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Queer Characters: Birdo

Birdo knows how to accessorize. Even her bat.

I shall start this entry with a bit of an anecdote. Recently I was helping to babysit a nine-year-old girl who loves Nintendo's party games. This meant I played a fair bit of Mario Kart: Double Dash and various incarnations of the Mario Party games. She giggled whenever I chose Birdo, saying I was playing the girl. What I found curious is that there is a whole generation growing up who doesn't realize Birdo is anything but a woman. As it kind of should be, truth be told.

Yesterday there was a bit of buzz about an IGN article determining if Yoshi was 'Fake or Gay' for dating Birdo; the only other Birdo entry we have is from when this site first started as primarily a joke to share among a small group of friends (it's been an interesting five years, and this site has grown a bit). If you'd like a more thorough look at the history of Birdo, I would also recommend this rather in-depth article written by my friend Austen over at Bilerico; the third part further delves into the history of Birdo.

Now, as to Birdo herself?

Originally she was not part of the Mario franchise, instead belonging to Doki Doki Panic, which was localized outside of Japan as the sequel to the first Mario. Manuals insisted that she was actually a man who wanted to be a woman. As a direct quotation:

Birdo thinks he is a girl and likes to be called Birdetta. He likes to wear a bow on his head and shoot eggs from his mouth.

What first catches my eye these days is that the pronouns used are masculine. Of course, this being the 80s, and trans rights being what they were (and still are in many mainstream media outlets), the gendering is sadly not much of a surprise. However, it becomes more curious when we realize that these days, it's just assumed Birdo is a woman, as my above anecdote relates. Also, while she is called Birdo here, apparently she is known as Catherine in Japan.

She's adorably coquettish here.

Therefore, looking at the history of Birdo is realizing that she went through her own transition in the public eye, though the games to which we've had access never really mention it in-game. Somehow, she also never felt the need to take on the name Birdetta, instead keeping her original name. Of course, considering she's a species of creature of which I am not aware in real life, how one determines their sex would really be beyond me, and if all others of Birdo's species are pink, that could be confusing for some. The emphasis here is not really on biology, however. While the recent games heavily indicate that Yoshi and Birdo are a pair, considering the child-friendly market Nintendo pursues, I don't believe they really want us to consider their bedroom activities.

Which is as it should be, really. What happens in the bedroom of a trans woman and her partners is no more my business than any other couples'. What we have instead is an insistence that their relationship just is.

Though Birdo's bedroom activities have not always been mum. While not developed by Nintendo, Captain Rainbow does have a quest where you have to prove Birdo's innocence by providing an alibi. It is highly suggested that the alibi you retrieve from her bedroom is a vibrator.

The reason for her arrest? Walking into the women's restroom, because people are unsure of her sex (it should be noted that the game gives her a masculine-coded voice). Restroom politics are sadly still a reality for many in the trans community, and given the recent viral spread of an attack in a McDonald's, the game touches on a controversy that people still insist on keeping alive. Unfortunately, as the game is intent on providing humor, rather than being in on the joke, the joke is Birdo's gender identity.

Therefore, while Nintendo-produced products seem to have accepted Birdo as a woman and moved on to just making her fabulous and extremely feminine, there still exists a lack of knowledge of how to actually take her outside that space. Furthermore, as she is mostly present in party games, she doesn't really have much of a story to tell, and never has outside the manuals and her actions and presentation. Eventually, what we're supposed to take away from her is that she is pink, feminine, and somehow connected to Yoshi.

They are rather cute together.

What I don't see making a deal about is Yoshi's own sexuality as it relates to this. Yoshi is typically coded as a man (though there are questions as to the whole egg-laying thing, this assumes a very strict look at our sexual dimorphism, which has its exceptions in the animal kingdom), but if he is dating Birdo, this doesn't make him anything more than attracted to Birdo. If we had to put a label on him, this certainly wouldn't, in my book, make him queer or gay, but heterosexual (possibly bisexual, but there is no indication of such). An ally? Perhaps. Not close-minded? Definitely.

