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Is Toad Nintendo's First Agender Character?

Is Toad Nintendo's First Agender Character?


Residents of the Mushroom Kingdom can apparently express a gender without actually having one -- but they aren't the only gender-fluid characters among Mario and friends.

Anyone who's played a Mario game in the last three decades has encountered Toads, the faithful mushroom retainers who serve Princess Peach. And while you probably never gave much thought to their sex organs, apparently Nintendo has. And they've arrived at the conclusion that Toads don't have any.

In an interview with GameSpot, producer Koichi Hayashida explained, "This is maybe a little bit of a strange story, but we never really went out of our way to decide on the sex of these characters, even though they have somewhat gendered appearances. But I think what I can say is that Toadette and Toad are not siblings -- perhaps it would be more accurate to say they are adventure pals."

Toad, of course, is the all-purpose hero of the Mushroom people; Toadette is the pinker, dress-wearing, hair-braided version. There's also Toadsworth, the dignified mustachioed elder-stateman.

We assume that what Hayashida meant is that Toads don't have physical sex traits -- that is, genitals. But that goes without saying, doesn't it? We'd be a little taken aback if Nintendo revealed that Mario and Luigi had realistic human reproductive organs under their overalls.

So what Toad and Toadette and Toadsworth do have are gender identities, just like most fictional characters. That ought to be enough to qualify as a gender. If Toadette identifies as female, let's just go ahead and say she's female. Same goes for Toadsworth.

Toad is a bit more of a wildcard. The character doesn't really seem to indicate a gender one way or another, so one could probably make the case that he or she or they or ze is agender, nonbinary, or neutrois.

With this revelation, Toad seems to be adjacent to Birdo, the egg-spitting dinosaur ofSuper Mario Bros. 2, who was identified in the original instruction manual as a boy who longed to be a girl. Birdo's international backstory is even more complicated, with various names including Catherine, Cassie, Cathie, and Ostro. A Japanese commercial featured Birdo with a male-sounding voice.

She's been linked romantically with Yoshi, a dinosaur who uses male pronouns but lays eggs. Several years ago, Nintendo's Japanese site speculated about whether Birdo was Yoshi's girlfriend or boyfriend.

But more recently, Nintendo has identified Birdo as simply female, a reminder that Mario's supporting cast has always enjoyed some gender-fluidity.

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Matt Baume