who wants to be a boy, absolutely loved it.  It touched me and made me reconsider how I thought of individuals who identify as transgender.

However, I don’t know if I was ready for it.

hourou musuko 1b

I left the story feeling I should change, but I didn’t really. Fast-forward a few years, and my experiences on Tumblr caused me to research the topic, which then led me to read Understanding Gender Dysphoria (Mark A. Yarhouse), a study that informed me even further, and which forms the basis for much of this post and the one that will follow it.  Like Eddie Redmayne, “my education continues,” but in the meantime, I want to introduce this topic to our Christian readers, many of whom probably flee from it, like I have my whole life.

Part of my issue that I was totally confused by the terminology – what does cisgender mean? Why would someone prefer to be called they? Is it still LGBT, or have other letters been added to the acronym?

I won’t go into all the definitions, but there are a few important terms that I think will help confused Christians understand this issue better:

  • Gender dysphoria – Part of the title of this post, and a term I’ll refer back to, gender dysphoria is the distress an individual experiences when that person does not feel their biological sex matches gender identity.
  • Gender and sex – Gender is what it means to be male or female; sex is biologically whether you’re male or female. Note this distinct but significant difference.
  • Transgender – As Yarhouse notes, this is an “umbrella term” describing a diverse audience of people who live out a gender different from their sex.
  • Cisgender – This is what perhaps most Christians would view as “typical” – the state of gender matching sex.
  • Transexual – An individual who wants to or has transitioned from the sex to which he or she was born.

There are a host of other terms as well, like genderfluid, genderqueer, and intersex, which I encourage you to research.  But the ones above are a good starting point for getting into the conversation.

It’s also important to note that gender dysphoric or transgender does not equal homosexual. Though one might be both, they are separate things, and many, many people with gender dysphoria are not gay.  I remember this first clicking with me when I wrote a post about Hourou Musuko discussing Makoto’s feelings for his male teacher. Because I was vague in addressing homosexuality and never mentioned Makoto at all, a commenter was wondering why I was connecting the show’s transgender themes with homosexual ones, when I had never intended to.

But more importantly than understanding terminology, of course, is to understand people. Unfortunately, a common Christian response to individuals who feel this incongruence between their gender and sex is one of judgment and disgust. It’s taboo almost, an attack on morality for many, representative of all that might go wrong in a person’s life and all that’s gone wrong in culture. That, of course, is wholly the wrong reaction for a people who claim to follow Christ, who taught us to love everyone (and why we should).

Read the rest of this entry

Something More: Death in Totoro, Pokemon Preaching, and Kirito’s Treasure

I’m always happy to link to aniblog posts that touch on spirituality, but sometimes this column is just chock full of amazing articles. I hope you’ll dig into the links below – they’re worth your read, starting with Matthew Newman’s post on Hare Kon and marriage.

For those unfamiliar (which included me until I read Matthew’s article), Hare Kon is a manga about a young lady who marries into a polygamous marriage. A really interesting concept, right? The post’s focus in on the marriage ceremony, in which the presiding pastor mentions the following with regret:

…God is weeping. Though God is lenient, He may not recognize this marriage…still times are changing…at least those of us who are here shall approve this.

This idea that the marriage occurring in the church in this manga is municipally-approved, but not necessarily God-approved, reminded me of the idea that Christians often fall into a hypocrisy they don’t realize, saying that God is the authority for all matters while forming a lifestyle that ultimately places a morality they’ve formed as a mix of culture, religion, family, etc. as the backbone of their lives. For instance, many will will protest about gay marriage, but I think for many that’s more a problem with their feelings of disgust toward homosexuality rather than reverence toward God’s word. After all, a state-mandated union is, well, mandated by the state; it doesn’t mean it’s a marriage in God’s eyes (and the same would certainly go for many – perhaps most – “traditional” marriages as well).

If the Bible is the inspired word of God, and is God is who he says he is and you’ve submitted to him as the ultimate king and authority in your life, let the Bible guide you. Dig into it. Treasure it. And study it – don’t let surface level readings determine your theology, but respect the word of God as something dynamic, deep, and multi-faceted that should humble you as you realize that it, and God, are far more complex than you had imagined.

Read Matthew’s thoughts on Hare Kon:

>> Manga and Theology: Unholy Matrimony

Here are other articles from around the blogosphere:

You’ve heard the theory that My Neighbor Totoro is about death, right? The writers at Lady Geek Girl investigate the claim in detail, looking at how this interpretation relates to the Shinto aspects of the story. [Lady Geek Girl]

We live like we play video games, seeking treasure to store here during our short time on earth. Maybe we should live like Sword Art Online’s Kirito, with a different treasure and different destination in mind. [UEM!]

