Birdo and Yoshi: A Perfect Love

by on March 7th, 2015
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Despite my best efforts, my three-year-old daughter is quickly falling into a monomaniacal love for Nintendo characters. The apple clearly didn’t fall far from the tree: I was positively obsessed with video games through most of my childhood. Even though I don’t let her play video games often, she developed a fascination for the classic Nintendo pantheon, from Donkey Kong and Mario to Kirby and Link.

One day, I overheard my daughter playing with a blob of green Play-doh and a blob of pink Play-doh, which she envisioned to be Birdo and Yoshi, of the Super Mario Bros. series. The two bizarre, dinosaur-like creatures were in love and were going to get married, she announced. Hearing this, one of my friends told me something I hadn’t known before: my daughter’s fantasy-play is actually “true” within the mythology of Nintendo.

Implications of Romance

Birdo and Yoshi were first portrayed as a couple in Mario Tennis, a fairly unimpressive game released in 2000 for Nintendo 64. While Mario was paired int he game with Princess Peach, and Luigi with his lady-love Daisy, Yoshi’s tennis party is none other than the egg-spitting pink mutant first seen in Super Mario Bros. 2. The implication of the match-up was that Birdo and Yoshi are romantic partners.

Since then, they have appeared in passing as a couple in several games, including Mario Party games and most Nintendo sports games– and the odd couple has become a common trope in fan-fiction, fan-art, and in fan-made YouTube videos.

…And They’re Queer

All but Nintendo’s most dedicated fans are unaware of Birdo’s gender identity. The character’s creators have actually made it clear from the get-go that Birdo is transgender. In the guide book for Super Mario Bros. 2, the first game in which Birdo made an appearance, the text clearly states, “He thinks he is a girl and he spits eggs from his mouth and that he’d rather be called Birdetta.” The implication is that Birdo is male-bodied but identifies as female.

Games since Super Mario Bros. 2 have largely given Birdo an androgynous voice, and a few have listed her as being of “indeterminate gender.” On the Japanese website for Super Mario Kart Double Dash, a description for Birdo says, “It appears to be Yoshi’s girlfriend, but is actually his boyfriend!? He participates in the race with eggs.” I’d be willing to argue that Birdo is Yoshi’s girlfriend insofar as she identifies as such, but that’s neither here nor there. Regardless of where they fall specifically on the GLBT spectrum, I think it’s safe to say that they’re queer.

I’m Confused– But Pleased

I’ve been comfortably out of the loop of fanatical gamer-culture for several years, but I have to admit that I smiled when I learned that Yoshi and Birdo are, in fact, lovers. I was equally happy to let my daughter know that her cute vision of a Yoshi-and-Birdo wedding was actually consistent with Nintendo’s portrayal of the characters.

But I do have to admit some degree of confusion. Birdo and Yoshi are apparently both male-bodied, but they are both capable of making eggs. One lays eggs after eating food, and the other spits eggs after… I don’t even want to know what. In the end, it certainly seems like both the Yoshi and Birdo species are functionally hermaphroditic, so it’s possible that the gender-labels given to both of them are completely arbitrary (or, of course, added in for the sake of amusement).

I suppose we’ll never know the details of Yoshi and Birdo’s biology, but I find it charming that Nintendo has created a world in which gender is incidental and fictional dinosaurs can engage in cross-racial and queer relationships. As small of a step as it may be, it is a subtle step toward gender equality and queer acceptance.

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