Pokémon Needs More LGBT Characters

Pokémon is a timeless classic. Its content appeals to all demographics, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or sexuality. For the most part, it succeeds in representing the minority groups; race, women and cultures outside the mainstream. However, the LGBTQ+ community is yet to have its fair share of relatable characters, which has left the decision to assign sexualities to fan speculation.

In Pokemon X & Y, released in 2013, a trainer called Nova states that she is in the "beauty" class but mentions that she was once in the "blackbelt" category, which is reserved for men only. Such on-the-nose dialogue seems to confirm that Nova potentially transitioned and could identify as transgender.

Meanwhile, subtle hints regarding clothing, mannerisms and backstories have given traction to popular fan theories, some of which have been widely accepted as "canon" by fans who prefer to read between the lines. Here are some sexualities and identities commonly ascribed to Pokémon characters that are purely speculative, but generally agreed upon in the fan community.

Ash Ketchum - Bisexual


As the main protagonist, it was only a matter of time before Ash Ketchum was given his "non-canon" identity. Speculation on Ash's sexuality points to him being potentially bisexual, but romance could interfere with his plans to become a Pokémon Master, making sexual self-discovery an afterthought. Ash has been known to admire Misty more insistently than most. On the other hand, his relations with childhood friends Gary and Brock could suggest some attraction; should he ever choose to explore his identity, the power of childhood friendship/companionship is profound.

James Morgan - Gay


Possibly the most recognized (presumably) LGBTQ+ character from Pokémon, James forms the iconic trio Team Rocket along with Jessie and Meowth. Throughout the series, several moments suggest James may be gay. The most telling clue comes in an episode titled "The Fortune Hunters," where James dresses up in a form-fitting Moltres costume and says, "I am a flaming Moltres!" to which Meowth chimes in, "That outfit -- where’d he get it?" It's Jessie who finishes off, "I think that costume came right out of his closet." The phrase "coming out of the closet" is sometimes a term used to describe someone revealing their sexuality to someone else. There is also an episode that never reached English-speaking audiences at all, in which James wears fake breasts and mentions a fondness for drag.

Harley - Gay


Harley makes his debut in the episode "A Cacturne For The Worse" dressed as his main Pokémon, Cacturne. Harley and May are shown to have a rocky history that leads them to become rivals. Harley has very effeminate mannerisms, which include wiggling his hips as he walks and talking in a high voice. There has also been some discussion surrounding a potential enemies-to-lovers trope for Harley and May, but a section of the fanbase seems to support the theory that Harley is interested in men.

Jessie Murrow - Lesbian


Another Team Rocket associate, Jessie is a part-time Pokémon contest competitor and a close friend to James and Meowth. She is essentially James' mirror image; where James acts feminine, Jessie acts masculine. More often than not, their wacky disguises reverse the male and female gender roles. Jessie tends to wear the suit and tie, whereas James dons the dresses and skirts. Jessie does fawn over men, yet also shows a fond admiration for the likes of Dawn and other successful women. In the non-canon manga series, Jessie and James get married, but as far as the series goes, there is every possibility for Jessie to be a lesbian in canon.

Gou/Goh - Non-Binary/Genderfluid


Introduced in Pokémon Journeys: The Series, Goh befriends Ash Ketchum and becomes one of his traveling companions. According to Daiki Yamashita, the Japanese voice actor for Goh, his character design was intended to be androgynous, meaning that his gender could theoretically be male, female or neither. His appearance is open to interpretation, but the gender-neutral look suggests that Goh could be easily viewed as either non-binary or genderfluid.

Wallace - Gender Non-conforming


Finally, Wallace is the gym leader of Sootopolis Gym in the Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire series. He first appears in the episode "Our Cup Runneth Over!" as the lead presenter of the Wallace Cup. Wallace is elegant, graceful and somewhat flamboyant. His costume choices are typically reserved for women, as they tend to show his navel and torso to shape his body. While he identifies as male, his personality mixes aspects of both genders, which has led fans to believe that he is gender non-conforming.

These are just a handful of fan theories, and without confirmation, they will remain just that. Nonetheless, many viewers remain hopeful for clear LGBTQ+ representation in the near future.

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