Ultimately, Birdo is one of those strange occurrences in games history, where she started off as a seemingly throw-away character and has somehow become a mainstay whose gender is only questioned outside of Nintendo-proper. Therefore, while in game her trans identity is not really discussed, the evolution of her character in meta terms is much more telling. Particularly as it shows that no matter what, there are some rather ignorant people who will always insist she is a man dressed as a woman. The story of Birdo becomes a telling story of how trans people live in the public light.

9 Comments

Good job, man. Best way to critique a terrible article is to write a response that makes the first one look unsustainably ridiculous. Hopefully this'll have longer legs than the IGN article.

Aximill said:

Also wasn't fond of how the IGN article just explained away the gay kiss from the Turok story panels.

Adrian said:

1up also wrote a response to this, calling him a meathead. I couldn't agree more. The fact that he is gay and feels the need to write articles like this, which are in bad taste...is just really obnoxious. I lost all respect for IGN back when they started commenting on Tingle and ultimately spearheaded the movement to get him banned from the Zelda series. As a result we don't get any of the Tingle games. And Rupee land was Friggin Awesome, too.

Aclaire said:

Very nice article, nice to see somebody gets it. Being a trans lady myself I found the IGN article left a bad taste in my mouth. The whole yoshi bit keeps refering to birdo as a dude, or he, this coming from a gay guy no less, makes me think he might be abit of a transaphobe. Also, my boyfriend is as far away from gay as possible, he loves everything about woman and never treats me less than such. So saying that Yoshi is gay because hes with a transexual is just plain ignorant.

Trxd said:

Brilliant article. I agree completely, all the time people were arguing over his sexuality and being all like "Wait he's dating a transvestite so that means technically he is gay" or "But he is attracted to a female figure so that means he's straight" and it's like, this is a gray area, sexuality is not straightforward, labels are for cans so stop desperately searching for one.

Zeta said:

You know, Yoshi's pretty queer, too. He is a dude who lays eggs. Must be intersexed.

Nightsama said:

Taken from the Wiki page of Birdo: "Birdo's gender in the original manual for Super Mario Bros. 2 asserts that Birdo is a man who believes that he is a girl, but Birdo is more likely female, and would rather be referred to as "Birdetta". Later releases of Super Mario Bros. 2 lacked any mention of her gender in either the game or the manual. Nintendo eventually established Birdo as female, first in Mario Tennis which depicted Birdo and Yoshi as boyfriend and girlfriend"

There ya have it, Yoshi is a dude..who can lay eggs. Birdo is a post-op transexual, who can spit eggs, a match made in heaven.

A random viewer said:

I think the whole thing about Birdo and Yoshi dating is strange. Birdo's a he-she, and Yoshi's an asexual dinosoar that's usually referred to as a "he". (He's realy an "it"..)

Yoshi said:

i can not believe why you people think i Yoshi am gay Birdo is a girl people o.k. i have proof she will be spiting a real egg soon.

And girls who like girls who like rumble packs!

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Yoshi on Queer Characters: Birdo: i can not believe why you people think i Yoshi am gay Birdo is a girl people o.k. i have...

A random viewer on Queer Characters: Birdo: I think the whole thing about Birdo and Yoshi dating is strange. Birdo's a he-she, and Yoshi's an asexual dinosoar...

Nightsama on Queer Characters: Birdo: Taken from the Wiki page of Birdo: "Birdo's gender in the original manual for Super Mario Bros. 2 asserts that...

Zeta on Queer Characters: Birdo: You know, Yoshi's pretty queer, too. He is a dude who lays eggs. Must be intersexed....

Trxd on Queer Characters: Birdo: Brilliant article. I agree completely, all the time people were arguing over his sexuality and being all like "Wait he's...

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