January 14, 2019
Over this last winter break from college, I finally played through Ocarina of Time in its entirety. It’s a bit of a long story as to how it took this long, but needless to say, it’s done. I’m glad I waited until now, though. And that’s because of Sheik. See, I’m non-binary. I’m not male and I’m not female. In a lot of ways, neither is Sheik. Sheik, to me and a lot of other non-binary people, is a bit of an icon.
Before you start thinking this is some weird SJW stuff, I want you to suspend your disbelief for a moment. Sheik is referred to throughout Ocarina of Time as male. Ruto is hinted to have a bit of a crush on him. It is only after you free all the sages that Sheik is revealed to have been Zelda this whole time. But Sheik also uses what appears to be Sheikah illusion magic to change appearance, giving him red eyes and a more androgynous appearance. Sheik isn’t just Zelda in drag, though; he’s his own distinct character. But while Zelda refers to herself as female and is read as such, Sheik never does that. He’s just androgynous enough that, until you see Ruto call him a man, you don’t really know if he’s a man or a woman. I’ve seen a variety of pronouns used for Sheik, and in my opinion, both of them work.
Now, Zelda and Sheik are the same person. There’s a reason why both characters could be accessed by playing as Zelda in Smash Bros for so long. But that shows an identity like so, so many of us in the transgender and non-binary community. There are parts of us and parts of me that are more feminine, and parts of me that are more masculine or not quite anything at all. Zelda/Sheik exists outside that restriction in Ocarina of Time. And I love that.
This matters to me and other non-binary people. I’m glad I waited until I was 22 to play this game because I am more comfortable in my own skin now than I was when I was younger. I can now see those parallels better and with greater ease. It’s so cool to see a character who appears to exist outside the typical binary idea of gender, like me, in such a popular and important game like Ocarina of Time. It means something to play a game and see yourself in the characters you play as and interact with. It’s a beautiful feeling. And the fact that I got that experience from a Zelda game, a franchise I have grown up with and have loved for my whole life, made it all the better.