It's very true that men have different ways of expressing themselves than women. Sometimes, how you act in crossplay can completely make or break your performance. This is not only useful information for women who intend to cosplay as male characters, but for drag kings, crossdressers, female-to-male transpeople, and even male-to-females and men who wish to be able to portray a more masculine character.
Please keep in mind - this guide will not cover many of the physical aspects of crossplay, as all of that would be too broad for one tutorial. If you wish to know more about using make-up, binding, packing, or dressing techniques, there are plenty of tutorials online, or you can feel free to ask me questions or stay tuned for more tutorials. I have been doing this since I was ten, so it's safe to say I know my stuff. I'm a female-to-male trangender who's been out for over a year and living as full-time male for six months as of 5/2010. I'm also friends with many other trans individuals who've had to learn masculine/feminine behaviors in to get the "act" right for the rest of their LIVES, so I've done my fair bit of research. While I'm not sure I have the proper "credentials" or am really even qualified to be giving out advice on gender expression when I feel like I have so much to learn (I actually have a non-verbal learning disorder, meaning I am CRAP at interpreting body language and facial expressions), I hope I can give a few bits of advice you'll find new and informative.
This guide will only offer advice on how to present yourself as male and "act the part". Despite it being somewhat of a rather important aspect of crossplay, there's not very much information that's aimed at cosplayers. If you are a male crossplaying as a female, this guide might also prove useful, though I can't say I know too much about acting female.
2. Sitting and Standing
Okay, now that that's out of the way, let's talk a little bit about body posture and mannerisms.
Men, if you notice, almost never have their hands on their hips. When standing still for long periods of time, you'll often notice them shoving their hands into their pockets, leaning back against a wall, or slouching over. They appear less "careful" than women in their posture, even if they're more refined. Men tend to slouch more and keep their legs further apart, something that women are generally discouraged to do early on.
When walking, men tend to walk with less of a "swing". ...Not like a robot, mind you. In fact, men tend to "loosen up" more when they walk, but have very little hip or side-to-side movement. When walking, men tend to take up more space and make wider movements than women. Depending on personality, men can all walk very differently, as someone's gender is NO indicator of how they act. L and Roy Mustang are both male, but they walk VERY differently, yet both their ways of moving are masculine. It's something you have to observe to really understand. And, if you live on planet Earth, chances are you have lots of opportunities to observe. ^^ If you don't observe as closely as I do, it's best to sum things up by saying men tend to walk in a way that's loose and relaxed, but making every step like they mean it (hence the "ganster-swagger" you see in movies. Puh-leeze).
When sitting, men tend to spread their legs wider. My friends and I like to joke about another friend of mine - Wes - who seems to always sit down with his legs spread as far apart as possible. Why? ...It's really comfortable. When sitting or laying around in general, men also tend to take up more space and get comfortable. Crossing your legs when "acting" male should only be done if you need to conserve space, if it's in character, or if you need to appear uncomfortable. Men tend to cross their ankles when they need to, rather than over the knee.
Now, I'm not saying you all have to "Wes" every time you sit, because I can assure you that not every male takes as much comfort in having their feet in different time zones , but it is a bit more convincing.
Some characters who are more refined, such as Roy Mustang (FMA), do cross their legs semi-frequently. The trick to pulling this off is to keep your shoulders back. Right now, I'm looking at a picture on my wall of Roy with his legs crossed at the knee, hands in his pockets, leaning back in his chair. He doesn't look at all feminine. ...However, he is looking up very suggestively at his best friend, who is sitting on his desk and appears to be scooting closer to him. ...*ahem*.
I've read in some places that men tend to "fidget" less, but, if you ask me, everyone fidgets equally. It's almost reflexive for someone who's bored to slide their phone open and closed. If you have a character who's fidgety in canon (such as Near or L, to use popular examples), then you really have nothing to worry about. Men tend to fidget more by twiddling their thumbs or playing with something in their hands, whereas women often fidget by shifting themselves, crossing/uncrossing their legs, etc. ...Also, I'm not trying to be sexist against myself, but, yeah, male fidgeting usually involves showing off.
As a general rule, neither gender has better posture, but men tend to slouch more.
A very masculine thing to do while sitting is to sit back with your legs spread and your hands folded together, fingers laced, between your legs, arms relaxed. Men often tend to relax their bodies more than women, but show it less (if that makes sense). A more feminine thing to do is to fold your hands, one over the other, without lacing your fingers and rest them on your lap. While men tend to appear more apathetic, when they do move, they usually do everything as though they mean it. Men also tend to touch their faces less, unless they're scratching their chin/jaw to feel how much their stubble has grown. ...Yes, men really do that, and, yeah, we pretty much do wonder about the growth of our facial hair on a daily basis. Among other men, this is probably something that's really good to do, even if you can't grow facial hair. Haha. Also, when adjusting their hair, a lot of men will act as though they're "tousling" it or just roughly pushing it back, where women tend to be more delicate about it.
