BOYbasaurs and GenGIRLS…
You’ve got to be ready to GEEK OUT with me on this one! I’ve been a lifelong fan of the Pokémon franchise since Gen 1 came to the UK in 1998. I wore my Red version cartridge down to the nub and I’m currently playing the Muk out of Pokémon Moon!
I still sleep in Poké PJs. My engagement ring is fashioned like a half-ruby/half-diamond Pokéball and we’re considering my fiancée walking down the aisle in a fully to-scale inflatable Pikachu suit (not a joke). I actually reference the Gen 1 Pokémon in an original spoken word track “In Heels” from my 2017 album Cry For The Camera — www.youtube.com/watch?v=InIfgH79SKg (Pokémon reference 2:40 to 3:12)
“- so here’s a metaphor about the Metapod in me…”
Now… call it “seeing what I want to see” but I really do see SO much about the Pokémon franchise that chimes with the Transgender phenomenon. The core principle of “instant evolution” for example. The metamorphosis that Pokémon undergo is a perfect analogy for the life of a Trans person.
We (Trans people) are like Weedles with the brains of Caterpies. When we evolve into Kakunas, we’re sad because we’re changing into something we don’t want to be. So when it comes time to evolves into a Beedrill, a Trans person is left furiously pounding the ‘b’ button to stop themselves evolving until. Think or HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) and GAS (Gender Affirmation Surgery) as unique evolutionary stones, allowing us to blossom into Butterfrees instead.
Fun fact: an independent estimates claim that, of the UK’s 65.640,000 person population, an approximate 400,000 self-identifying transgender. That’s an encounter rate of 0.6%… less than a Chansey in the Safari Zone!
SPOILER (for trolls): This list is just for fun. But it’s certainly not a list for the casual Poké tourist. If Pokémon Go is your only reference to franchise, we might lose you along the way. Drawing from the videogames, the anime and fan content from around the world, we’ll be HM08/06/07’ing into some deep Poké theory. So! Without further ado: here’s my list of the Top #5 Trans… Things… in and about the Pokémon universe:
#5 – Are You A Boy Or A Girl?
From Gen 2’s Crystal version onward, this is the very first question you’re asked in every game.
For many people growing up in the 90s and the 00s, Professor Elm was our first “gender confidant”. Fictional or otherwise, he was the first person in our lives to pose that question so neutrally. We suddenly had a choice?
Until 2016, this still meant adhering to a cis-normative binary: a typically masculine Boy or a typically feminine Girl. But Pokémon Go and Gen 7’s Pokémon Sun and Moon in 2017 have both been praised by the public for their gender-fluid approach to choosing your avatar. They offer, instead, the question: “What’s your style?”
Pokémon Go fans will be familiar with the Teams Valour, Mystic and Instinct. But I’ll bet you didn’t realise what a huge emotional impact their leader sprites had on the Trans community online. Particularly Blanche, whose outfit shares the colours of the Trans flag.
4# Sexual Dimorphism
Gender is a bigger deal in Pokémon than people might realise. There’s even a type of Pokéball called a Love Ball whose capture rate is dependent on the genders of the opposing Pokémon and your own.
Here on Earth, there is a phenomenon in nature called sexual dimorphism – the physical difference between the male and female of a species.
Humans, like most mammals, show very little difference between sexes compared to the rest of the animal kingdom. Speaking generally, nude and un-groomed, most male and female mammals look the same. But birds, insects and lizards are very different. Think about chickens and roosters. Female snakes and spiders are often ten times the size of the males.
Before Generation IV – male and female Pokémon of the same species showed no sign of sexual dymporhism – excluding Nidorans. Nintendo actually made Nidoran male and Nidoran female DIFFERENT SPECIES according to the Pokédex – a slightly, albeit misleading, nod to this natural phenomenon.
Fun fact: if they’d done that with every single Pokémon since Gen 1 (discounting all legendaries and non-legendary genderless Pokémon (like Ditto, Porygon and Cryagonal) we’d have a Pokédex of 1368 monsters as of Gen 7!
But as of Gen V, everything changed. If you actually look closely at certain sprites in later games, it’s rather adorable what Nintendo has done to distinguish males from females. From the seed on a female Venusaur’s back, smaller fangs and horns for the females across many species, female Pikachu’s tail even has a heart-shaped tip!
GO SEE FOR YOURSELF — https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/List_of_Pok%C3%A9mon_with_gender_differences
Beyond Nidoran male and Nidoran female, the only other Pokémon introduced since Gen 1 that are officially male and female counterparts but have entirely different names and Pokédex slots are ‘Illumise and Volbeat’ and ‘Latios and Latias’. ‘Taurus and Miltank’, though clearly “bull” and “cow” are not officially connected. Male and female Meowstics, while sharing a Pokédex entry, clearly possess completely different appearances and move sets.
Finally, a bonus tip for Sun and Moon players wondering why the hell their lvl 33 Salandit won’t evolve… it’s a boy. Only a female Salandit can evolve into a Salazzle. Story of my life.
#3 – Beauty Nova
Ready for a bombshell? There is strong evidence to suggest that there is actually an inter-generational Transgender character that makes an appearance in Gen 6’s X and Y… which is an irony that geneticists will appreciate given that “X” and “Y” are the two types of chromosomes that determine the sex of an organism.
Her trainer class is ‘Beauty’ and she’s an opponent you encounter at the Kalos Battle Maison. Before battle she says: “I’ve recently remade my life completely! I’ve been reborn as a Beauty at last!”
If she wins she says: “If you want to make your dreams reality, then you have to be completely dedicated!”
But here’s where it gets really awesome. If you defeat her she says: “Yes, a mere half year ago I was a Black Belt! Quite the transformation, wouldn’t you say?”
