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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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  1. … So Metroid Fusion and the comics both showing Samus as a little girl even as a toddler isn’t proof that she was born a woman, or that it is somehow less proof then the newhalf comment by a designer? Seriously trying to say seeing her as a little girl isn’t proof to the contrary that she is trans is jumping trough hoops and grasping at straws.

    Also, the whole newhalf equalling trans is a recent thing, the official and much older definition is half Japanese and half other race… Thus making that arguement all the weaker. I would rather take the canonicity of comics over the off state/joke of a designer.

  2. I’m a trans feminine person so by all means I should like the idea that one of my favourite videogame characters, that I can actually connect with and don’t experience terrible dysphoria playing as, is trans in a manner similar to myself, right?

    No. Far from it. And the issue isn’t that Samus could be transgender but rather that we are being told the entirety of her gender identity is contained within a transphobic slur. That people who themselves are transgender or claim to be trans allies do not see any problem with taking something debasing, dehumanising and meant to humiliate and then using it as the basis for their argument with no other positive evidence that Samus is transgender is pretty galling. Resultantly, I’m a little surprised that both Wu and McGrody didn’t have the foresight to see how the evidence that their proposal is based on might actually be offensive to some trans people.

    I wouldn’t want anyone’s trans identity to be confirmed through mockery and personally I am absolutely fine that the gender identity of Samus is neither confirmed as cis nor trans – to those who wish for her to be cis, she can be cis. For those of us who want her to be trans (and not on the back of an absolutely terrible argument) she can be trans.

    As an aside, the responses to the possibility that Samus is trans have been shocking and really are an indictment against the lack of acceptance for vulnerable people with gender identities seen as “different”. It also highlights that there is very rife misunderstanding and hatred. However that doesn’t negate that the original argument for Samus being trans is, in itself, transphobic.

  3. I have to disagree on some of the comments about if Samus is trans or not. The man who said she is, joke or otherwise, isn’t like a costume designer in this case. He’s part of the initial team who created the character. So while it’s not as definitive as Ms. Rowling saying Dumbledore is gay, it’s much more of a source than some random person connected to the game. Also I’d point out that no where I’m the actual material of Harry Potter is Dumbledore explicitly gay. Only after did Ms. Rowling actually confirm this.

    As for no evidence, the only evidence on the matter is just the one claim. There is zero evidence to suggest she’s cis. So one piece one way is mathematically infinitely more than none the other. To assume she must be cis is cissexist.not that i think you’re actually doing that, just that the ingrained mentality of assuming she’s cis is a big part of the problem with dismissing the idea.

    But the actually intent of your article is right on. The disgusting responses are upsetting and yet exactly what we all knew would come.

    But as a gamer, I will happily take Samus as a positive trans icon until Nintendo comes along to deny it in what will be more erasure of the idea of trans 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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