One other thing: Eyebrows. You think I'm kidding, but when I wake up in the morning and look in the mirror, I tend to scowl my brow a little. Not like I'm angry, but like I'm focusing, sometimes with a little smile. When talking to someone, give a curt nod or two -- nodding is a good masculine way of expressing friendliness. Nodding is also a good replacement for a wave. Try it out.
Bear in mind - if a man DOES like crossing his legs or keeping his hands on his hips, this doesn't make him any less of a man, nor does it make him "gay". This is just a general guide on how the majority of men are seen. Some commonly crossplayed men, such as Tamaki from Ouran High School Host Club, are very flamboyant and feminine-acting. It all depends on the character (or you, if you're just simply crossdressing) and the discretion of the crossplayer.
Men have deeper voices, yes, but... Please don't try to deepen your voice as much as possible when you speak. You will sound ridiculous. xD It is possible to train your voice to drop to lower octaves, just as it is to train your voice to go higher, but this takes a lot of time and practice. There's really not a lot on how to "sound" male, since it's not often covered in crossdressing guides, and a good majority of FTMs (who are medically transgendered) opt to deepen their voices by using hormone replacement therapy.
You don't have to deepen your voice in order for it to "pass" as male, though. Quite simply, men use less expression when they speak. Women tend to use more of an upward inflection, whereas men speak in more of a monotone. ...Again, this does not mean you need to sound like a robot. xD;
Men do make gestures when they speak quite a bit, and these tend to be more throw-away and firm (does that make sense?) than delicate and precise. Men tend to use hand gestures more to make a statement, whereas women use them to articulate. This isn't always the case, mind you, but it's a good thing to keep in mind.
When introducing yourself, shake hands, and make your grip FIRM. If it's someone you respect, someone you're honored to meet (such as a guest of honor at a con), or someone you've met on friendly terms a couple times before, shake their hand with both of yours. Maintain eye contact, and remember the nod-scowl-smile thing from earlier. And even if you're portraying a woman, keep your grip firm. Really. No one wants to shake a dead snake. If someone walks over to introduce themselves, stand up, as sitting while someone is coming over to meet you, friend or not, is really rude and gives the impression that they're not worth your getting up. Con exhaustion is the one exception. If you have con exhaustion, you aren't expected to even know what manners are. One of my friends who was struck with C.E. literally forgot to unzip his trousers before peeing at the urinal. ...That was completely irrelevant, but I felt like sharing. (If you read this, friend, I'm sorry)
Also, when speaking, men tend to be more blunt. They don't hint or beat around the bush as much. To be blunt - men are blunt. This does not mean that men are emotionless zombies, as many sexist jokes love to say , but that men tend to get to the point. Men are just as capable of sugar-coating as women are, but in general, they tend to be more to-the-point.
4. "Uhh... That person..."
Not everyone's goal as a crossplayer is for people to think they're male, or to "pass". Females who are cosplaying males could oftentimes care less. It takes a lot less effort to act as you usually do, and creates a lot less confusion for the general public.
If you're crossdressing, the intent is usually to lead people to believe you are a gender that you do not identify with (drag kings and queens), or to "play" a gender.
When you are transgendered with a body that should belong on a woman, but identify as male, you ARE male, and by acting and dressing male, you're not FOOLING anyone. You are acting your gender. Of someone calls you "she" (or "he", if you are MTF), you have every right to say "I am male". There is no "leading", "passing", or "playing" involved. Unlike being a drag king/queen, transgender is not a lifestyle choice, but a medical condition where someone was born with the inappropriate body to match their gender.
Oftentimes, while crossplaying, you may be addressed as "sir" or "he" ("ma'am" and "she" for the MTFs reading along). For those who are female, this can be a bit of a fun novelty, especially if they're saying it to refer to you out of character. Even better is when you get "that person"ed, when someone starts a sentence meaning to refer to you with a gender-specific pronoun ("he" or "she") before realizing they don't know your gender.
Let's face it - for a lot of crossdressers who mean to "pass" as the opposite sex, this is just awesome.
As far as gender identity goes when you're crossplaying, it's very easy to get into a sticky situation. If you make a good effort to "pass", chances are you will. For a lot of female to male crossdressers, all it takes to look male is to put on a wig and clothes. However, which gender you identify with when you dress up is completely up to you. If you would prefer to be called "she", then there's obviously no need to correct someone who calls you "she".
