“Traps” Don’t Exist And Here’s Why – Transcript

So ya’ll had to go and do it again didn’t ya?  In the 8th episode of the most popular original anime of the season, a genuinely great show, one of the idols gets her backstory, and we learn that she’s trans.  She originally had a guy’s name that she strongly rejects, and will insist upon being called by her chosen name if people use it. This is identical to trans people choosing new, gender-appropriate names for themselves.  She is said to have different “junk” i.e., genitals, than the other girls. The cause of her death was a heart attack that she had upon seeing a facial hair growing, right after she insisted that she won’t grow up and let her body change.  Some people have been unashamedly lying and saying that in the original Japanese it isn’t this explicit, when in fact it’s more so.

When Lily says “that was my old name” according to the subtitles, she calls that old name her “suteta namae,” or, “name that she threw away.”  When that conversation of junk comes up, the specific line is, “ii janee ka, tsuiteyouga tsuitenakarouga,” which translates to, it’s fine isn’t it? Whether it’s attached or not attached?” To be clear, I don’t think the choices of translation were a particular issue. They retain the meaning of the Japanese, Lily being trans, and were just translated that way to flow a bit more naturally.  However, the fact remains that if you try to say things were different in the original Japanese, the only difference you’ll find is Lily being even more clearly trans. If ALL of that wasn’t enough, an interview just came out in Animate after the latest episode where the staff refers to the idols as “kanojotachi,” meaning, the girls. They didn’t say “the girls and Lily,” they included Lily within, and consider her to be, one of the girls.  If you attempt to deny the fact that she is clearly established as transgender you’re either acting in bad faith or somewhat adorably naive. But, of course, because there’s now a prominent trans character in a high-profile show, that means I need to finally get around to giving a lesson on the term “trap.”

Class is in session

Lesson 1: The History Of Traps

In order to uncover the true meaning of the term, we’ll have to dig deep into the boipussy of history and find out where “trap” came from in the first place.  While it’s real dark and messy here in the anals of eras past, we can still get a general timeline for things. “Trap” started rising in prominence on various imageboards around the start of 2004, and most notably this origin for the term coincides with the launch of 4chan in late 2003, and came soon after the birth of the Admiral Ackbar “it’s a trap!” meme on the somthingawful forums in late 2002.  That image macro became popular as something to post to warn others of an upcoming bait-and-switch. So, in response to posts of cute anime girls that were actually cute anime boys in disguise, people would post “it’s a trap” to warn of that bait-and-switch, and relatively quickly, people began to refer to this type of character as “traps,” because “‘it’ is a trap.”

However, the term would not remain limited to the glorious realm of 2d.  On youtube there’s a video from Otakon 2007 where the trans girl who would come to be known as porn actress Bailey Jay is posing and flaunting, explaining to the convention staff that no, she’s technically a boy actually, so flashing her breasts isn’t a breach of public decency regulations.  Somehow I don’t think I’d be able to pull that same trick in a youtube video and avoid having it taken down unfortunately. While she does this, the whole crowd loudly chants “trap.” And in fact one of the usernames that was used to refer to her, one that she referred to herself as on 4chan, was line trap.  So at the very latest, starting in 2007, “trap” extended to describe not just actual people, but specifically trans people, not simply crossdressing men.

In 2010 the subreddit r/traps was made, a reddit that has over 100,000 subscribers and a reddit whose description was,”/r/traps is for the posting of photos and video of young and beautiful trans girls and individuals who would love to trap!…(/r/traps is only for MtF content),” as recently as March of this year according to the Wayback Machine.  Very recently they changed it to say that the subreddit is for posting images and videos of “traps,” presumably to avoid explicitly calling trans women “traps,” but the fact is that the actual content hasn’t changed since that description change, because “traps” was always referring to trans women on this subreddit.  

In 2017 David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, tweeted out an image of Playboy announcing its first trans playmate, along with the caption “traps are gay.”  This event is distinct from, and more noteworthy than, things like Malik Obama tweeting about traps, because in that case he clearly didn’t really know about what it meant, and was just repeating what he’d been told after he asked about it.  Davey boy on the other hand demonstrated a legitimate understanding of the term by using it to refer to a trans woman.

