Ever since their launch back in the 1980s, there’s always been More Than Meets The Eye when it comes to The Transformers – and in current year’s Transformers Earthspark, that translates to the series’ signature robots experiencing the Cybertronian equivalent of gender dysphoria.
Releasing all ten episodes of its first season to Paramount+ on November 11th, the latest CGI installment of the legendary robot series is set long after the conclusion of the Autobot-Decepticon civil war and follows the story of Robby and Morgan “Mo Malto”, two humans who end up discovering that the Cybertronians had previously set down roots in their new hometown of Witwicky, Pennsylvania.
Using custom ‘cyber-sleeves’, Robby and Mo end up establishing emotional connections to the first two Earth-born (or Terran) Transformers, Twitch and Trash.
Throughout the series, the Maltos work together with the Autobots, as well as Megatron via the GHOST organization, to protect the Earth from not only the remaining Decepticon forces, but also any other threat that comes their way.
The existence of the franchise’s first supposed nonbinary machine is revealed in the series’ two-part season finale, Age of Evolution.
During a scene wherein Optimus is walking his team through an upcoming raid of the villain Mandroid’s lair, the Autobot leader can be seen using random household objects, such as soda bottles, cups, and even toys, to represent the terrain and his allies, respectively.
Upon seeing the toys being as a stand-in for the Autobots and the Maltos, Nightshade takes notice of a penguin bobblehead before proceeding to ask his leader if he can be represent by it on the board.
Caught off guard by this request, Optimus hesitates as he begins to answer, finding himself confused as to just which pronouns to use in reference to the Terran Transformer.
Seeking to break the tension, Mo steps in for Nightshade and, after exchanging an acknowledging nod with the Autobot, turns to tell Optimus, “Nightshade’s pronouns are they/them.”
Nightshade then quickly and confidently follows-up Mo’s reveal by affirming, “He or she just doesn’t fit with who I am.”
Notably, though many – including those in the mainstream media – have taken to declaring that Nightshade is the series’ first nonbinary Cybertronian, this celebration is but yet another example of contemporary writers and idelogues ignoring the past in favor of easy social media brownie points.
In the second season of Beast Wars, audiences were introduced to Transmutate, a Cybertronian whose spark and physical body were heavily damaged during the Maximals’ crash landing on Earth, thus leaving them with an admittedly-terrifying skeletal appearance and an innocent personality akin to that of a newborn child.
As per the episode’s script, the Transmutate was designed by the series’ writers as “a being with no beauty of form nor logic of shape, massive, made of unmatched parts: bits of Predacon, pieces of Maximal, chunks of Fuzor and Transmetal, heavy-duty weapons, and a face that vaguely indicates it is female.”
However, despite its somewhat feminine face – long-speculated by fans to be a remnant of their original, un-damaged existence – Transmutate was never addressed by any specific gender by either the Maximals, the Predacons, or itself.
Rather, throughout the episode, Transmutate is always referred to with the non-gender-specific ‘It’.
And while a technical argument could be made that Transmutate was not a proper Transformer due to its damaged nature, it still nonetheless laid the foundation – almost 25 years ago – for the reveal that the media is so lavisly praising EarthSpark for doing now.
Unsurprisingly, Nightshade is but the latest member of the Transformers to join the ranks of the Cybertronian alphabet squad in recent years.
In 2018, IDW revealed that a number of previously-established series mainstays were some form of LGBT.
The first to be undergo this change was the classic 1986 female Transformer Arcee, who in 2018’s Optimus Prime Vol. 1 #25 was retconned into being a “Cybertronian equivalent” of a male-to-female transgender individual.
Next up were Autobots Ratchet and Drift, who were retconned into being each other’s same-sex Conjunx Endura – the Cybertronian version of ‘husband/wife’ – during the events of 2018’s The Transformers: Lost Light Vol. 1 #25.