Why Gaming's Most Famous Transgender Character Remains a Controversial TopicS

Quick history lesson for those who don't know: there's a character in Final Fight who in Japan was a sexy lady. A sexy lady you had to punch in the face. Her name was Poison.

Fearing this may not go down well overseas, in the West she was turned into a he. It was the same sexy character model, appearing entirely female, but had suddenly been labelled by the developer as a male. Making her one of video gaming's first, and to this day most notorious, transgender characters.

Poison remains a topic of debate not because she is a transgendered woman, but because apparently Capcom has never officially made the character's gender a matter of canon. So there are those who say that, because the character was originally female and only made "male" as a localisation quirk, she's female. And there are those who grew up knowing of Poison as a transgendered woman, arguing that this is how they know the character, so that's what the character is.

There's also, you know, the people who can't handle the fact there may be a sexy transgendered woman running around in their video games.

While the game's developer could settle the matter once and for all with a definitive statement, Capcom's Yoshinori Ono wisely knows that this is a rare instance sitting on the fence can be a good thing.

In an interview with EGM at the Tokyo Game Show, Ono says:

Capcom's official stance has and will continue to be that we don't have a stance technically. It's supposed to be mysterious; if people want to talk about it on forums or what not they're welcome to, but we're not going to give you a straight answer because, well, there isn't one. We deliberately want to make it a mysterious thing-that question of what's at the core of this character. At the end of the day, we don't have an actual canonical answer to that.

It's interesting, because it almost takes on a sort of Rorschach test. If you go into it with the pre-conceived notion that she's a woman, the way she talks, the way she moves, you'll see all of that as being very feminine. If you go in with the pre-conceived notion that she's not, her actions and mannerisms will seem the other way to you. So, it's very open-ended.

From my point of view, I'm very happy to have fans continue to discuss that, but once again we're not going to give an official answer. We're happy to leave that open and up to individual fans.

A wonderfully open response, but wait, what's this?

It's an Ono interview from 2007, in which he states "In North America, Poison is officially a post-op transsexual", but that "in Japan, she simply tucks her business away in order to look like a girl."

So...Capcom goes officially on record in 2007, then in 2011, tries to go off the record. Looks like the "Rorschach test" Ono mentions applies to video game publishers as well as fans!

EGM Interview: Street Fighter X Tekken's Yoshinori Ono [EGM]


You can contact Luke Plunkett, the author of this post, at plunkett@kotaku.com. You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and lurking around our #tips page.