Those are all the most relevant milestones, and they leave us with a few interesting conclusions to draw.  For starters, “trap” as a term is not derived from Japan or its fan communities; etymologically it is a western construction through and through.  While there are Japanese terms that are used similarly to how we use “trap,” otokonoko and josou, “trap” was not based on those terms, and as a result it doesn’t fully match up with them, nor can it be used as an accurate substitute for them.  

Also, from relatively early on in the term’s existence, its definition had expanded to encompass more than just 2d anime femmeboys.  For over a decade now at a bare minimum, trans women have fallen within the bounds of “trap”’s usage. This definition of it extends beyond just 4chan, and extends beyond just a small group of people.  Even people like David Duke, who will be familiar with the memetic right-wing lingo sure, but who are almost certainly not anime fans or involved in online otaku culture, are aware of the term “trap” and what it can mean.  And this makes sense, because even if you argue that it should only be defined as guys who look like girls, significant portions of the population maintain that trans women are in fact guys, and thus are in fact guys who look like girls.  And I think that this brings us to…

Lesson 2: The Slur Question(s)

Now, the reason this gift from me, your goddess, is necessary, is because “trap” is an incredibly fraught term right now.  To cut to the chase here, many trans people consider “trap” to be a transphobic slur, and as a result they and those who support them will ask that people please not use the term.  It is incredibly difficult to conduct a discussion on this subject that does not immediately fly off the rails, because there’s like six different tracks it could go down and usually people just try to take all of the routes at once.  You can argue over whether or not trap is in fact a slur in the first place; you can argue if instead of settling and calling it a slur trans people should just reclaim it, you can argue over whether or not people should be using it even if it is a slur.  It is, frankly, a mess. So I ask humbly that you let me try to take each of these different discourse dicks one at a time, and hopefully I’ll avoid getting drowned by internet beef bukkake.

There’s two main schools of thought on “trap.”  One is a more open-ended approach that basically says, “if they have a dick and they look like a girl, that’s what a trap is,” with the general idea being that a “trap” is defined by being tricked into being attracted to someone with a dick because they look like a girl.  The other is more essentialist and maintains that traps are specifically actual guys that look like girls, so this would be cute anime femmeboys, and cis male crossdressers mostly.

Now, one of the main reasons that second school of thought arose is to reconcile the desires of those who subscribe to it to both continue using “trap,” and to support trans women who take issue with the term.  They say that we should call out those who use trap “incorrectly,” meaning, call out people who use the term for characters and people who don’t fit their definition of term. I think that this is pretty blatantly unworkable as a plan of action though, because it just isn’t how language functions.  I’m sure you’re tired of hearing about descriptive linguistics versus prescriptive linguistics, where the former defines words by what they’re used to mean, and the latter tries to assert a “true” or “correct” meaning for words regardless of how they come to be used. By its very nature words are something whose meanings shift over time, and that humans create for ourselves to describe things.  

If you aren’t defining a word by what people understand and use it to mean, you’re just divorcing yourself from reality, and “trap” is simply way to widely used as something that encompasses trans women and non-binary people to try to somehow combat that and herd everyone into some more restrictive definition of it.  David Duke is calling trans people traps; the transgender Starcraft pro Scarlett is being referred to as a trap constantly in various comments sections under uploads of her matches; people on twitter involved in the Lilly debate that I began this video with are straightup saying that because she’s a male anime character who looks like a girl she is definitionally a trap.  The largest trans sub on Reddit is r/traps, which we mentioned earlier, and it has well over twice as many followers as r/transporn.  Informational trans subreddits like r/asktransgender, as well as the trans meme subreddit r/traaaaans, are all smaller, and the only one that comes particularly close to r/traps is r/tgirls, another trans porn sub.  I’m sorry to say it, but you’re being naively optimistic if you think trap isn’t widely-normalized as encompassing trans people as well.