Still feels a little tenuous? Look to the original Japanese and the text reads “Only half a year ago, I was a Karate King. The power of medical science is amazing, isn’t it?”
In the history of the games, Trainer-classes tended to come in male and female pairs. When translating the game to English, the original Japanese ‘Karate King’ became ‘Black Belt’, who are exclusively male. The female counterpart of the “Black Belt” was the “Battle Girl”.
So why declare that you used to be a “Black Belt” (or “Karate King”) and not a “Battle Girl”? Because: Beauty Nova is the first (openly) Transgender character in the Pokémon franchise! Boom!!
It’s interesting to note that the English translations or the game decided to massage this storyline. With the evolution of public opinion, perhaps this beautiful black belt will make a resurgence in Gen 8…?
#2 – The Fabulous Team Rocket
Need I say more? From James’ impromptu boob job to their gender-bending disguises, Team Rocket set the Pokémon Gold standard for binary-busting gender expression – on their never-ending mission to “unite all peoples within our nation”. Not to mention the “Rainbow Rocket” re-brand 2017’s Ultra Sun and Moon 😉
Bonus fact: Team Rocket’s talking Meowth was voiced by a Transgender woman.
Madeleine Joan Blaustein (1960 – 2008), most commonly credited as Maddie Blaustein, was an American voice actress for the English-language dub of the Pokémon anime. Her most famous role is that of Meowth. In season 1, she was credited under her birth name Adam Blaustein, while in seasons 2 and 3, as well as the first three movies, she was credited as Addie Blaustein.
Now then, before we reveal #1… we have an important piece of Poké admin. Which monster do we crown Trans ambassador for the Pokémon universe?
Here are the contenders…
A lot of people’s knee-jerk choice would be Ditto… I disagree. Like Cryagonal or Porygon, Ditto is gender-less and that is an entirely different thing altogether. Trans people tend to present heavily one way or the other on the gender spectrum. Ditto is pretty happy not picking a side and just being an adorable pink blob.
Before Generation VI, due a peculiar coding phenomenon – one in three female Azurill will become male after evolving into Marill. But it’s important to make the distinction that we are not talking about gender here. Like a frog, Azurill changes sex on genetic level. Gender is not the same as sex. One is conceptual, the other is finite (barring a handful of miraculous mutations) — http://geeksout.org/blogs/troy-zaher/transgender-pokemon
Not only does Mr Mime share the colours of the official transgender flag, there is actually a 50% chance of your Mr. Mime being FEMALE. But there’s no “Ms” or “Mrs” Mime. This is similarly true of Pokémon like SlowKING, KINGdra, GothITA. Either way, it’s a Pokémon that demonstrates the struggle of living in a world where gender labels have so much power.
Milotic is another mon to share the colours of the Trans flag,. Like the powerful Gyrados and it’s unassuming pre-evolution Magikarp, Milotic evolves from the feeble Feebas. It does so when, among other specifications, “its Beauty level is high enough”.
Props to Nintendo for acknowledging “the beauty inside us all”. But is beauty the most important thing in the world?
There is another Pokémon that shares the colours of the Trans flag… but beyond that, this mon represents the true values of Transgender people everywhere. That Pokémon is…
Sylveon’s a fairy-type, interestingly the ONLY type that lacks a single Pokémon with any sexual dimorphism between any of its sprites. It evolves from Eevee, which is about the most pro-individuality Pokemon there is; demonstrating that you can literally be anything you want to be… eeeven if it’s just an Eevee.
But the main reason Sylveon beats Milotic? Milotic evolves through Beauty. Sylveon evolves through Happiness. And that’s far more valuable.
Furthermore, for a ‘typically feminine’ Pokémon, you are much more likely to encounter a male Sylveon in the game than a female – [male 87.5% / female 12.5%]. It shares these statistics with the similarly feminine Primarina, who also shares the colours of the Transgender flag (and is my favourite mon of all time).
Compare them to the overtly feminine Gardevoir (whose mega-evolution form is *actually* described in its Pokédex entry as “resembling a bridal gown”) which only has a 50/50 shot of being female. Even Machamp, an overtly masculine’ Pokémon from Gen 1 has a 25% chance of being female
So Sylveon truly does defy expectations and that’s why Sylveon is my official Trans ambassador for the Pokémon Universe. Ya did good Arceus. Ya did good.
So finally here we are, we’ve conquered Victory Road, we’ve defeated the Elite Four across multiple generations and we’ve crowned our champion. THIS is the number 1 pro-Trans reference from the world of Pokémon and one of the most rousing civil rights speeches ever delivered, let alone in a “children’s cartoon”…
#1 – Mewtwo’s Speech
1998’s “Pokémon: The First Movie—Mewtwo Strikes Back” was a triumph of the spirit and a serious tear-jerker of a film – only to be out-emoshed (in this humble fan’s opinion) by the recently released 2017 film “I Choose You” (SPOILER: you might cry yourself to DEATH).
In it, the genetically engineered Mewtwo utters these immortal words:
“The human sacrificed himself, to save the Pokemon. I pitted them against each other, but not until they set aside their differences did I see the true power they all share deep inside. I see now that the circumstances of one’s birth are irrelevant; it is what you do with the gift of life that determines who you are.”
In an uncharacteristic moment of serenity, Team Rocket’s Meowth also drops a truth-bomb for the ages:
“We do have a lot in common. The same Earth, the same air, the same sky. Maybe if we started looking at what’s the same instead of what’s different… well, who knows.”
So there you have it, my Top 5 Trans Things in Pokemon! Thank you to Nintendo, Bulbapedia and the vast network of fans (Trans or otherwise) that make Pokémon the enduring phenomenon it is today and always will be.
www.facebook.com/talldarkfriend | @Talldarkfriend (Insta & Twitter)