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Link is a gay icon, and Zelda fans know it


Link, the beloved and iconic protagonist of The Legend of Zelda, has been tagged in over 17,000 fanfiction pieces on Archive of Our Own. Among those stories, over 300 have been tagged “Trans Link”, and in nearly 2,000, Link is in a romantic relationship with Prince Sidon (or Ganondorf, for the fans from foes to lovers). AO3 may not be the only measure of how much Zelda fans interpret Link as gay and/or transgender, but it is one of the largest. This comes as no surprise as fans have speculated about Link’s gender and sexuality since at least 2009although realistically he is in the minds of queer players since The Legend of Zelda was first released in Japan in 1986.

In 2023, Polygon will begin a Zeldahon. Join us on our journey through The Legend of Zelda series, from the original 1986 game to the release of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and beyond.

Nintendo has denied rumors that Link is strange. In a 2015 interview with Kotaku, Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma said that Link “isn’t gay. He’s just a weird person.” While Aonuma shut down speculation about Link’s sexuality within the franchise canon, his statement also opened the door to further interpretation by fans. Weirdness has long been inseparable from strangeness, even beyond the etymological connection. For decades, heteronormativity has forced queer people to the brink of society to live.

In art it is common to see strangely coded monsters And, in particular queer coded villains, especially because of how the Hays code banned depictions of homosexuality on screen. Queerness has historically been labeled a form of depravity, and queer rights continue to be threatened today as anti-LGBTQ laws skyrocketed in 2022. Given this history and political climate, as well as fans’ tendency to stick to their theories, regardless of canon, queer Zelda fans haven’t been deterred by what Aonuma has to say about their own interpretations of the iconic character. This became especially apparent during the run-up to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Prior to the game’s release in 2017, there were rumours that players would have the option to choose between “girl” or “boy” Link. In a 2016 interview with TimeAonuma addressed these rumors after it was confirmed Breath of the Wild would again contain a male link. His answers point to seemingly deliberate ambiguity surrounding Link’s identity markers.

“Back during the Ocarina of Time days I wanted Link to be gender neutral. I wanted the player to think, “Maybe Link is a boy or a girl.” If you thought of Link as a man, he would have more of a feminine touch. Or vice versa, if you bonded with Link as a girl, it had a more masculine aspect to it,” Aonuma told Time. “I really wanted the designer to include a more gender-neutral figure.”

“During the development of twilight princess, I went a different route and created a version of Link that was more masculine. But after that twilight princess I went back to the drawing board and decided that Link should be a more gender neutral character,” Aonuma continued. “That’s why I made the version of Link you see Breath of the Wild. In terms of gender, Link is definitely male, but I wanted to create a character where everyone could identify with the character.”

But Link’s gender-neutral or androgynous design fits the bill Breath of the Wild it’s complicated. For example, there is a quest in which Link must dress in drag to enter the desert city of Gerudo Town. Only women are allowed within the city walls, in order to speak to the leader and get what Link needs to fight Thunderblight Ganon, Link must present himself as a woman. To get the right clothes, Link must “track down a man who has snuck into Gerudo Town.” The person he meets wears traditional Gerudo clothing, but after confirming her identity and then literally peering at her face and body, the dialogue prompt allows him to compliment her beauty or declare that she is actually a man . Essentially, the quest forces Link to “clock” a trans woman, which often precedes anti-trans violence.

This quest fails trans Zelda fans in major ways, but like Aonuma’s denial that Link is gay, it also offers players an opportunity. They can choose to queer the game after completing this quest by adding more feminine clothes to Link’s wardrobe, which unlock in multiple colors once you enter the city, and don them as many times as they like. Other costumes are less deliberately feminine, but there is also a marked absence of them hypermasculine images as you could see Red Dead Redemption or even Metroid, in which male heroes are either super muscular or tall and sinewy, and their costumes emphasize their bodies.

Of course, Link’s androgyny also follows a very specific and narrow interpretation of the term. In the fashion world, androgyny is often used as a label for thin, white, able-bodied, AFAB people wearing male clothes. However, androgyny is practiced by people of all sizes, race and body type. Many people who present themselves as androgynous, especially if they identify as non-binary or genderqueer, advocates that fashion is genderless. To that end, a video game character wearing a bra and slacks with a sparkly veil could just as easily claim androgyny as a fat model wearing a flannel shirt and shorts, but neither presentation should be the sole definition of the term. are. In Zelda history, Link is most often depicted in a tunic and tights, which is apparently how Nintendo defines androgynous fashion. Breath of the Wild offers a more robust but still vaguely gendered wardrobe.

Link dressing in drag is also just an example of strangeness in it Breath of the Wild. Another is his very flirtatious banter with Prince Sidon, who is widely regarded as a peculiar coded character. Although Link must save Sidon’s sister from the Divine Beast Vah Ruta, that is obvious there is an emotional connection between these two men also. Sidon calls Link his best friend and repeatedly talks about how much he believes in Link. He even carries Link to Vah Ruta on his own back, making it feel like the characters are handling the first part of the boss fight together, with mutual trust and physical intimacy – even if it’s not canonically romantic.

A screenshot of Link riding fishman Sidon and Sidon riding him

Image: Nintendo

The relationship between Sidon and Link has been explored in all sorts of fanworks since the game’s release, including fanfiction ranging from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands of words per storyas well as adult comics and plenty of spicy fan art.

For now, the ambiguity of Link’s gender and relationships allows players to make whatever they want of his characterization and story. Nintendo’s androgynous designs allow players to choose how they identify with Link – or other potentially strange characters in the franchise, like Sheik van Ocarina of Time – and produce fan content that reflects their views. While Nintendo insists Link is both straight and cisgender, fans have expanded the Zelda universe to include LGBTQIA+ characters and quirky interpretations of Zelda games.

Nintendo will be released on May 12 The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdomwhich picks up immediately after the events of Breath of the Wild. So far, the images show the same artistic style and open-world concept, meaning the latest version of Link can continue his journey… more recognisably strange. His hair is different and almost looks like a mulletthat is a style that has become synonymous with queerness.

Even if Link is never canonically identified as gay or trans, fan content for The Legend of Zelda is everywhere, and queer fans in particular seem to be producing content en masse. From the thousands of fanfiction stories on AO3 to academic articles explore weird themes in the franchise to create fan art depicting Link and Prince Sidon in both wholesome and horny but decidedly romantic contexts, it’s clear that Nintendo’s opinion on the matter doesn’t matter much. For many, Link is gay or trans or both, and that’s a powerful thing that can’t be taken away.

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