Alrighty, we’ve established that trap is used to encompass trans people, not just cisgender guys, so the next thing to do is to look and see if it’s used as a slur.  And, upon doing so very extensively, I think it’s undeniable to say that “trap” is in fact used as a one. The aforementioned r/tgirls actually tells people not to use the term, along with other words most everyone accepts as actual transphobic slurs, and glaad also lists it as defamatory language right next to tranny and shemale.  More importantly though, its use as a slur is incredibly pervasive. In the exact same way that a black person being dogpiled will have “monkey” and the n-word thrown at them, or a gay person will have “faggot” thrown at them, trans people will have people calling them “trap,” along with tranny and all the others.  It is a term used to express dislike/resentment/hatred/etc. towards a specific group of people based upon the group they belong to. It’s used by people whose feelings were hurt by my anime opinions, it’s used in those negative comments directed towards Scarlett, it’s used by people in the comments sections of Ben Shapiro videos as they discuss how freakish trans people are.  It’s used to direct that hatred towards an incitement of violence, like the replies to David Duke’s trap tweet of people fantasizing about killing trans people.  How much clearer do things have to be than the ex-leader of the Klu Klux Klan expressing disgust at a group of people and his followers clamoring for those people’s death in response for you to call a term a slur?  This is the way slurs are used, this is what a slur looks like. You can even be someone who thinks it’s okay to use “trap” still, but if nothing else you’ve got to acknowledge that the term is, among other things, an anti-trans slur.

Now, with that established the most relevant question becomes, “so whaddu we do?”  The answer to that question will depend on who you are, so let me set those of you who are just looking to trigger the libcucks to one side for a moment.  First let’s address the people who do care that people might be made uncomfortable by seeing a slur that’s commonly used against them thrown about as a common community term.  You might say, “I mean, look I understand that you might not like the word, but it describes a specific thing, what do you want me to do?” Or if you’re a bit less accommodating, you might be wondering, “so what, am I really supposed to stop using this because it makes some people feel bad?  That just isn’t practical, and frankly I’m gonna need a better reason than just that to give it up.” It’s here that I want to note that “trap” does legitimate harm as a term. In 2013 a trans woman was murdered, and the man who murdered her claimed that he had no control over his actions because finding out she was trans sent him into a panic.  He used what is called the “trans panic defense,” and avoided being charged with a hate crime or with murder, and got manslaughter instead, and that is not the only instance of this. The idea that trans people are out to “trap” you or to trick you directly gets trans people killed, and it gets their killer lighter sentences for doing so. Having a term that refers to them literally be “trap,” and have its origin in a meme warning you that you’re about to be tricked spreads that idea, and thus, spreads that idea’s capacity to lead to direct violence against trans people.

Additionally, since you’re courteous enough to not want to call trans people traps, using the term to refer to anime characters at all can be an issue.  Trans women aren’t men, non-binary people aren’t men (those who don’t agree with that, again, wait your turn for just a moment please). But the thing is that there’s a significant body of textual evidence that multiple of the most popular “trap” characters are in fact trans.  Astolfo is referred to by gender neutral they/them pronouns in the official translation of Fate Grand Order, and their gender is listed as “secret” in their bio. Could this simply be coy playfulness from Astolfo? Perhaps, but it seems more likely to be that Astolfo is non-binary, or, as people in Japanese queer communities more often call it, x-gender.  There’s also the ever-popular Felix from Re:Zero, who is an even more clear-cut case.  In a spin-off novel, written by the same author of the main series, that focuses on Felix and Crusch, Felix says that she wants to be called Ferris, says to herself that she is, quote,”A girlish young woman, a wonderful and cute girl,” and the novel also says that while her girlishness is borrowed, “it should have belonged to her to begin with.”  Ferris is undeniably a trans girl.  She takes on a new, more feminine name, calls herself a girl, and then the third person narrator of the novel says that she should have been born a girl, that she should’ve had that femininity to begin with.  

If you think it’s inaccurate and mean-spirited to call trans people traps, to call people who do not identify as men by a term that refers to men, calling anime characters traps is always going to be a risk.  This is because that within a group of characters who were born as boys and want to look androgynous or like girls outright, you’ll end up getting a decent number of trans characters, because being born as a boy and wanting to look like a girl is what trans girls experience.  In Lost Pause’s trap video he calls Poison, who has breasts and according to the developers is even post-op in the western versions, a trap, along with Mariandale, another trans anime character who also already has breasts even. Beyond just being the generally anti-funny and unwatchable tripe one expects from Noble, this video demonstrates very clearly the issues that the term has when it comes to the boundaries of transness and trapness.

