Meet the trans Pokémon voice actor who quietly broke boundaries and inspired countless fans

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  • Maddie Blaustein
    American voice actress (1960-2008)

Any Pokémon fan can recall the voice of Team Rocket’s sidekick Meowth, but fewer might know about the trans actor behind the beloved character.

Meowth is one of the few Pokémon throughout the show’s decades-long history to ever speak, and the cat-like creature remains a distinguished feature in the series.

Pokémon has captured the imaginations and hearts of millions of fans worldwide. And it’s thanks to Maddie Blaustein that anyone who grew up watching the English dubbed show in the late 90s and early 00s can now hear Meowth’s nasally voice in the recesses of their memory.

Blaustein took over the role of Meowth from Nathan Price and remained as the voice of the iconic character from 1997 to 2005. Her work as the wise-cracking mascot of Team Rocket was featured both on the beloved TV show and in several Pokémon movies.

She was also a nerdy powerhouse, voicing several well-known characters in the anime world. Blaustein portrayed Solomon Moto, the grandfather of series’ hero Yugi, in Yu-Gi-Oh and Dr Kureha on the 4Kids Dub of long-running anime One Piece.

Not much about Blaustein’s early life is known. Blaustein was born intersex in 1960 and transitioned to female later in life, Dazed reported.

Before she began voice acting, Blaustein worked for Marvel Comics in the 80s and eventually wrote for DC Comics in the 90s.

She even created her own comic titled Deathwish, which featured trans policewoman ​​Marisa Rahm. Rahm was among the first trans heroes featured in mainstream superhero comics, according to BleedingCool.

Still, Maddie Blaustein is most remembered for her portrayal of Meowth in the Pokémon universe, a collaboration that lasted for eight years.

Eric Stuart, the voice actor behind Pokémon character Brock and Team Rocket’s James, told them that he directed Blaustein in more than 300 episodes of the show.

He shared that he was “one of the few people who followed what name and pronouns” Blaustein preferred, but there were “many, many times where people wouldn’t do it”.

“There were times that I could see that this wasn’t the easiest thing for her to deal with – in her career choice and with her family,” Stuart said. “But she didn’t take it out on us, on her work, or on me.”

He continued: “Instead, she came into work and tried to find ways to steal the show. And in many ways, she did just that.”

Before her death from an untreated stomach virus in 2008, she inspired fans and encouraged them to live their truth.

Her brother Jeremy remembered how his sister was an active participant on Second Life, an online virtual world, and became one of the founders of the first self-governed city in-game.

Jeremy told them that Blaustein “created a great space for transgender people in Second Life”. He believed Blaustein “gave a lot of encouragement to people” by “visibly coming out as she did”.

Blaustein’s legacy still lives on through her work on Pokémon and the fundamental impact she had on trans representation in voice acting. Stuart shared that he wished Blaustein was still alive to connect with fans and see how her work affected the anime community.

“Everyone thinks they’re the only quirky kid who doesn’t fit in; the one who’s trying to find their identity,” Stuart told them. “And in those arenas, if Maddie was a part of them, they might think, ‘OK, here’s this successful voice actor and…your life story… doesn’t define your craft – it just happens to be who you are.’”

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