Gender Bent Cross-Plays

I had always wanted to cosplay ever since I found out that dressing up as a character could be more than just a Halloween costume or an obsessive hobby.

And while I have still never been to a con or cosplayed “for real”, a  few years ago I put together a costume of Terra from Teen Titans, may favorite female character. Because I was not going to cut up my under-armour shirt I didn’t do the midriff shirt, but I had the blonde wig and the yellow shorts and some rocking boots.

I wore the costume to a Purim service at my synagogue (Purim is a Jewish holiday where everyone dresses up in costume). When I walking around passing out programs one of the older men of my synagogue was giving me a look like I was suddenly sexy and that because I was wearing boots and shorts that he could comment on my body and my appearance. I knew nothing of feminism then and was just embarrassed and hurt, wondering what I had done wrong to deserve this attention. I didn’t do anything: I had the right to dress as I pleased and looking back on it, that was sexual harassment.

But despite my debut in cosplaying being less than satisfactory, my Terra costume was (and still is) a staple in my life. It’s the friendly clothes I go back to when I need a boost, comfortable in the way only a second skin can be.

And for a while this was my only attempt to cosplay because there weren’t any other characters I so wholeheartedly identified with or struggled to become not just in appearance but personality as well. I dressed up as Captain Hook once,. Another time I went with a group as the Three Musketeers, but it didn’t have the same emotional impact that Terra did.

Then the movie The Avengers came out and I was quickly introduced to the beauty that can only be known to the world as Science Bros. This wonderful friendship between Tony Stark and Bruce Banner was the highlight of the film for me and even a year later I am still so deeply invested in that friendship that it is more than just actors on a screen.

It feels as real to me as Terra does because there is so much to unpack from their interactions.

I am lucky enough to have a friend who is legitimately Tony Stark as a woman. And because I’m the quieter one, the one who responds to her snark and keeps her in check, I am Bruce Banner in this relationship. Together we are: Gender Swapped Science Bros.

It didn’t take long for us to come up with a cosplay for this and it was the first time I had felt truly comfortable in a costume since Terra. What I loved the most is that we weren’t playing male attributes. We didn’t go into this idea thinking that Tony and Bruce are inherently  male characters and that even if we change their gender they’d still act like men. We were able to embrace the aspects of their personalities we already had and work to push ourselves for what we did not, but we were never forgoing our femininity in favor of popular maleness.

Our female versions of these characters were not marked or othered because of the gender we played them as. It was such an excellent experience to wear a skirt and carry a purse, but feel that my version of a female Bruce would still use the name Bruce  maybe as a nickname. So I was still Bruce Banner. My partner in crime wore a Pink Floyd Shirt, jeans and sneakers, jazzed up with a headband and sunglasses. Though she was technically Antonia Stark, Toni was every bit the Tony Stark we know and love from the films and comics just gender bent.

It was a brilliant experience to feel at once wonderfully androgynous and at the same time so aware that I was playing a woman and doing her justice.

I love gender bent cross-plays because they challenge gender and sexuality in ways few other things can. They’re messy and complicated, but that’s the best part. It would feel so easy to bind my breasts and put on a man’s clothes and cosplay as a male character, but then I’m ignoring my own sense of being a woman. I’m disregarding female characters that way. And this is why I love gender bending fandoms: you’re not doing disservice to women, but expanding what a woman can be.

Because I had such a great time being Bruce, I’ve been drawing up doodle comic strips of my adventures with Tony. Take a look below: we’re women in all but name and proud to express our gender in this expanding medium of cross-plays.

doodle comics I drew of my friend and myself.


7 thoughts on “Gender Bent Cross-Plays

  1. I’m sorry that your first cosplay experiance wasn’t what you hoped. I know you’re supposed to be drunk enough that you can’t tell Haman from Mordecai, but seriously random Purim-goer, gross is gross.

    I’m glad that subsequent efforts went better. I’ve barely done any cosplay, but what I have and what I’ve seen has more than convinced me that it can take guts.

    I’m sure that your work was unparalleled and that any and all rage-monstering was excellent.

    • Much appreciated. I’m sure that you know so much about superheroes and super hero lore that you’d have a treasure trove of material should you ever choose to cosplay. Wishing you all the best.

  2. I once went as a gender-bent Tim Drake Robin (which was pretty incestuous actually because my boyfriend went as Dick Grayson/Nightwing). Oddly enough it was the women who gave me a hard time about it, calling me out as a fake geek girl, and disparaging my costume for being store bought. I had spent hours making the Nightwing costume. I just wasn’t the one wearing it.

    • I’m sorry you had such a negative experience, but I’m sure the outfits looked great. Do you have any tips on how you made the Nightwing costume? I’m probably going to do a group Young Justice cosplay later this year and am thinking of doing gender bent Nightwing. Let me know if you have any advice, I’d love to hear more about your experience.

      • Quick and potentially obvious point of advice: if you do choose to go the spray paint route, don’t do it while you’re inside the leotard. I know that the leotard shrinks when you’re not in it, but use chalk and a stencil, otherwise you’ll be spending a LOOONG time in the shower…or so I’ve heard…

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      • Thanks. I don’t think I would use the spray paint just because I’d be using the same under-armour shirt for my nightwing costume that I use for my Terra costume and I’d rather not do any irreversible damage. I was thinking of either double sided tape or some type of loose stitching. Either way, I appreciate your advice (even the potentially obvious advice) as I’d rather not spend hours in the shower.

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