How Gay Is Pokémon Go?

The queerest moments in Pokémon history and why LGBTI people connect to it

How Gay Is Pokémon Go?

I was about seven years old when I first became aware of Pokémon. Soon after, it became an obsession.

I’d wake up and watch the TV show over breakfast. Then I’d go to school and draw Pokémon with my best friend during recess. I’d trade Pokémon cards with my friends during lunch. Then I’d come home and play Pokémon Blue, while my twin brother played Pokémon Red right next to me.

The Pokémon franchise officially began in 1995, but the first game didn’t come out in Japan until February 1996. Over the next couple of years, the games reached North America, Europe and Australia.

With every new release, it transported me deeper and deeper into the franchise. Now, as an adult, it’s equal parts nostalgia, escapism and belonging bringing me back to Pokémon each time.

And I’m not alone.

James at the Pokémon store in Tokyo. | Photo: James Besanvalle

A lot of people within the LGBTI community love Pokémon.

There’s something about the franchise that draws LGBTI audiences in, appealing to specific areas of their gender identity and sexuality.

Last week, I went to go see the latest movie release – Pokémon the Movie: The Power of Us. This film makes a total number of 21 feature-length films for the franchise.

It’s a film that delivers on the formulaic success of the brand – featuring cute characters, new storylines and plenty of rainbow motifs.

The music, narration and lead character will all be familiar to a veteran viewer of the franchise. And that sense of nostalgia keeps bringing audiences back.

But looking around in the movie theatre made me realize the cultural impact it has on LGBTI people.

Kyle Stewart, 30, from England has been playing Pokémon throughout its 22-year history.

He told Gay Star News: ‘Growing up as a mixed race, gay kid in rural Norfolk at a school where a staggering majority of the pupils were white and straight, I naturally had a hard time fitting in.’

He found himself withdrawing from social interactions at school, opting instead to play Pokémon by himself in the corner of the playground. It helped him escape.

Until one day, a group of kids approached him and they all bonded over Pokémon. They became great friends and went through high school together.

Kyle said: ‘They supported me through my coming out, and we remain friends to this day.

‘And that love of Pokémon never really left. My partner and I love going on Pokémon Go walks most weekends,’ he said.

There are a tonne of reasons why LGBTI audiences connect with the Pokémon franchise. So let’s start with the TV show.

Jessie and James aren’t straight

While it’s never actually explicitly mentioned, there are several obvious moments when it’s implied Team Rocket’s Jessie and James aren’t straight.

The most obvious clue is in episode 52 of season three, entitled The Fortune Hunters.

In the episode, Team Rocket’s Butch (yes, the character’s name is Butch) and Cassidy – an obvious reference to American criminal Butch Cassidy – convince James his perfect Pokémon is the legendary fire bird Moltres.

Then James dresses up in a form-fitting Moltres costume and says: ‘I am a flaming Moltres!’

Meowth chimes in: ‘That outfit – where’d he get it?’

Then Jessie says: ‘I think that costume came right his closet.’

There’s also an episode of James with fake boobs that never made it to English-speaking audiences.

In the episode, both Jessie and James talk about their love of drag. Jessie prefers a more masculine look, while James loves embracing his feminine side.

James and Jessie. | Photo: Freja Wright /

The episode escalates with James getting a blow-up chest and competing against Jessie and Misty in a beach beauty contest.

Misty says: ‘James! I thought you were male!’

And James replies: ‘So what? As long as I’m beautiful, it doesn’t matter.’

James also says in one episode: ‘It’s times these that make me want to go straight.’

While it’s probably more ly he’s talking about going ‘straight’ – as in leaving a life of crime – many believe it’s an allusion to his sexuality.

But if Jessie and James are not gay, they’re at least asexual.

In Pokémon the Movie 2000: The Power of One, Jessie and James weigh in on marriage.

Jessie says: ‘Listen to me kid, when you get involved with the opposite sex you’re only asking for trouble.’

James replies: ‘Yes, and that’s the kind of trouble I stay !’