If someone calls you "he", it's up to you whether you want to correct them or not. If you're ordering at a restaurant, in a store, or just seeing someone in passing, you don't need to correct them. If you meet someone at a convention who you're likely to be spending a lot of time with, it's a good idea to introduce yourself as the gender you wish to identify with, otherwise you could end up in an awkward situation.
If you identify as male out of costume (are FTM, genderqueer, etc), then you may correct someone who calls you "she" or go with it when you're referred to as male. MTFs reading along - this goes for you, too! It's your identity, and you have every right to make it known. It doesn't have to be awkward. Just say "I am male" or "I am female". If a shy friend can't seem to speak up, depending on your relationship, you can correct someone by pointing out your friend and saying "(pronoun here) is a (gender here)".
If your body and gender identity match (to be blunt - you have a vagina and identify as female), or to use the trans-community word, are cisgendered, I don't recommend correcting people when they refer to you as the sex you identify with. This is kind of like lying, in a way. If someone with an anatomically female who identifies as male corrects someone, they are male, and are not trying to "fool" anyone. But if you live your life as the gender opposite the one you're representing in costume, it's usually best to be honest in the long term. You know know when you might make a good friend at a con, and "lying" is not going to leave a good impression.
Speaking of which, another popular subject as of late is BATHROOM USAGE! ...Really, this is kind of ridiculous. Here's how I see it:
- If you are transgendered, you have the right to use whichever bathroom you are comfortable using.
- If you are cisgendered representing a member of the opposite sex, you use that bathroom at your own risk.
- If you are a very CONVINCING cisgendered crossplayer, you should probably just use the opposite gender's bathroom. It... Just, trust me. I'll explain in a bit.</i>
- If you find yourself standing in front of both bathrooms ripping your hair out and not knowing what the hell to do, you should probably try to find the "family" bathroom or wait until you get home/in a hotel room/etc.
Have you ever heard of someone going to prison for using the wrong bathroom? I mean, yes, people have been perverts and gone peeping in the opposite gender's restroom, but have you ever heard of someone who just went into a bathroom, did their business, and walked out being led out of the loo in handcuffs? Generally speaking, if someone sees you in the mens' room, it's going to be assumed that you are male. Unlike the womens' room, no one asks questions, talks, or even looks at you in the mens' room. ...It's enough to make any woman want to crossdress and hop on in the mens' room, if you want my opinion. I really do not get why going into the bathroom is such a social even and why peeing, washing your hands, or putting on makeup requires several pairs of eyes on you. The most communication that happens in the mens' room is usually a nod or a wave. You're going in there to take care of business, so why make it more than it is?
If you are anatomically female-bodied and wish to use the mens' room, here are a few rules of thumb:
- Do not use the mens' room to change any female hygiene products or reapply binding. Only DUH, but hey.
- If you are at a con, doing your makeup in the mens' room won't even get you a second glance. Trust me on that.
- Do not be social in the mens' room. You're there to take care of business, as I said, and it does not need to be more complicated than that.
- If you are REALLY nervous, but really want to use the mens' room, use the buddy system. They say men don't go to the bathroom in groups like women do. ...That's not true. They do, but they don't make a social outing out of it. xP (I'm not being sexist, but women do tend to socialize in the restroom more). Going in with a male friend will not get you looked at.
Likewise, if you're dressed as a female and have a penis, but identify as male and go in the mens' room at a convention, no one will look at you twice. Do you have any IDEA how many dresses, thigh-highs, and adjusting of fake boobs you see in the mens' room at cons? If you don't use the mens' room, ask about it sometime.
I promised a story about why convincing crossplayers should go in the bathroom appropriate to how they look, and here it is.
I was at a con (of course) with my girlfriend. She was crossplaying, and I went in with her to the womens' room to help her fix her makeup. Anyone who's been to a con will know that the hotel or adjacent hotels often have a lot of people staying who are not part of the con or just have no idea what's going on. I remember my first Anime Boston, my mom was staying with us on location and had to explain what was going on to many a few foreigners who'd never been to America before (yay for con moms!).
This, of course, means that some of these people will be using the bathrooms where cosplayers are taping up their boobs, men are wearing skirts, and a cardboard robot is using the adjacent urinal. However, some non-con folk don't get used to it quite as quickly. Since my girlfriend is rather hardcore, she went as far as to stuff a sock in her underwear as packing. She had a very convincing fake beard, too. So, this woman walking in did a double-take just seeing her face, as she was VERY convincing. Must have been a little frightening...