Thankfully, as I mentioned way back at the start, the Japanese fandom already has terms for these characters, so if you need a trap alternatives we can look to those.  “Josou” is a more general term that comes from combining the kanji for woman with the kanji for wearing, to create a term that basically means “wearing woman.” So, josou is the act of dressing up like a woman and acting the part, basically the act of presenting as female.  Josou is a subculture engaged in by cis guys crossdressing and trans people alike, so more accurately covers the full-spectrum of characters that we in the west would call “traps.” For anyone scoffing at the notion of using a japanese term to describe this stuff, feeling it would be less intuitive and more unwieldy, I’d like to remind you of the existence of “tsundere.”  Basically everyone in the anime community understands what it means, and it describes a character archetype that’s grounded enough in a japanese cultural and media history that no American term would work nearly as well to accurately describe it.

For replacing “trap” in a porn and porn tag context “otokonoko” serves better.  The term began as an amateur porn genre, and Oshima Kaoru, one of the main figures who helped popularize it, has said that trans women were important to the communities formation.  It’s the fetish subset of josou, and as such, you shouldn’t call a person or character an otokonoko simply because they’re doing josou. This does leave out feminine looking boys like Oregairu’s Totsuka that don’t dress like girls at all, and thus don’t fall under josou, but uhhh….my guy Totsuka is just a cute twink.  He looks feminine, but he doesn’t look “like a girl”, his femininity is that of a guy.  If you’re into him you’re gay or bi and that’s all there is to it.  

But okay, you’ve waited your turns patiently so now it’s finally time that I start jerkin you off, oh hardline “trap” users.  Sorry, but there isn’t much to say other than yeah, if you hate trans people of course there’s no real reason for you to not use the anti-trans people slur, that’s sorta how slurs work.  As I laid out, the term has no grounding in Japanese fandom and they’ve got their own terminology for this kind of stuff, so maybe a few of you hardcore essentialists might not wanna use trap for that reason, but otherwise, duh, if you’re an online far-right memetic anime fan using “trap” is naturally something you’ll do, and not something I can change.  If you’re a transphobe you’ve already written me off, and i’ve already written you off, just how this sorta stuff works unfortunately.

Everyone who’s made it to this point in the video now knows the history of the term “trap,” why enforcing a trans-friendly definition of the term flies in the face of basic linguistics, how its use as a derogatory term for trans people is far too widespread and mainstreamed at this point to try to assert that it isn’t a slur, why the prominence of trans characters among those considered “traps” makes the term one that is tough to use accurately, and which terms can serve as solid alternatives in their respective appropriate contexts, while as a bonus being more accurate to how Japan views these characters.  As a result of its origin the term “trap” doesn’t really define anything concrete. Its definition is so fluid and contradictory, encompassing multiple distinct Japanese subcultures into one frankensteinish creation, and as such, I don’t think any character can be described by it particularly accurately. As with just about any slur, people of the group targeted by it are free to use it. If any trans people find empowerment through personally reclaiming the term, or identify with it, it’s no one’s place to take that away from them. Hopefully they’ll be understanding of how other trans people might be made uncomfortable by it, and thus not throw it out there willy-nilly, but in turn others should be understanding of them.  Just know that if you identify with characters like Ferris or Astolfo, you don’t have to identify as a trap to do so, you can also simply identify with what they are, trans.  With that out of the way though, that’s just about everything i’ve got to say on this topic, so now I can link this video in response to questions about it forevermore.

Firstly a big thank you to a number of my sources, Solaris who provided that thread on translations for Zombieland Saga, and Andrea whose thread on Josou and Otokonoko was similarly a great help.  Hopefully the response to this video isn’t TOOO much of a hellscape, but given the content I’m covering here, I may very well get demonetized regardless of the reception I get. It’s for that reason that your support on patreon is extremely appreciated if you like what I’m doing here and would like to see more of it.  I’ve been battling against a whole lot of very angry people in recent videos, so anything that makes things easier on my end is a big help. A massive thank you to Sykur, Mathwiz97, Jonathan Conley, Tyler Mohnke, Tincho37, LordLiquidBacon III, Elaine Aldfelt, DavidMcCown, SmokeWeedSephiroth420, jman4747, Chase Sutter, Dove, Lucas Holcomb, Randall Hudson, and everyone else supporting me on there already.

 

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