Iono - Possible Trans representation?

Archaic

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About 8 hours ago, we were given our first introduction to Iono, the Levincia Gym Gym Leader. If you haven't seen the video yet, I've embedded it below.


I made a few brief observations over on my personal Twitter account shortly after that video dropped. Those tweets a decent amount of engagement, so I thought I'd post things up here for some more in-depth discussion.

TLDR; I think a case can be made for Iono being coded as gender-questioning if not outright transgender.
Consider the following:
  1. Iono is presented as a Bokukko. That is to say, they're feminine presenting while using masculine “boku” pronoun. While this trope has been associated with "plucky girl" archetypes in anime and games, the speech pattern has also been used previously as part of obscuring a character's gender. For those out there who might get the reference, Iono seems to give off similar vibes here to Tetora from Log Horizon.
  2. The colours of Iono's hair and hair accessories colours evoke the colours of the Transgender Flag (light blue, pink, white).
  3. Iono's hair accessories are patterned after Magnemite, one of the earliest Gender unknown Pokémon (and the earliest one in the National Dex)
  4. Across most in-game languages, their name is a reference to being questioning or unsure.
In my original tweets on this topic, I'd also noted there seemed to be a lack of gendered language in how they were introduced by most of the official accounts, though apparently there's since been explicit use of feminine pronouns on official websites.

I don't think any of the above observations are on their own clinching. But the combination of all of this symbolism together does seem to suggest there's something more in play. Given the past example of Pokémon GO's Blanche, I'm not sure if we'll ever have outright official confirmation on this. Regardless, I imagine a lot of people will still feel like they’re finally getting some strong representation in the main-series games here.

So... over to you. What are your thoughts on this? Do you agree that this character seems like they may be queer coded? Do you have a different interpretation you'd like to share?
 

lisianthus

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I absolutely hope that's the case!

I would be thinking about either trans or non-binary representation here, but either would be amazing omgg

Pokémon has definitely been trending that way lately, too, so this is not a stretch by any means.
 

Greninjaman

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About 8 hours ago, we were given our first introduction to Iono, the Levincia Gym Gym Leader. If you haven't seen the video yet, I've embedded it below.


I made a few brief observations over on my personal Twitter account shortly after that video dropped. Those tweets a decent amount of engagement, so I thought I'd post things up here for some more in-depth discussion.

TLDR; I think a case can be made for Iono being coded as gender-questioning if not outright transgender.
Consider the following:
  1. Iono is presented as a Bokukko. That is to say, they're feminine presenting while using masculine “boku” pronoun. While this trope has been associated with "plucky girl" archetypes in anime and games, the speech pattern has also been used previously as part of obscuring a character's gender. For those out there who might get the reference, Iono seems to give off similar vibes here to Tetora from Log Horizon.
  2. The colours of Iono's hair and hair accessories colours evoke the colours of the Transgender Flag (light blue, pink, white).
  3. Iono's hair accessories are patterned after Magnemite, one of the earliest Gender unknown Pokémon (and the earliest one in the National Dex)
  4. Across most in-game languages, their name is a reference to being questioning or unsure.
In my original tweets on this topic, I'd also noted there seemed to be a lack of gendered language in how they were introduced by most of the official accounts, though apparently there's since been explicit use of feminine pronouns on official websites.

I don't think any of the above observations are on their own clinching. But the combination of all of this symbolism together does seem to suggest there's something more in play. Given the past example of Pokémon GO's Blanche, I'm not sure if we'll ever have outright official confirmation on this. Regardless, I imagine a lot of people will still feel like they’re finally getting some strong representation in the main-series games here.

So... over to you. What are your thoughts on this? Do you agree that this character seems like they may be queer coded? Do you have a different interpretation you'd like to share?

Honestly, I don't really see them doing trans-gender/Gay/lesbian characters. I feel like that would result in controversy.
 

lisianthus

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Honestly, I don't really see them doing trans-gender/Gay/lesbian characters. I feel like that would result in controversy.
it's been done before. regardless of the many overtones already present in the many works...there's an NPC in Sun/Moon, IIRC, that's transfem. there's also a transmasc manga protagonist.
 

Greninjaman

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it's been done before. regardless of the many overtones already present in the many works...there's an NPC in Sun/Moon, IIRC, that's transfem. there's also a transmasc manga protagonist.
I did not know that, though I don't really talk to NPCs much and I don't read the Manga.
 