It was both hilarious and slightly terrifying when this same older woman was walking out to see my girlfriend adjusting her SOCK and patting her crotch to get it into place. I don't think we stopped laughing for about twenty minutes, but I have to wonder if this poor woman is done with her trauma therapy. Sometimes, for the sake of those around you, it's better to use the restroom you LOOK like you should be in. You'd be amazed how much crotch-patting goes on in the mens' room. ...Though, all things considered, you probably wouldn't be. But HEY! It's the mens' room! Why are you doing so much as making eye contact, hmmm?
...To sum it up - in and out of cons and other places where unusual gender expression is the "norm", please do bear in mind that there are still social standards and rules of etiquette you should follow in order to make things comfortable and safe for yourself and others. Don't make an ass of yourself, respect other people and THEIR gender expression, and keep it appropriate.
5. NOW THEN, on gender expression and fanservice...
The following section is only directed at people who cosplay at conventions. It is HUGE, but rather irrelevant, so feel free to skip it unless you want to see me rant about how not to be a creep.
Believe it or not, doing fanservice IS a little different depending on your gender and whether or not you're crossplaying.
I should probably do an entire, seperate guide to fanservice at cons, because so much of what I want to say is NOT gender-specific, but I suppose I'll start off as if I were writing this as a guide for EVERYONE. To sum it up before I start...
DON'T BE A FREAKIN' IDIOT!
Fanservice at cons is DANGEROUS, and I think I have more horror stories than absolutely anyone else I know. I've lost respect, friends, gotten into sketchy situations, sketched OTHER people out, gotten people in trouble with their bf/gf, etc.
And I've been con-going for less than two years. You might think it takes talent, but, believe me, you need to use as much discretion as possible at a con.
Men tend to be more subdued, yet more "dominant" in relationships. While, in my opinion, most relationships work best if the participants take turns with the dominant role, there is usually someone who assumes the dominant role and someone who assumes the submissive role.
This does not mean that the submissive in a same-sex pairing is going to be a woman. Puh-leeze. Take the infamous Edward ElricxRoy Mustang pairing. Edward is often seen as the submissive in the relationship, but I cannot, for the life of me, see him being a whimpering little "uke", wearing a dress (are you KIDDING?!), or acting like a little girl. Why doing this is such a huge phenomenon, I will never understand, but Edward is a MASCULINE character. He does MASCULINE things. In public, while involved with Roy Mustang (I'm not a fan of this pairing, personally, but it makes for a nice example), he and Mustang would both very likely be extremely uncomfortable being affectionate or showing their relationship. Men, even gay ones, tend to be less expressive than women.
I'm not saying "don't kiss and cuddle" as two men at a con, because in the end, how you express yourself is up to you. However, if your goal IS to "act" male, then it's something to keep in mind. Never forget your character, and try to put yourself in their shoes.
If you want to score some points with the fangirls, however, there are plenty of other ways to do it. For example, get the door for a random woman, complement them, or, my personal favorite, hand out fake roses. xD; It's cute, harmless, and fun for everyone. You get BIG "gentleman" points, and it's not creepy at all. If it's in character for the person you're cosplaying, so much the better. ...With someone socially awkward, like L, I think it's more fun to go right up to people and offer them candy. Since it's in-character and harmless, chances are good no one's going to be creeped out.
As for solo fanservice (such as dressing in a fetish way or having your shirt open), just keep in mind that, again, men have different ways of being "sexy" than women. A good way of having sex appeal as a man is to rely more on your expressions and movement rather than how you look or what you're wearing (...or not wearing). Honestly, just having a rose in your mouth is enough.
If you're good, chances are you might be hit on. If this happens, just stay natural and in character, unless something happens that makes you uncomfortable. If something happens that makes you uncomfortable, please, PLEASE make it clear.
While it may not be your goal to "pass" as male when cosplaying one, it does often pay to keep in mind that unless your character behaves that way, then it's best not to act as you normally do when putting on any kind of show. In a way, acting in character, period, is a form of (much more harmless) fanservice, and combining character expression with gender expression is much more of an art than an exact science.
About time I shut up, huh? Anyways, this guide is really just my two (or two hundred) cents, and is no replacement for your own judgment. I took the time to type this because many of my friends and watchers were curious and came to me, of all people, for advice on "playing the role" of a man. While this guide was intended for female-to-male crossplayers, I'm hoping it's helpful to drag kings, gender benders, and even those who are crossing male-to-female. Really, there's no set way to "act" a gender, and this guide is just giving advice based on how society views and (quite sadly, considering how many of us need to act our genders to be accepted) separates the sexes. The majority of what you've read here regarding gender expression are all learned behaviors, and, personally, I find it rather sad that someone has to "act" a certain way in order to identify with their gender. However, if you only want to "act", then feel free to use this as you will. I know I'm not the best at explaining things, but I really hope this did you some good. That's all I want to do.