Sunday, June 20, 2010

Is Ranma gay?

As I've mentioned before, I frequently crawl the pages of tvtropes as an entertaining manner of learning about frequently used devices in fiction as well as series I might find interesting--this is what led me to Ranma, Evangelion, and considering I was within an inch of buying some Negima manga at Barnes and Noble today (and they had each of about the first 22 volumes of Negima, too, compared to only volume 2 of Ranma--this makes me a little sad, but I guess internet ordering is the big thing these days, and Ranma has some years on it, though Ranma's last volume just came out a short time ago in English, but that's much digression), I'd say tvtropes may lead me to more entertaining properties yet.

But anyway, tvtropes keeps a section for fanfic recommendations, in which tropers (the users there) recommend fics or qualify others' recommendations as they see fit. Somewhat ironically, "Before and After" got on the NGE recs with its second chapter. Considering Identity's response has been somewhat ... muted, I found this rather darkly hilarious, but again, I digress. At any rate, the meat of this post originates in response to a comment about Richard Lawson's Thy Outward Part (in which Ranma is locked as a girl, goes to university, and enters in a relationship with a boy):

I'm amazed at how many Ranma fans are in denial about a much more fundamental underlying question: Once Ranma has physically (and for all he knows, permanently) changed gender, how do such concepts as "straight" or "gay" even apply? For if Ranma were ever truly locked in his female form the very concepts of "Gay" and "Straight" become reversed along with his gender, a point which, ironically enough, was best addressed by Robert Haynie in the comedy fic "Girl Days"

To tell the truth, I was somewhat taken aback by this comment. I definitely think, with the proper time to allow for the character to develop, Ranma can certainly come to fall in love with a guy. I don't think this is something you can do right away, but given time and growth, sure. I don't see why not.

What surprises me, though, is that the commenter automatically took biological gender as something that determines whether one is "straight" or "gay." I mean, maybe I've been watching too much SVU in recent months, but the question that immediately came to mind was, "But, regardless of his body's gender, what does he consider himself in his mind?" To me, when you deal with Ranma, you're dealing unquestionably with someone who considers himself a boy, and even if trapped in a female body, he thinks of himself as a boy and likes girls in a very heterosexual manner. You don't have to have a Drowned Girl curse to experience this. There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people who experience that dissonance from birth. Their body is female, but they consider themselves male (or vice versa). And maybe they change their appearance to match their internal conception. Maybe they undergo surgery or take hormones. Even when I think of a mode-locked Ranma, I think, "This is a straight man in a girl's body, not a gay girl." And the difference, in my opinion, is critical.

Honestly, it's the reason that, in Identity and "Glimpse" before it, I consistently refer to Ranma as a boy (using male pronouns he, him, his, etc.), even when he's in his girl-form body, except when I need to make clear which body he's in at the time. I'm not saying you can't change his perception, make him think of himself as a girl or make him be confused and trying to figure it out. There's a lot of room for an author to deal with gender issues in Ranma, no question, but I think it's critical to remember that just because he's in a girl's body doesn't mean he thinks of himself as a girl. Or, conversely, just because he's in a boy's body doesn't mean he thinks of himself as a boy. I think we all have this conception of ourselves. It's part of our fundamental identity.

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