It was time to find a community. My friends, great though they were, were not enough after discovering the treasure map marked “My Gender”. I was far from ready to come out to them but entering my senior year of high school, I was not happy simply maintaining a distance from any and all trans communities. It’s fortunate, then, that this period coincided with anime’s Fall 2016 lineup. The cast of great shows that season was generally impressive, but it was 3-gatsu, Yuri on Ice, and of course, Flip Flappers that pushed me to find new anime communities in search of a group that could serve as a second Orange chat to me.
I can’t say anything like that immediately happened. I managed to find a selection of people to follow on anitwitter, ones who were talking about these shows week-after-week, and that certainly helped, but I didn’t really get close to them. While I began ramping up the rate of output on my blog around this time, I still wasn’t really managing to gain much of an audience. I did have my therapist to talk to and she certainly helped but even then, the reason I attended those weekly sessions was less due to a mental need for them and more because I couldn’t get insurance-paid HRT if I didn’t.
But it didn’t matter. Because at this point, Flip Flappers had already taken over my mind, occupying it entirely, with its every element acting as another soldier, preventing me from forgetting it at any moment. I’ve watched a number of my favorite anime while they were airing, and each time it was a different experience. This was the only instance that left me on the edge of my seat every single week, forcing my mind to mull over each little deal, pushing me to rewatch the series during its run. Today, it stands as one of only two shows I’ve seen 4 times, and in the next few months, it shall be the first to hit 5. I’ve spent copious amounts of time thinking about this show; I love every aspect of it, even the problematic ones on both a social and narrative level, but I’ll have to save that for another time.
What matters right now is that Cocona means the world to me. You know how I said that Yuno is literally me? Well, if you were to form a pyramid of characters who I’d call that, Cocona would be at the top, fitting since it’s her narrative that really pushed me to self-actualization. And that’s funny, because my story is quite different from hers. She learns of her queerness through Papika, someone who loves her and who she can love in turn. Her journey to self-actualization is actively opposed by her parents, while mine were incredibly accepting once I came out. And yet her anxieties, her fears, they perfectly echoed my own. Compared to other shows, I didn’t cry that much when first watching Flip Flappers, but every experience Cocona went through, every time she had to struggle to get back up after being knocked down by that bitch known as life, I felt shaken to my core.
So blogging about this every week, I grew more comfortable with myself. Now aware of that oh-so-hidden womanhood that existed within me, I no longer had any doubts about my interest in yuri; defining myself as a yuri otaku had suddenly become a perfectly acceptable thing. I wasn’t just queer in some abstract sense; I actively identified as such, throwing off the shackles of heteronormativity. I pushed further with my anitwitter escapades, looking deeper into what other queer fans were talking about. I came to understand how people beside myself could be affected by the show, and these thoughts influenced my blog posts, forcing me to flesh out my own opinions further than I had before and teaching me how to take others’ ideas into my own without simply repeating their works, an essential step in making the interest in theory that GITS imbued a matter of praxis.
Slow and steady wins the race, they say, and this was plenty true. As I simply continued to put my thoughts out there as a queer trans girl, people started listening, and eventually, I managed to find myself a community. In this state, open to the idea of finding a girlfriend for the first time in my life, I managed to find a substitute for the Orange chat at long last. This was only a year-and-a-half ago. I’ve gained and lost plenty of friends in that time, but I’ve preserved just as many. Communities, at all times, are imagined. But for as much as that may be true, and for as many issues as I may have with it, I’m happy with the one I stumbled into, the one that eventually helped me to find my first — and, ideally, last — girlfriend. It wasn’t easy to get here, but it wasn’t easy for Cocona either and without her, I couldn’t have found my Papika. As with Yunocchi, I knew that if she could do it, I could too.