The Legend of Zelda community claims Link is gay even though Nintendo denies it
The beloved and iconic protagonist of The Legend of Zelda, Link, is being labeled by the game’s fan community as a gay character even though Nintendo strongly denies it.
Among those stories, more than 300 are tagged with “Trans Link,” and nearly 2,000 feature Link in a romantic relationship with Prince Sidon (or Ganondorf, for you enemies-to-lovers fans). AO3 may not be the only metric for how many Zelda fans interpret Link as gay and/or transgender, but it’s one of the most important. This comes as no surprise, as fans have been speculating about Link’s gender and sexuality since at least 2009, though he’s actually been on queer gamers’ minds since The Legend of Zelda first released in Japan in 1986.
Nintendo has denied rumors that Link is queer. In a 2015 interview with Kotaku, Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma said that Link “He’s not gay. He’s just a weird person.”. However, while Aonuma shut down speculation about Link’s sexuality within the franchise’s canon, Link’s statement also opened the door for more fan interpretation.
For a long time, weirdness has been inextricably linked to queerness, even beyond the etymological connection. For decades, heteronormativity has forced queer people to exist on the fringes of society.
Happy Pride Month! Here is a list of indisputably queer characters in the Legend of Zelda series pic.twitter.com/xeRvLwMC6P
—adam (@adamjmoussa) June 17, 2018
In art, it’s common to see queer-coded monsters and especially queer-coded villains, particularly since the Hays Code prohibited on-screen depictions of homosexuality.
Historically, queerness has been labeled a form of depravity, and queer rights continue to be under threat today, as anti-LGBTQ legislation skyrocketed in 2022. Given this history and political climate, as well as the propensity of fans Sticking to their theories regardless of canon, queer Zelda fans haven’t let what Aonuma has to say stop them from their own interpretations of the iconic character. This became especially apparent during the lead up to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
“During the Ocarina of Time days, I wanted Link to be gender neutral”. He wanted the player to think “Maybe Link is a boy or a girl.” If you see Link as a man, he would have a more feminine touch. Or vice versa, if you related to Link as a girl, he was more masculine looking,” Aonuma told Time. “I really wanted the designer to embrace a more gender-neutral figure.”
The relationship between Sidon and Link has been explored in all manner of fanwork since the game’s release, including fanfictions ranging from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands of words per story, as well as mature comics and plenty of racy fan art.
For now, the ambiguity of Link’s gender and relationships allows players to do whatever they want with his characterization and history. Nintendo’s androgynous designs leave room for players to choose how they identify with Link, or other potentially quirky characters from the franchise, like Sheik from Ocarina of Time, and produce fan content that aligns with their views. Although Nintendo insists that Link is straight and cisgender, fans have expanded the Zelda universe with LGBTQIA+ characters and queer readings of the Zelda games.