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Video games have often been admonished for not having enough diversity; civil-rights activists have correctly noted that their protagonists tend to be caucasian heterosexual men. In recent years, developers have begun to correct this, offering minority protagonists, along with the option to choose your character’s sex, or have homosexual romantic subplots. Unfortunately, there is one minority group that has been consistently ignored or abused by the gaming industry; the Transgender. Yet, there have been more transgender characters than one might think, dating back decades.
1988 Birdo Super Mario Brothers 2 (Nintendo)
The Mario character Birdo was originally a male who wanted be female, and thus wore a pink bow on his head.However, Birdo’s official sex was constantly changed in various games, until 2008, when Birdo’s gender was firmly declared to be female in the Japan-only Wii game Captain Rainbow. This means that the first transgender video game ever character was retroactively declared to be (And always have been) a girl, not a boy dressed like a girl.
1989 Poison Final Fight (Capcom)
This coin-op fighting game had a sexy transvestite villain named Poison. Unfortunately, the character was initially intended to be a female, and the developer only declared her to be a transvestite because it would be wrong for the game’s protagonists to hit women (Implying there are no such moral problems with beating up transvestites). Worse still, in 1990, when Final Fight was ported to the SuperNintendo, Nintendo demanded that Poison be removed from the game entirely.
1992 Various Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender (Microprose)
Free of the restrictions of console makers, the PC got a point and click adventure game called Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender. It used sci-fi tropes for a humorous little story about a device on an alien planet that can change people’s genders. The protagonist only reluctantly uses the device, but this was still a small step toward accepting the idea of gender issues in games.
1995 Flea Chrono Trigger (Squaresoft)
Fortunately a few transgender characters have made into console games as well, a notable early one was the villain Flea in Chrono Trigger. While Flea was a non-playable character, and a villain, at least the gaming industry had one genuine transgender character by the mid-nineties.
1996 Various Darkstalkers (Capcom)
Although none of the characters in this fighting game are voluntarily transgender, every male character can be forcibly turned into a woman, if they are hit with a special attack called the “Midnight Bliss”. The move is used for laughs, and to humiliate opponents, but it shows a strong enthusiasm for the transgender at Capcom that continued for years to come.
1997 Cloud Strife Final Fantasy VII (Squaresoft)
Two years later, the massive RPG hit, Final Fantasy VII had a mission in which its hero Cloud had to rescue his love interest from a brothel. Using a classic comedy gag, Cloud must disguise himself as a woman in order to gain entry. Although Cloud only crossdresses to fulfill a mission, gamers finally got to see a heroic transgender character.
1999 Flea Chrono Cross (Squaresoft)
In this sequel to Chrono Trigger, Flea returns with better graphics, and a much prettier dress.
To see how the transgendered fared in the last ten years, read the second half of this article HERE.