SerKnight1701

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Feminine pronouns are used in every version. From German, Spanish to Italian. The official Pokemon.com site uses "her" for Iono. I think it's useless to entertain the thought, unless we want to create yet another Shiver situation
 
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Feminine pronouns are used in every version. From German, Spanish to Italian. The official Pokemon.com site uses "her" for Iono. I think it's useless to entertain the thought, unless we want to create yet another Shiver situation
From my knowledge of Splatoon happenings, Shiver being confirmed as a girl was done outside of the games, in a Verge article on a conversation with Nate Bihldorff, who was involved in censoring the gender identity of Vivian in Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door. (In-game/text, it's a little more unclear. She could be female. She could be nonbinary. But based on what I know about Splatoon localizations, I wouldn't blame people for rejecting what Bihldorff said.)

There's definitely been a lot of trans/enby/queer subtext in recent games (trans woman Beauty Nova, a lot of Galar's Pokémon having the color palette of the trans flag, a lot of characters blurring the lines of traditional gender norms, Blanche being nonbinary). Scarlet and Violet especially feel very genderqueer, imo, especially with trainer customization being a lot more fluid and a lot of the characters being androgynous/gender nonconforming. Is Iono a cis girl? A closeted trans man? Nonbinary? Bigender? No matter what she is, I love her.
 

Enzap

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She's very much a SHE. If you want to force non-canon on things you can, but don't act disappointed when cherrypicked "evidence" turns out to be nothing but headcanon.
Let's let people speculate as they want to. You're welcome to offer a counterargument or information others might have missed, but there's no need to take a condescending tone.

This is especially true for speculation about representation because it can quickly devolve into homo/trans/queerphobia. For example: "why are you forcing queerness into everything" or implying that people shouldn't even want to see queer representation. That kind of attitude really doesn't have a place on this website.
 

SerKnight1701

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From my knowledge of Splatoon happenings, Shiver being confirmed as a girl was done outside of the games, in a Verge article on a conversation with Nate Bihldorff, who was involved in censoring the gender identity of Vivian in Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door. (In-game/text, it's a little more unclear. She could be female. She could be nonbinary. But based on what I know about Splatoon localizations, I wouldn't blame people for rejecting what Bihldorff said.)

There's definitely been a lot of trans/enby/queer subtext in recent games (trans woman Beauty Nova, a lot of Galar's Pokémon having the color palette of the trans flag, a lot of characters blurring the lines of traditional gender norms, Blanche being nonbinary). Scarlet and Violet especially feel very genderqueer, imo, especially with trainer customization being a lot more fluid and a lot of the characters being androgynous/gender nonconforming. Is Iono a cis girl? A closeted trans man? Nonbinary? Bigender? No matter what she is, I love her.
Feminine pronouns are used in game when talking about Shiver. Both in gendered languages like Spanish or Italian and non-gendered ones like English. The Japanese version has her using "Uchi" which is used commonly by women using the Kansai dialect. Shiver talks in that dialect throughout the entire game.
Regarding Iono, again, Pokemon.com uses "her" in the site, as well as other languages using explicitly feminine language. On the Japanese side, Pixiv clearly states she's a girl.

I'm not very keen on jumping on theories based on a very flimsy idea. Every official outlet uses addresses Iono as "she" or equivalent, while Japanese sites recognise her as female. When inputting information on an encyclopedia, or a wiki, or speaking to a friend asking questions, I'd stick with what the official channels use.
After all, this thread was started because a feminine character uses "boku". While the OP correctly states that women using "boku" doesn't mean anything on them being queer, the fact that it is even mentioned feels...unnecessary. Bokukko are plucky, happy-go-lucky girls who use "boku" to mark their energy and distance from "other girls". This is exactly what we saw in the trailer. The colour point also seems a bit silly, we're entering vexillology territory here and it seems like looking for a pattern where there isn't necessarily one.

Naturally, if you want to think of her as anything else, I have no intention and no way to stop you. It is, after all, your own relationship with the game and your own mind.
 

Bolt Strike

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I was actually thinking of making a joke about this myself but was worried about it being offensive to the transgender community (I actually even got a verbal warning from a mod on another site about this very issue which made me even more nervous about discussing it here where the staff strives to be as sensitive as possible on these types of issues). But if the head of the entire site is even posting about it, I guess it's okay to discuss as respectfully as possible.

I think it's a plausible headcanon that she could be, she certainly looks androgynous enough to pass as MtF. But given Japan's conservatism on LGBT issues (as well as it still being relatively controversial worldwide), I don't think they're quite comfortable with representing the tg community in media yet and Game Freak probably does not intend for her to be tg.

And really it doesn't matter all of that much in the grand scheme of things whether she's a cis female or a trans female, especially if she doesn't choose to specify that distinction. Either way she identifies as female, as referenced by the official media. Whatever her assigned gender at birth or her previous gender identity was doesn't really matter outside of the bedroom and maybe the bathroom, Game Freak, and in universe Iono herself, see her as female so we're meant to treat her as a female. Anything beyond that is headcanon territory.
 
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Sheeerna

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Seems up in the air, but the fact that this can be even considered is neat and a step in the right direction.
 
