Rae O’Neil in costume at the recent Spring Geequinox.
Rae O’Neil is dressed in an outfit based off
a mash-up of two Final Fantasy characters. The cosplay is a bit out of the ordinary in everyday life, but at local conventions like the recent Spring Geequinox or Hal-Con
it’s a perfectly normal—and fun—mode of creative expression.
“I get to build stuff, which I like to do, and show it off in an homage
to something I enjoy,” says O’Neil. “It’s also a great way to learn a multitude of new skills.”
The first time O’Neil cosplayed was two years ago at Hal-Con, shortly after she came out as transgender. At first, it was an anxious experience.
“As the con went on I got less scared as I would kind of forget myself,” she says.
Some assumed she was “crossplaying
,” which is when someone of one gender cosplays as a character of another.
“But others would gender me correctly, which rarely happened in public at all at that point, which felt pretty neat,” adds O’Neil.
“Here I was presenting female and no one was recoiling like my internalized transphobia and anxiety kept making me think they would. In a way, at the time, this was the most out I’d felt in public. It was super liberating.”
O’Neil says the cosplay community as of late is very body positive, welcoming all newcomers.
“Everyone’s crammed at the same restroom mirror fidgeting with their makeup or making last-minute adjustments, helping each other,” she says. “I rarely feel unwelcome and usually end up participating in those well-worn discussions on how to keep your makeup on, cover something up, squeeze into something, breath inside a constrained costume.”
Cosplay, she says, is a movement that’s often pushed back against misogynistic ideas of body image. So far, O’Neil says she’s had nothing but support from the community.
“I’ve been lucky locally,” she says. “Some bad eggs pop up on the con Facebook page from time to time, but I haven’t run into any overt transphobia at the local cons. Knock on wood.”