How Sailor Moon Taught Me It's OK to be Queer
When I was around 6 years old, I realized that I didn't quite mesh with the kids around me. I was fascinated by fantasy and sci-fi, animation and decidedly dark imagery. My classmates and friends seemed more focused on splitting conversations by the binary. I had no one to talk to about movies like Legend, The Neverending Story, and The Indian In The Cupboard. So when a particular anime popped up on Cartoon Network’s Toonami one summer afternoon, I had no one to speak to about it, despite it ultimately changing my entire outlook on life.
You remember Toonami, right? No, the one before Tom became the host. We’re talking Moltar generation Toonami.
For two hours on weekday afternoons, Toonami would air Japanese animation or western, teen-centric programming. Eventually it moved to a night timeslot, but I hold this early version very close to my heart. Reboot was aired there, as was Dragonball Z and Gundam Wing. And then there was Sailor Moon, that plucky magical girl shoujo story about the moon princess and her guardians as they fought to save present and future Tokyo. This anime to me is, has been, and will forever be a core part of my being. It gave me a fantastic foundation to almost all values I hold to this day, from realizing you'll always find your chosen family, to an openness about questioning sexuality, to being a kickass woman. For a shy, bullied kid, this kind of escapism is priceless.
I feel that most know about Haruka and Michiru, aka Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune (far left in the picture above). In the original English dub, the localization team changed them to cousins. However, in the manga and all other versions, Haruka is gender-nonconforming when out of uniform and unabashedly Michiru’s lover. They even adopted a baby (actually baby Sailor Saturn after a self-sacrifice and rebirth, because plot has to happen!), and raised the child as their own in a little house. There was an incredible sense of normalcy to this that made me realize I’d be ok with living with a woman the rest of my life, should the opportunity present itself. In fact, it seemed so much more preferable to the hetero relationship at the forefront of the story, which seemed so bland by comparison.
The other characters I felt a particular connection with were the Sailor Starlightss. Their arc never aired stateside due to controversy. This coincidentally became my introduction to censorship in media. The Sailor Starlights enter in the 5th season, and are three fighters from a distant planet that need the help of the Sailor Scounts. They were censored because, in their human form, their cover is a popular boy band. When they transform, though, they’re female-presenting with a more lesbian lean on their sexuality. America just wasn’t ready for them back then, but the manga was translated, which is how I found out about them. Their story arc may not have been my favorite, but what stood out was how little the other characters questioned the transitions. They just accepted it and moved on. I, personally, would have questioned why Sailor Star Maker’s special attack is Star Gentle Uterus, but considering Sailor Venus looks like she has anal beads wrapped around her waist, I let it go pretty quickly.
I realize I’m gushing, but this incredible portrayal of fluid gender and sexuality with all the characters, not just the ones I talked about, made me more comfortable with my own as I got older. They were role models when I didn’t realize I needed them. I began to seek out more queer and alternative cinema, such as To Wong Foo and Rocky Horror. The lack of the need for a man in the Scouts’ lives (minus Usagi) reflected in mine, as I never particularly felt a drive to settle down and live a conventional, heteronormative life. I somehow found a family of friends that have readily accepted each other’s sexuality, quirks, whathaveyou, without question. I can’t say that I wouldn’t have found them without the self-confidence that Sailor Moon instilled in me, but I also can’t say that I’d be as comfortable without discovering it on that incredibly sweltering summer afternoon. Discovering this show eventually inspired me to move to Japan and make
my own adventures. Though these are tales for another time, they were invaluable in helping me become even more comfortable in my own skin.
Japan has already celebrated theirs, but Happy Pride, you guys! There are tough times ahead for us all, but we need to dig deep and find our inner Sailor Scout to save our present and future.
Regi studied the evolution of LGBT+ in Japanese media in undergrad, and then hopped over to Japan for a few years. After meeting her partner and spending way too much time in Sapporo lesbian bars and Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ni-chome, she came back to the states and now works in healthcare. She hasn’t written in quite a while, but hopes that you’ll join her as she stretches her writing wings and overcomes her anxiety about showing her work. She is also a bunnymom, spends her time volunteering and watching all the movies, and will argue with anyone that Tuxedo Mask is the worst part of Sailor Moon by a mile.