Team Rocket are gay/lesbian solidarity and Meowth is a messy bisexual.

— ✨ Hamish Steele ✨ (@hamishsteele) November 10, 2018

Transgender Pokéfans

In the first few games of the Pokémon franchise, users can choose the name of their playable character. Then in later instalments of the game, you can choose your own gender.

In Pokémon X, for example, Pokémon Professor Augustine Sycamore asks at the start of the game: ‘Are you a boy? Or are you a girl?’ They also offer options of skin tone.

And in the latest release, Pokémon Lets Go, they simply ask: ‘What do you look ?’

Pokémon X. | Photo: ZackScottGames /

Charlie, 23, is a trans man and says the reason he loves Pokémon is because ‘gender is practically meaningless in it’.

He told Gay Star News: ‘You have a lot of video games where women are sexualized, or you can only play as a male. In Pokémon, you can play as male or female and your powers and how others interact with you don’t change due to your presentation in the game.

‘Gym leaders can be women or men and they don’t make a female gym leader a joke,’ he said.

His favorite Pokémon is Eevee.

‘There’s so much potential of what it can be,’ Charlie said.

Eevee can evolve into eight different Pokémon – Jolteon, Flareon, Vaporean, Umbreon, Espeon, Leafeon, Glaceon and Sylveon.

‘It kinda gives me hope,’ Charlie said.

In the first ever Pokémon movie – Mewtwo Strikes Back – there is a widely-used quote in trans circles from Mewtwo.

In an epic battle, Mewtwo uses its psychic abilities to freeze Ash and then Pikachu tries to revive him with his electric shocks.

When Pikachu fails, he starts to cry. Pikachu’s tears then bring Ash back to life.

Mewtwo says: ‘I see now that the circumstances of one’s birth are irrelevant. It is what you do with the gift of life that determines who you are.’

Non-binary and gender fluid users

There are a bunch of genderless Pokémon.

According to Bulbapedia, there are 106 Pokémon that don’t have a gender. Just in the first generation alone, the genderless Pokémon include: Magnemite, Magneton, Staryu, Starmie, Voltorb, Electrode, Porygon, Mew, Mewtwo, Zapdos, Articuno and Moltres.

But one hugely popular genderless Pokémon from generation one is Ditto.

Ditto. | Photo: Alpha / Flickr

The little pink blob only has one move: Transform. It can transform into any Pokémon and mimic everything its opponent does.

For this reason, it’s become somewhat of a symbol for some people who identify as non-binary or gender fluid.

Dee, 32, identifies as femme non-binary and said they never felt boxed in to gender by the Pokémon games.

‘Un most games at the time, it did not create an aesthetic for the protagonist that I couldn’t identify with,’ Dee said. ‘It gave me a blank protagonist I could “decorate” whichever way I wanted.’

Pokémon Lets Go. | Photo: ZackScottGames /

When Pokémon Go first came out in 2016, the game asked users to choose their ‘style’ instead of their gender.

Fans praised the initiative as it was a clear move for non-binary and gender fluid players.

LGBTI people and escapism

As with any roleplaying game, the Pokémon games can be a way of LGBTI people to experience escapism from their everyday lives, choosing alternate realities for themselves.

Kieran Lowe, 30, from London has been playing Pokémon since it first came out. He leaned on Pokémon while growing up as a way to escape his childhood.

‘I was quite lonely and at that point didn’t have friendships that felt authentic,’ he said. ‘You get to set out on your own journey at puberty, to collect your own friends, who will love you so much they’ll fight for you.

‘And also they’re cute or fabulous creatures,’ he said.

Karl Slater, 35, from London also used Pokémon as a way of escapism. He said he was bullied at school and was also having problems at home.

He said: ‘Later in life, Pokémon became more connected to my queerness, openly collecting the toys and not being ashamed of it. Knowing that you can still be a man and enjoy child- things. Being a gay man, you don’t have to play by the rules of traditional masculinity.’

