2019 Deserves a Nonbinary Icon and I’ve Taken the Liberty of Deciding That Our Icon is Yoshi

 

What gender is yoshi?” user lotrtrunks asks of Nintendo’s famous green dinosaur on Gamespot.com’s forum section. It is July 11, 2009. Obama has since assumed the presidency. Grindr has officially launched. Micheal Jackson will be found dead. This question will still reign supreme as cultural cornerstone of the year. The world holds its breath, waiting for them to continue.

 

And continue lotrtrunks does, the content of their question turning from innocent to offensively reactive, almost ensuring response.

 

“is he boy or a girl? It lays eggs but on the other hand it likes Birdo who also lays eggs. There is a possibility that he is a you know what. (don't know if i'm allowed to say it on gamespot).”

 

(A word of motherly advice for lotrtrunks—on the off-chance that they’re listening—not only are you not allowed to say it on Gamestop, I’d highly recommend you avoid saying it at all.)

 

“Post” is clicked, and the caucus begins, albeit one-sided. The forum users respond with an overwhelming cascade of “male,” some with various supporting evidence thrown along. Dark_Link142 adds with only the degree of confidence a heterosexual could hold: “Male. Otherwise he wouldn't be going with Birdo” (who, for those of you on the outskirts of Mario lore, is a feminine-presenting character often assumed to be Yoshi’s partner, though this has never been confirmed). ThaT-Masta, ever the master of unconditional acceptance, posts “He's a male, but a weird one :?” The user dexter30 drops a bunch of live bombs by writing “he probably lesbian because he lays eggs and ... birdo seems to like her.”

 

 

(I, for one, would be more than happy to accept Dexter’s vision as canon.)

 

Finally, JOhkonut, whose third eye is as open as a New York City McDonalds, states that “yoshi is asexual- i forget who said it.... but someone did.” You did, champ. You did when nobody else could—or would.

 

I’d like to call attention to two particular user’s response: stealth_sheep, who simply writes, “If awesome was a gender, that would be Yoshi's,” and l8bitz, who before humble-bragging about their Advanced Biology course, says, “Yoshi is simply Yoshi.”

 

Yoshi is simply Yoshi. I think I can get behind that.

 

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Yoshi first debuted in 1990 as one of Super Mario World’s premiere features. First serving as Mario’s playable mount, Yoshi proved popular enough to receive their own spin-off series in 1991, and remains one of the Mario series’ most popular characters to this day. The question of their gender, now that they’ve appeared in multiple games, seems a little more solvable. Seeing that Yoshi is a species, not a single character, it’s most likely that there are males and females, with the Yoshi that appears in each game being a different one from the last. Problem solved, right?

 

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Turns out the answers are a little more obvious than people are willing to admit. To quote directly from my favorite rabbit hole, the Super Mario Wiki:

 

The in-game Japanese text of Yoshi's Trophy in Super Smash Bros. Melee states that Yoshis reproduce asexually, meaning that they reproduce without a mate and are neither male nor female. This is supported by the Chef minigame in Game & Watch Gallery 2 and Game & Watch Gallery 4; after being fed long enough, the Yoshi produces an egg that eventually hatches into another Yoshi. The baby then takes its parent's place and proceeds to eat enough food to turn into an adult, eventually producing a fertile egg of its own, which then continues the cycle.

 

Not to mention the most recent piece in the “Yoshi’s true gender” puzzle which, incidentally, I think is my favorite bit of canon regarding Yoshi’s gender. It comes from this in-game conversation within Super Smash Bros:

 

 

 

 

“Nonbinary” is a vast identity with many different gender identities—or lack thereof—underneath its umbrella, and “a little bit male and female” is not depictive of many of them. But there’s something sort of nice in that statement, especially as a rebuttal to what should be considered “normal.” 

 

Stay with me for a moment, because I’m about to make what the kids like to call “a massive fucking stretch,” but I feel as if the debate around Yoshi’s gender is what precisely makes them the perfect nonbinary icon we need this year. Too often, nonbinary identities are glossed over as a phase, a trend—the ever-popular phrase “you don’t have a gender identity, you have a personality” that wine-drunk moms like to share on their Facebooks immediately comes to mind. Even people who claim to be transgender allies sometimes neglect nonbinary identities in favor of lending their support to binary ones. Tumblr kids who’d like to engage in a bit of mudslinging often question whether or not nonbinary identities should even be counted as transgender to begin with, as if their opinion has any weight in the matter.

 

Yoshi, in that sense, is not much different (well, besides the minor detail of being a fictional character whose gender identity has no bearing on real-world well-being, but please gloss over that minor detail so I can feel smart). Yoshi’s gender identity has been pretty blatant, yet they’re aggressively gendered as male. Even some of the games themselves gender the Yoshis, referring to them as “he,” or occasionally, “it,” denying Yoshi their canon gender—much in the same way that so many nonbinary people are aggressively denied their own (petition to start calling our gender identities “canon gender”). Through it all, there is a slew of people out there who, regardless of canonical evidence, feel that it is their place to “determine” what Yoshi’s gender is, whether it be in the form of forum posts or Youtube video speculation

 

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Yet for all of that effort to prove their gender, what does it actually matter? Yoshi is so much more than how they reproduce, or how they’re labeled. Yoshi is a surrogate parent to Mario, with the plot of Yoshi’s Island revolving around how the entire species comes together to care for, save from danger and return an infant Mario and Luigi to their parents. Yoshi is always ready to help their friends, present in so many Mario games as a necessary part of completing a level or two. Apparently, they also know their way around a tennis racket.

 

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All of those qualities together make Yoshi a nonbinary icon. They are not defined by their gender, but nonetheless have it as an important part of their identity—the one that people tend to posit as their main quality, too. Through it all, though, they remain the same loveable dinosaur that fans around the world have come to love—because Yoshi is simply Yoshi.

 

 

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