Land of the Lustrous has captured the hearts and minds of many viewers and readers over the years, for its stunning visuals, emotional character arcs, and being a rare example of a series with an entirely non-binary cast. The titular Lustrous are humanoid gem-people who present a potentially interesting space to philosophize about constructions of gender in a post-human future. However, they also potentially perpetuate harmful stereotypes about non-binary gender only being possible in alien creatures and otherworldly settings. This is an old and pervasive cliché that many non-binary viewers find tired and uncomfortable. Yet, at the same time, the story of Phos and the gems resonated deeply with many trans (binary and non) people, and many fans (myself included) find Phos to be a meaningful and exciting example of a non-binary hero.
These may seem like contradicting statements, but they can co-exist. In the discussion surrounding queer representation in fiction, things are not always so simple as stamping a work with “good rep” or “bad rep”. There are many tricky nuances, particularly when it comes to attempting to “represent” an identity that contains as many ways of being as non-binary gender. While the series is not perfect—or perhaps because the series is not perfect—Land of the Lustrous makes a useful case study for reading and critiquing through a queer lens. It’s a multi-faceted dilemma, and in this article I hope to hold the issues at the heart of it up to the light.
Read the full article on AniFem!
There is a scene in Alison Evans’ Euphoria Kids where one of the protagonists faces a conundrum I’m sure is familiar to a lot of trans people, especially those caught in between “still figuring it out” and “coming out”. The boy—as he is called throughout the novel, as he has not found his true name yet—has to fill out a medical form. This requires, of course, his legal name. But his friend, Iris, suggests that maybe he can make a note for the doctor to only call him by his surname—he’s keeping that, after all, no matter what he discovers his first name to be. It’s a small thing, but it’s a revelation for the boy and in the moment it eases his mind.
On the train home, they have this little exchange, from Iris’ perspective:
I ask the boy, “Do you know about gender euphoria?”
He shakes his head.
“I think, when you smiled after realising you could just use your last name, that might’ve been it.”
“It’s just like, good feelings? About gender?”
“It’s like… the opposite of dysphoria.”
He stares out the window, watching the shops go past. “I’ve only heard of gender dysphoria before.”
“I found out about it a while ago, but yeah. I thought I should let you know.”
He smiles, lost in thought.
(Evans 2020, p. 200 – 201)
I’ve been thinking about Phos again, gang. And not just because I’ve been busy.
[Spoilers ahead for volumes 6 and 7 of Land of the Lustrous]
Non-binary Lives: An Anthology of Intersecting Identities is a collection of essays—some poetic, some a bit more academic, all ruminating on the various, individual Ways of Being outside the ol’ male/female binary in the modern day and throughout history. One of my personal favourites was Karen Pollock’s chapter ‘Triremes and Battered Pineapple Rings’. As the title implies, there are two main metaphorical devices Pollock returns to throughout. The first is deep-fried pineapple, which was a favourite snack of theirs as a kid, but which they developed a horrible allergy to as they got older. This was heartbreaking news—Pollock had loved those darn things so much, they’d even made a pact of marriage with their best friend at age seven, with the eventual dreamy goal of running a fish and chip shop together and having unlimited access to battered pineapple.
The second is the trireme, an ancient Greek ship that features in a famous philosophical problem. Let’s say that over time, this ship breaks down, piece by piece, and needs to be replaced: a beam here, a sail there, et cetera. If every part of the ship has been replaced, is it still the same ship that left the port? With this in mind, Pollock asks:
I can feel a connection to the seven-year-old who dreamed of marrying her best friend, but when even my pronouns are not the same, when my much desired pineapple now poisons me, am I the same person? (p.148)
As we power ahead into the new year, it’s time for one last reflection back on 2019: anime edition. While my spare time skewed more towards reading this year, and generally there weren’t quite as many series that jumped out and grabbed me, I still watched some fantastic series that I want to share. So even if the “big pile” is a little smaller than it has been in previous years, I’ve still got a selections of little gems here that I want to boost! This is, as always, limited to series that I watched and completed in 2019, which disqualifies things I’m still currently catching up on, and of course things that are still airing and not yet complete. Let’s dive in: Continue reading
You ever feel like you can finish the things you need to do if you just pump yourself full of coffee or energy drink? You ever feel like you’d get more done if you just… didn’t sleep? Like you’d type much faster if you had fingers made of gold alloy? Like you’d be able to fit exercise into your schedule if you had super-fast legs? Like you’d become someone truly impressive and valuable if you just… transcended your mortal form and became a super-powerful being that no one could ever think of as useless?
No? Not even a little bit? C’mon, maybe just a little bit. Continue reading