Austen Crowder

Transgender "Comics": "Ouran High School Host Club"

Filed By Austen Crowder | August 24, 2009 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: androgyny, anime, crossdressing, gay cartoons and comics, ouran high school host club, transgender

Ed Note: Transgender Comics is a regular Monday feature on Bilerico-Indiana. We bumped this one up to the main site to give folks a flavor of the series.

I debated on this one for a little while; it's not a comic, and it's not particularly transgender. However, it is available on YouTube and it shows a different culture of cross-gender thoughts, so it's actually a perfect fit for the column.

Ouran High School Host Club follows Haruhi's adventures as an unwilling, stealthy member of the Host Club, a group dedicated to throwing elaborate parties to entertain rich women. Unwilling, because she is paying back a debt; and stealthy, because she's a girl dressed as a boy.

What unfolds, for better or worse, is mostly typical of anime aimed at Japanese girls. There is a love interest between the leader of the Host Club and Haruhi. Sparkles and highlights litter the edge of the screen while women swoon and cheer. Chauvinistic romance is planned and played out for these parties, as the hosts attempt to woo women like princesses. Because it's an episodic anime, episodes often follow a predictable path: Host Club plans a party, Host Club encounters problem, Host Club fixes problem, Host Club has a great party.

The anime is unique insofar as it makes fun of traditional romantic stereotypes. Haruhi, unlike her foil Tamaki, is a calm, well-reasoned woman who doesn't subscribe to the pretty-princess school of the feminine arts. She is comfortable presenting as a male - partially due to her familiarity with crossdressers vis-à-vis her father - and carries herself with intelligence and grace that the Host Club members find admirable. There is a romantic interest, but the role of stoic, masculine indifference goes to Haruhi, not Tamaki.

Overall, I'm very impressed with this anime. It's cute, fun, flirty, and yet it carries a certain vein of counterculture that saves it from the fate of other forgettable romance cartoons. It's not for everyone, but definitely worth seeing an episode or two at the very least.

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I love Ouran! I'm about halfway through the series now, and I've turned friends onto it as well.

I'd strongly suggest you read Houro Musuko, by Takako Shimura. It's a story about two transgender kids, a girl and a boy, and their experience in grammar school. It's surprisingly resonant, and is a heart-breakingly good read. You'll need CDisplay, but it is well worth the time.

I love Ouran too. I love the manga version even more.