Whether Samus Is Transgender Isn’t The Issue, Transphobia Is

Samus Aran

There has been a story going around recently that long running video game character and female action hero Samus Aran from the Metroid franchise is transgender.  The report started after some information came to light regarding comments made by the characters creator back in 1994 that state she is trans.

At the time the writers of the official Japanese strategy guide for Super Metroid asked the games developers is they could share any secrets about the character.  Hirofumi Matsuoka, who helped work on the original designs for the character of Samus, claimed that Samus ‘wasn’t a woman’ but instead a ‘newhalf’.

Newhalf, for those not in the know, is a Japanese term for transgender women, though some view the term to be insulting akin to shemale, ladyboy or tranny.

Some have speculated that perhaps this was the developers offensive joke regarding Samus’ very masculine appearance, at the time of Super Metroid Samus was described as being six foot three and 198 pounds and was often drawn as very physically imposing woman.

Whilst it is a possibility that it was just one person making an offensive joke, it’s also possible that it’s also true.  Don’t forget, during the whole of the first Metroid game players were led to believe that Samus was male, even using male pronouns in the guide and instruction book so as to surprise people when she removed her power suit in the finale.  Though, once again hiding her gender may have been nothing more than a simply ploy for surprise with no other intentions at all.

What needs to be remembered, however, is that the person who made this statement back in 1994, wasn’t the creator of the character.  They had no authority to make a statement like tat and for it to be true.  In the piece that started it the authors, Brianna Wu and Ellen McGrody, described it as being like when J.K. Rowling said Dumblebore was gay, except it isn’t.  It’s more like if the costume designer on one of the Harry Potter films said Dumbledore was gay, because the person who said Samus was a Newhalf wasn’t the creator, just someone who worked on the look of the character.

Whether Samus is or isn’t transgender isn’t what I’m wanting to talk about though, it’s the reaction from many gamers at the very idea that she may have been born genetically male that’s disturbing.  Yes, there are some people who are making some very reasoned arguments, such as the person who made the claim was in position to do so, that the misgendering in the first game was either a mistake on the creators part or a clever ruse to throw off players, or simply the fact that it has never been stated in official cannon.

However, their are some people who are making some rather vicious arguments as to why Samus couldn’t possibly be trans.  Some of this even seems to have ended as hate mail towards the original articles creators.

samus tweets

As to be expected with any story involving trans people in any form their is the straight out hostility with use of the words ‘tranny’, ‘shemale’ or ‘it’, with some of these terms being used to speak about the articles authors directly.  Whatever these peoples arguments might be as to why Samus isn’t trans go straight out of the window when they descend to using slurs and name calling.  Any well reasoned argument they have falls by the wayside when they start calling a trans woman ‘tranny’ or ‘it’.

Some people are arguing that Samus couldn’t be trans because we’ve seen her as a young girl, which raises some worrying questions as to people knowledge and understanding of trans people and what we go through.  Yes, not everyone who transitions does so from a young age, some people even wait most of their lives before doing so, but their are some trans people in the world who know from day one that they’re in the wrong body and start their transition from a very young age.

With Metroid being a science fiction series set in the future and with transgender acceptance increasing even in our lifetime is it so hard to believe that in the far future people would be willing to accept that a three year old child saying they’re trans could happen, or that she’d be allowed to live in her desired gender?  Hell, their might even be new science that helps them to do so.  So the people stating that Samus must be female because she was a little girl, well, unless there’s a scene somewhere where we see her being born with fully female genitals on display, you can’t take her being in a dress as proof she was born female.

Some protesters to the idea are also stating that by making Samus trans takes away a strong female character, or that it’s saying the only way women can be strong action heroes is if they were born men, and that that strength comes from being male.  Well this is yet again people failing to understand that trans women are women, not men.  Saying that being a trans woman takes glory away from women and gives it to men is massively insulting to trans women.

samus shemale

I’m not saying that I believe Wu and McGrody’s insistence that Samus is trans, there’s not enough evidence to point to that conclusion for me, what I have a problem with though is peoples snap reactions to the idea.  If you don’t want to believe it and call out the concept as foolish, great, do that, but do it with reasoned argument.  Don’t turn it into an attack on trans women.

Whether that’s what you’re intending to do it’s what’s happening with statements like those above, or with articles such as this that insist on referring to a trans woman with male pronouns.  You don’t have to agree with another persons theory, you don’t have to like the fact that they’re presenting it as fact, but please try to act with a little decency and courtesy.

At the end of the day is their definitive evidence that proves Samus is trangender?  No, theirs not.  Is their any harm with people choosing in their heads to believe that she’s trans?  Again, no, that doesn’t take away from any or your enjoyment of the character.  Is their an issue with using transphobic slurs and insults against those ideas?  Yes, their is a massive problem with that.

If you truly believe that Brianna Wu and Ellen McGrody chose to claim Samus was trans ‘for attention’ or to create a situation where she could accuse people of transphobia as some bloggers are claiming, don’t play into that, don’t add to the conspiracy theorists and haters.  Give your arguments against the theory without stooping to the level of insults and hate speech.  Be the bigger people.


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Amy is a journalist and editor contributing the websites Planet Transgender, Gay News Network, The Bottle Episode, The Retro Box and Claire Channel. Amy is also a published comic book writer and letterer.

In addition to her writing Amy has also worked with the Centre For Hate Crime Studies in Leicester and has worked in the capacity of an advisor to the United Nations Entity For Gender Equality and The Empowerment of Women.

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