Karl added: ‘Maybe on some level, evolving a weak Pokémon into a stronger more powerful one told me I can always grow and evolve past any problems or identity issues I had coming to terms with my sexuality.’

David, 32, from London agrees.

He said: ‘If you were an awkward, shy, bullied 12-year-old, then Pokemon was a perfect escape.

‘It presented a world of possibilities where you could adventure and be in control,’ David said.

Misty at Flamecon 2018. | Photo: istolethetv / Flickr

It’s a similar story for Jack Flynn (not his real name) who is 24 and lives in Somerset, England.

He’s not out to his friends and family as gay and said playing Pokémon gives him a sense of power and control over his life.

‘I’ve always found Pokémon to make me feel oddly safe,’ Jack said. ‘Sort of a feeling that in that world, nothing bad can happen.

‘I have anxiety [so] I tend to freak out a lot. Pokémon has helped me relax.

‘[I] get quite anxious when it comes to gay stuff because I can’t be my true self at home, and I can do that in Pokémon,’ he said.

Using Pokémon to connect with others

One of the best things about the latest releases of the Pokémon franchise is its ability to connect LGBTI players.

With the rise of Pokémon Go and its gameplay that encourages people to connect, interact and meet other players in the real world, it’s caused a stir on social media.

Philip Normal, 36, says the ‘whole concept of Pokémon is about friendship’.

He continued: ‘I’ve experienced not only making new friends through the game, but bonding with people further that I already know.

‘From the beginning, Pokemon has celebrated people’s differences and different characters, and when you’re growing up and you know you’re a bit different, it’s good to have positive messaging,’ he said.

Pokémon Pride. | Photo: Nathan Rupert / Flickr

Kieran Lowe said he’s always had a passion for it, but has only recently utilized the game to make friends.

‘I only recently, via and London’s Gaymers group really realized how many other adult gay guys played Pokemon.

‘And I guess the popularity of Pokémon Go in 2016 made me less shy about it as a passion.

‘I thought it was pretty odd and geeky before that, and because I had no interest of interacting with your average (straight, younger) gamer online, I didn’t see it as a social thing,’ he said.

Adam Kaplan, 26, is a gay man from Glasgow and said Pokémon helps him connect to his colleagues at work in a slightly different way.

Pokémon helps him ‘perform his queerness’.

He said: ‘I’ve tended to work in places where I’ve been the only queer person or person my age.

‘I know I can’t speak in Drag Race quotes, Carly Rae Jepsen lyrics or come in wearing mesh – as much as I’ve been tempted – because it would just be too out there.

‘But I can come in wearing my Eeveelutions sweatshirt or have my Pokémon Go watch on and kind of represent myself in a way that’s still accessible to others.

‘It feels something intrinsically “me” that I can openly share and that people can understand and be positive about, which can be a rare feeling when you’re a queer person in a straight environment,’ he said.

It’s been over 20 years since the Pokémon franchise took over the world and it’s unly to go anywhere anytime soon.

Pokémon The Movie: The Power of Us is in cinemas in the UK and Ireland on 24 November and 1 December. Get tickets here.

More from Gay Star News

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The 7 gayest things to happen so far on Pokemon Go

How Gay Is Pokémon Go?

Pokemon Go mania is reaching its height, as the popular mobile app continues its global domination.

The massively popular mobile game Pokémon Go sees players travel around the real world in search of virtual Pokémon, allowing them to take part in gym battles and seek out PokéStops.

A few weeks on from release, we look back at some of our favourite Pokémon Go moments so far.

1. A big gay fairy took over the Westboro Baptist Church

One early Pokémon Go user noticed that ‘God Hates Fags’ hate group the Westboro Baptist Church was listed as a Pokémon gym on the app.

The user – nicknamed ‘PinkNose’ – decided to take over the gym, with help of an extra-flamboyant Clefairy named LoveisLove.

However, the group was quick to retaliate – using popular Pokémon Jigglypuff.

A Westboro elder said: “Pokémon Go and sin no more. That’s what the lord Jesus Christ said.”