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Kallyle

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I think it’s mainly a coincidence, but there’s at least enough evidence that this theory is at least plausible. There’s one thing though: numerous languages already refer to the live streamer through feminine pronouns, so at the very least non-binary and trans guy is probably ruled out.

That being said, it would be neat if medical science in the Pokémon world advanced to such a point that they could operate as a fully functional version of the sex that matches the person’s gender identity. I mean this is the same universe where you can Hyper Train IVs (aka gene therapy) and where Bill accidentally altered his DNA by mixing with a Pokémon (and that’s not even getting into Mewtwo and Type:Null/Silvally existing), so having Iono be an example of such sci-fi transitioning isn’t that much of a stretch.
 

Orchid

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Even if it is usually only implied/alluded to and almost never outright stated, I still think it's always nice to have more trans/NB/gender-nonconforming representation among Pokémon characters either way. (Aside from Blanche, Goh also comes to mind as a recent example of that.)

I'm totally down for Iono being nonbinary or questioning, judging from the Magnemite in her design and the pun in her name — I think that would be kinda adorably clever — but obv that's just the vibe I'm getting. However you choose to interpret her has merit, and regardless, she's a fun character.

There’s one thing though: numerous languages already refer to the live streamer through feminine pronouns, so at the very least non-binary and trans guy is probably ruled out.
FYI, there are nonbinary people who use she/her pronouns too! While it maybe wouldn't be quite as notable as a character being referred to by exclusively they/them pronouns, I still wouldn't entirely rule out that possibility.
 

Bolt Strike

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I honestly hope it's true.
We need more queer representation in media, and I hope companies and people would starting to realize that queer representation is not something to be avoided about.

Unfortunately there's a political component at play, as the LGBT community isn't quite accepted worldwide and companies could get in trouble with governments in certain countries for LGBT representation (see here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship_of_LGBT_issues). So that's up to the governments and citizens of various countries worldwide to realize that before companies will feel safe representing them in their media, the ball's not really in the media's court on this issue.
 

lisianthus

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Unfortunately there's a political component at play, as the LGBT community isn't quite accepted worldwide and companies could get in trouble with governments in certain countries for LGBT representation (see here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship_of_LGBT_issues). So that's up to the governments and citizens of various countries worldwide to realize that before companies will feel safe representing them in their media, the ball's not really in the media's court on this issue.
and japan would luckily not be on there, basically. those countries anyways, are outnumbered by countries that don't and.. well, basically taking the stupidity of a few governments who aren't part of huge gaming markets anyways (maybe except for china, although i forget if nintendo stuff is widely sold in the mainland) isn't a smart business decision in general really.
 

Archaic

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I think it's a plausible headcanon that she could be, she certainly looks androgynous enough to pass as MtF. But given Japan's conservatism on LGBT issues (as well as it still being relatively controversial worldwide), I don't think they're quite comfortable with representing the tg community in media yet and Game Freak probably does not intend for her to be tg.
While the Japanese government (or more specifically, the old men at the head of the LDP) and legal system are quite conservative on LGBT issues, this is increasingly out of step with opinion polls on LGBT issues in the country. It's worth noting also that we've recently seen increasing Trans inclusion from Japanese gaming developers, including those who'd previously portrayed some characters in problematic ways. Bridget for instance was explicitly confirmed as Trans in Guilty Gear Strive earlier this year.

Having said that, I do agree that if Iono is intended to be Trans, it's probably more likely that we'd see this done with a wink and a nod, rather than there being an outright explicit confirmation of it, similar to what we've seen with how Pokémon GO's Blanche has been handled.
 

Titania

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Unfortunately there's a political component at play, as the LGBT community isn't quite accepted worldwide and companies could get in trouble with governments in certain countries for LGBT representation (see here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship_of_LGBT_issues). So that's up to the governments and citizens of various countries worldwide to realize that before companies will feel safe representing them in their media, the ball's not really in the media's court on this issue.
I do get the censorship issues, but frankly I'll never get why showing a queer character would be so controversial, they need to censor them.

Also I get Japanese govt are mostly queerphobic, but Pokemon is not exclusively for Japanese consumers, so if there are queer characters, I hope they would at least allow the western-localized version to openly show them.

Story of Seasons games did this actually, because they have gay marriage in it, in Japan it's censored as "bestie ceremony" or something like that, but in the localized version it's called marriage as it is.
 

Enzap

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To me, their design is reminiscent of Lily from the anime Zombieland Saga, a character who is explicitly trans and features a very similar color pallette with the light blue and pink. I highly doubt it's a direct reference or that it confirms anything, just pointing out that Japanese media isn't a complete stranger to trans representation and it's used a similar visual language to hint at it.
 
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