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Butterfly Effect: Riding the ‘L’ with Sailor Moon

On falling in love with the sailor senshi

By Arts & Culture, Entertainment, Featured, Literature

Illustration by Aditi Singh

the grammar in this column is intentionally stylized to break american english rules. it is not a typo.

i have always been a magical girl megafan.

those bishoujo senshi helped mold me into the boy princess i am today. i especially grew up with “Sailor Moon”; Usagi was my first foray into the realm of this specific genre of strong women who fought on their own — using their own powers and their own brains — who got knocked down, felt lost, sobbed their eyes out, but always got up and gave everything they had to protect themselves and others. they adopted femininity in a way that made me love femininity, and they looked cute doing it! the Pretty Guardians and their adventures have always held a special place in my heart.

the other day i was riding the pink line west-bound when a girl and her father sat down next to me on the train. at first I didn’t think much of it, but when i looked down briefly, i happened to be met by a volume of the original “Sailor Moon” manga. i think about Sailor Moon and her Pretty Guardians regularly, and i know plenty of people in my personal life who do as well.

children, however, are not a regular part of my day-to-day, so i was absolutely floored to see this little girl, maybe eight or nine, in her little pink beanie, reading an english translation of volume four of the original “Sailor Moon” manga.

it hadn’t even crossed my mind that something i loved when i was younger could be enjoyed by young people even today. (no, the irony of that is not lost on me. shut up.) the idea of someone much younger than i am loving a series that had such a huge part of my heart had me kicking my feet, twirling my hair, kiki-ing, and shit. i loved it. i loved it, i loved it, i loved it.

the girl kept looking over at me and hiding behind her book, so i decided to be the bigger person and start a conversation with her.

you’re reading “Sailor Moon”?

she nodded real shy.

i love “Sailor Moon.” who’s your favorite?

she told me her favorite was Sailor Mercury. i told her my favorite was Sailor Uranus. she giggled, and i smiled, and she even said nice to meet you when she got off the train, so i think i made a little friend.

it wasn’t until i got off the train that i realized she had mimicked Sailor Mercury a little in the way she looked. she wasn’t wearing Mercury’s signature blue, but her long blond hair was cut into blunt bangs dyed purple (i assumed they used to be blue, but had faded into a warm purple) just like the Sailor Guardian’s. if i had to guess, i would say she probably loves math and science, but still loves clothes and shoes and bright colors. she saw a reflection of herself in the studious Sailor Mercury, a young girl praised for her beauty but praised more for her brains– a type of character i scarcely saw in my own childhood.

i know this because it is the reason i loved (and continue to love) Sailor Uranus. before i understood my queer identity the way i do now, Sailor Uranus was a representation of a character who was unabashedly queer, a non-binary individual who was never forced into a gender role, never the butt of the joke, and never ashamed of who they were. they were famous and rich, and their girlfriend was traditionally feminine, furthering the visibility of their queerness.

they were a positive representation of queer success, and molded my vision of what being non-binary could look like, even before the term “non-binary” was widely accepted. having them to look up to gave me the courage and the vision to accept the masculine and feminine sides of myself without feeling like i had to give up one or the other, and without feeling as though my identity was compromised by fitting into a traditional mold.

Sailor Uranus makes me think about the importance of fostering positive self-identities through media. i was raised in a community that was violently homophobic and transphobic, but i never loathed myself for my queer identities. i wonder if that was because, even through bleak times, harsh statements, and negative ideologies, i saw people who loved like me and were proud of it.

tv saved me. and i like to think that its saving that little girl on the pink line the same way. maybe she’s not gay, but she will never doubt if she can be a smart and capable woman in STEM fields, because she saw characters in her book who are just that.

as i get older, i think more about my childhood and the impact it had on me. i watched so many cartoons, tv shows, and movies, and they taught me so many things about the myriad of ways people choose to live. it taught me tolerance, acceptance, and empathy. but most importantly, it taught me self-love and self-importance.

i still have a long way to go to fully accept myself as i am. but, at the end of the day, learning to love from characters who have loved themselves has gotten me a step closer toward the acceptance i crave. and that, i think, is a beautiful thing.

with all my love, your honey bear.

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