Though many of the locations in Pokémon Go are randomly generated, the locations of Pokemon Gyms and Pokéstops are not – and it is thought they are user submissions from a previous game, Ingress.

Ingress allowed players to tag local landmarks such as churches and artworks, which developer Niantic has dutifully copied over to Pokemon Go.

However, it turns out a ton of Ingress players managed to sneak a number of unintended locations past the approval filters in the past: with everything from graves to porn shops dutifully copied over into Pokémon Go. And a LOT of gay clubs.

3. Pokémon Go players sent some seriously disturbing d*ck pics

The latest Pokémon Go trend is a deeply disturbing one – Diglett dick picks.

Taking full advantage of the game’s AR mode, players are now composing photos of the innocent little Pokémon bursting through zippers across the globe, looking slightly confused as to how they got there.

4. People asked to stop trying to catch Pokémon inside Auschwitz and Holocaust Museum

There’s some places that you probably shouldn’t be focused on catching Pokémon – as demonstrated by appeals from the Holocaust Museum and former Auchwitz concentration camp, both of which have been listed as in-game ‘PokéStops’.

The two locations, which commemorate the millions of Jewish people who were persecuted alongside other minorities including the disabled and LGBT people, have both put out appeals asking people to stop hunting for Pokémon on their premises.

Andrew Hollinger, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s communication’s director, told USA Today that it was inappropriate for the museum to be listed in the game, appealing to developer Niantic to remove it.

He said: “Technology can be an important learning tool, but this game falls far outside our educational and memorial mission.”

Meanwhile, the memorial at the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp has also asked for people to not play the game.

They tweeted to Niantic: “Do not allow playing ‘Pokémon Go’ on the site of our Memorial and similar places. It’s disrespectful to the memory of victims!”

5. Pokémon Go evolved into gay erotic novel of ‘digital monster love’

Author Chuck Tingle made the swift decision to cash in on the game’s popularity, quickly penning an erotic tale of “digital monster love”.

Amazon describes the aptly named ‘Pokebutt Go’ as a 4,000-word erotic tale of “sizzling human on gay Pokebutt action, including anal, blowjobs, rough sex, cream pies, and digital monster love.”

“Torbit is worried. After witnessing a slew of dazed roaming men and women buried in their phones, he’s beginning to think that this might be the start of a terrifying zombie film,” the book’s synopsis reads.

“Upon further investigation, however, Torbit realises that they are all playing a hot new mobile game, ‘Pokebutt Go.’

“Curious to see what all of the fuss is about, Torbit plugs in and sets out to capture a nearby Pokebutt within his own balls, but when he arrives at the location of this rare beast, Torbit suddenly realises that he might have bitten off more than he can chew.

Our protagonist eventually comes “face-to-face with a handsome yellow big foot named Peebaroo”.

However, Torbit soon realises that the only way to catch this “majestic creature, is within the depths of his own butt.”

6. A Pokémon Go-Grindr hybrid app became thing

Project Fixup, a dating website that encourages people to meet in person, has launched PokéDates.

Similar to Grindr, Pokémon Go harnesses a phone’s GPS to track your movements in the real world and moves you a step closer to becoming a true Pokémon master.

The website gives fans of the game the chance to meet people and get to know each other as they go out hunting Pokémon.

The app is tailored to allow gay, bisexual or straight people to find the matches they’re after.

7. Someone designed this horrific condom-shaped Pokémon to haunt your nightmares and prevent STIs

Sexual health organisation Planned Parenthood introduced the world to a brand new creature – who looks suspiciously a condom.

Planned Parenthood say the critter will protect its owner from a host of nasty STIs, whilst also reducing the risk of unwanted or unplanned pregnancies.

“There are some things you don’t want to catch. Reminder: Condoms help prevent both pregnancy and STDs. #PokemonGo #CatchEmAll #SaferSex”, the organisation wrote on .

“When you don’t want to #CatchEmAll, condoms help prevent pregnancy and STDs.”


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