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.
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.
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.