If you’ll remember, when Pokemon was all the rage, many Christians pastors starting preaching against it as the work of the devil. However, Kelly Bornstedt, who very personally experienced such a sermon, instead finds a lot of Christ-affirming ideas in the franchise. [Geeks Under Grace]

Kiryu’s story in Classroom Crisis brings to mind that of Joseph, the boy with the many-colored coat who would become a commander over Egypt. [2]

Aniblogger Lazarinth replies to a blogger award with a rant on the silliness of faith (warning: contains foul language). [Fantasy and Anime]

Chagum puts his faith in Balsa to protect him in Moriboto, while we, too, have a guardian – but this once infallible and invincible. [Lady Teresa Christina]

Very initial planning for a “Christian Anime Con” is in the works. [Anime Revolution]

As part of the Something More series of posts, Beneath the Tangles links to writings about anime and manga that involve religion and spirituality.  If you’ve written such a piece or know of one, please email TWWK to be included. 

Something More: Noragami Religion, Hopeless Black Butler, and Persecuting Naruto

The past two weeks have been overwhelming in terms of just how many articles have been posted relating to anime and religion/spirituality.  There’s so much to dig into – I hope you have as much fun reading through these articles as I did!

Are you headed to SuperCon at the end of this month?  If so, check out our own Samuru’s panel, “Finding God in Anime and Video Games.” [Gaming and God]

Part of what makes Noragami a fascinating series is how it tells us quite a bit about modern religion in Japan. [Fantastic Memes]

In times of weakness and pain, there we can find strength in something (or hopefully, someone) greater. Just see Iwasawa from Angel Beats as an example. [Old Line Elephant]

Speaking of Angel Beats, the most direct reference to God in the show is from Takeyama, who wants people to call him “Christ.”  Mmm…not so fast. [2]

Ciel from Black Butler believes that some people are beyond redemption…but the Bible and many examples from within (like Job) and without (St. Augustine) prove otherwise. [3]

The complete story of Oscar, as presented in Rose of Versailles, reminds us of the value of life itself. [Mage in a Barrel]

In response to Anime Reporter’s essay on homosexuality and the referendum for marriage quality in Ireland, aniblogger JekoJeko takes the question from a Christian point of view [Unnecessary Exclamation Mark!]

D.M. Dutcher offers some advice for Christian speculative fiction writers using Bubblegum Crisis as a basis. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

For Christians who feel persecution, they might find an odd bedfellow in Naruto. [Lady Teresa Christina]

The world of Haibane Renmei without a doubt shares some ideologies with Christianity. [Kidd’s Anime Blog]

I’m a month late on this article, but it’s more than worth linking to

Oregairu’s Hayato as Satan? In a sense… [Christian Anime Review]

Wiseman from Sailor Moon perhaps has some similarities to 2 Thessalonians’ man of lawlessness. [2]

Episode 3 of Re-Kan! gives us that common anime scene of a character who refuses to cry, then breaks down.  But why the resistance?  After all, “Jesus wept.” [3]

As part of the Something More series of posts, Beneath the Tangles links to writings about anime and manga that involve religion and spirituality.  If you’ve written such a piece or know of one, please email TWWK to be included.

Something More: Redeeming Kenshin, Protestors at Fanime, and Plastic Memory Moments

The title character’s quest for redemption in the Rurouni Kenshin OVA’s contrasts sharply with the Christian idea of our own lack of power in redeeming ourselves. [Lady Hannah Beth]

I’m a few weeks late in this linking , but since you’ll see Anime Reporter on this blog later today, it’s relevant to post a recent editorial he wrote about Ireland’s marriage equality referendum. [Anime Reporter]

The importance of living for the moment, as emphasized in episode 8 of Plastic Memories, reminds of the immediacy of salvation. [Christian Anime Review]

Is OreGairu’s Hayama a Pharisee? Perhaps… [2]

Speaking of OreGairu, the Bible warns of people like the collaborating student council’s crazy hands man. [3]

The Droid’s FanimeCon 2015 experienced started as many conventions do – with religious protestors at the event’s entrance. [AniRecs]

Casey Covel enjoyed volume 2 of Attack on Titan: No Regrets, and also finds that Christian readers may be able to relate specifically well to it’s diminutive lead. [Geeks Under Grace]

As part of the Something More series of posts, Beneath the Tangles links to writings about anime and manga that involve religion and spirituality.  If you’ve written such a piece or know of one, please email TWWK to be included.

Untangled: Wandering Son and Perspectives on LGBT Issues

From the very beginning, I intended this blog to be a place, a destination, a home, rather than simply a source about anime and our unique perspectives on it.  As such, we welcome your thoughts and questions not only through the comments page, but through the Ask the Staff button on the top of the menu.  And we’ve been blessed by some engaging questions submitted through that tab.

Last week, we received the following email (video and image added) from Zoe in regards to a post I wrote a couple of years back entitled, “Hourou Musuko and Loving the Sinner, But Hating the Sin”:

I recently watched ‘Wandering Son’ an anime that truly hit me in a number of ways. I’m a transgender woman so it was very relevant to me.

Wandering Son

Art by めの (Pixiv ID 9047230)

Lauren Orsini recommended that I read Beneath the Tangles posts on it as she found them very interesting. As she mention it less than hour ago I decided to hunt down the posts to read over the next few years. I like reading about different perspectives as it find it both interesting and insightful. I like to know how other people see a topic or issue, so I’m glad you’ve written on the series.

I’m on the “Love the sinner, hate the sin” post. I wanted to suggest watching a very good and interesting youtube video that my dear friend who is a Methodist minister suggested it to her friends on facebook. Just another perspective that while you very well my not agree with it, I think you’ll find the Minister Tony Campolo’s take on it. The video is just over 5 minutes long.

Take care and thank you for these very interesting post that let me see the subject from another perspective. As I mentioned, I so appreciate seeing things from the perspective of others. Read the rest of this entry

Reader Response: Who We Mean to Be

When I started Beneath the Tangles several years ago, I came in with a very direct, but ambitious and broad mission.  As the years have passed and as I’ve learned more and more about the community I’m engaging, and as it has changed, my approach and goals have changed.  My purpose has especially been in the forefront of my mind lately as Beneath the Tangles expands into the Tumblrverse and other outlets.

But some things haven’t changed.  I was reminded of that through a wonderful email sent by a reader whom I’ll refer to as Jessica:

I discovered this site recently and just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate the work you’ve done.  I’m a Christian, an anime/manga fan, and, in addition, a fan of a lot of entertainment that’s not specifically Christian, and your articles really echo a lot of my own feelings.  I think, on your Christian lenses for anime (which I also use for other things) I tend to take the redemptive approach, and I’m uncomfortable for reasons both religious and philosophical with works that are so nihilistic as to offer no hints of redemptive themes at all!

Jessica refers to the broad spectrum in which Christians view entertainment.  I’ve adhered to one specific approach from the beginning (though I’m currently exploring another one, well-known among many Christians).  Our blog falls into one of several categories, depending on the post, and maybe several at once.   But we never fall into the extreme, separatist category – we engage the culture, and particularly anime, as something we can learn from, enjoy, and embrace (or sometimes decidedly not).  We’ll always talk anime, as long as the blog lives on, as we explore the Christian ideas that are important to us and to many of you readers.

In addition to those kind words, Jessica added some more thoughts – and these particularly touched me:

Also, specifically to TWWK: I just wanted to mention that as a bisexual Christian, I found your past handling of same-sex issues in manga/anime very thoughtful and sensitive.  Even if our interpretations differ, I believe your approach–and hopefully mine as well!–allow us to better understand each other and find common ground in Christ.

And anime. :-)

And this, too, is something imperative for our goals here.  Even if we disagree (this may be the post that Jessica refers to), even if we’re on separate sides of the coin, I hope that this place provides an environment where we can all feel safe to explore, discuss, and relate.  Too many times, Christians engage culture by either running from it or attacking it.  We don’t want to do either here.  Instead, we want to explore it by loving you, which we do by listening to what you have to way.  And I hope that we’ll learn from each other as we go – I certainly know I’ve learned a lot from you all.

So thank you, Jessica, for your kindness.  And thank you, readers, both for bearing with us and for being part of a unique community in the anime blogosphere.  I hope that we, the bloggers, will keep our part (and improve) in making this a place that you’ll always find warm and engaging.


Something More: No. 6 Relationships, Inoffensive Saint Young Men, and More Religion Data Girl

Medieval Otaku discusses homosexuality in terms of nature v. nurture as he investigates No. 6. [Medieval Otaku]

Guardian Enzo analyzes Shinto and Shugendou elements of RDG: Red Data Girl in his review of episode 2 of the series. [Lost in America]

D.M. Dutcher uses an example from Little Busters in his plea for mention of the sacred in media as something good and normal. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

Mr. A finds the Saint Young Men OVA to be humorous and inoffensive. [Deremoe]

A Year Ago on Beneath the Tangles

Kamba, Shoma, and Himari

Art by mg

A year ago…I was watching (and loving) Mawaru Penguindrum…

…as well as Usagi Drop, about which I wrote one post

…no, two about the fourth episode.

Wandering Son

Pixiv Member #3267074

A year ago…I was stirring debate when talking Hourou Musuko and homosexuality

…and finding a Christ figure in Eden of the East.

A year ago…R86 was sharing some of what he enjoys about his favorite show at that time, Ookiku Furikabutte.

A year ago…Chelsea Machiella guest posted about Christianity in anime.

Hourou Musuko and Loving the Sinner, But Hating the Sin

One of my absolutely favorite series of recent years is Hourou Musuko.  I love the characters, the art, the dialogue, and especially how it made me think (see here, here, and here).  But going further than drawing connections to spirituality, the series challenged me and how I view my faith.

The series (and even more so the manga, from what I understand) touches on ideas that are certainly touchy when Christianity is brought into the picture – namely cross dressing, transgender, and gay issues.

I’ll be perfectly frank – I believe that the Bible states that homosexuality is a sin and I believe scripture to be infallible.

Condemnation, acceptance, or somewhere in between? (Art by 田仲瀧)

Read the rest of this entry


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