Trans Samus Incident
Whilst Brianna Wu's tendency to stir controversy to get attention is well known, the best-known and likewise most-infamous incident involving Brianna Wu openly exhibiting this behavior occurred on August 31st, 2015 when Brianna Wu retweeted a widely-disproven theory that Samus Aran, the female protagonist of the Metroid series, was transgendered, resulting in what has come to be known as the Trans Samus Incident.
This particular idea stems from an infamous 1994 interview with one of the graphic artists who was involved in Metroid's development. This interview exists solely in Japanese, and stems from the graphic designer Hirofumi Matsuoka (who has a history of making risque jokes). In the interview, he jokingly says Samus is a "Newhalf," (a Japanese derogatory slang mixed-race people; fitting, as Samus is half-Chozo; It's also a derogatory term for a transsexual). He's made similar jokes on other occasions as well.
The theory has been widely-discredited for years, being directly opposed by both every official material Nintendo has ever released, multiple scenes in the various Metroid games, and more, but it's gained notoriety in the last five years because of claiming to be trans is trendy and in vogue now, so the theory is widely talked about on Tumblr and Twitter despite having no official legitimacy whatsoever. Indeed, Yoshio Sakamoto himself, one of the main developers of Metroid, dismissed the "Samus is Trans" thing as a joke himself in 2004.
Enter Brianna Wu, who together with long-term associate/hatchet-woman Maddy Myers of The Mary Sue, elected to put up an article claiming that this notorious bit of a bad joke gone berserk is totally true and anyone who disagrees is wrong. She then proceeded to double down on it, even as her comment section proceeded to blow up as Wu and several of her associates continued to rattle off said disproven theory as if it were accurate.
The entire thing reeks of an attempt by Wu to try to force the spotlight onto herself and seem important, though one can easily point out the irony of someone who complains so much about female representation in games (see the very same things Wu bitched about above) is now doing her part to say that one of the best-known female characters in video gaming was born male. Fittingly enough, a lot of Brianna Wu's followers proceeded to get blocked by Wu when they dared to question her over this - and moreover, when she doubled down, saying that denying her Trans Samus nonsense killed transpeople. Suffice to say, Wu caught enormous flak, which she dismissed mostly by accusing everyone who disagreed with her of being transphobic, even as it became apparent she had been caught in a lie.
Things didn't end there, either. Soon after, a barrage of attempts were made to edit Wikipedia. The edits focused extensively on adding the "Samus is Trans" angle pushed by Maddy Myers and Brianna Wu, but things became a little more interesting when, apropos of nothing, the main editor adding these updates was accused of being Brianna Wu herself. Whilst this does mesh with many accusations about Wu previously (A personal friend of Brianna Wu's, a Wikipedia Admin known as Sandstein, was the person who wrote Wu's Wikipedia article, for example. He also prevented it from being deleted for lack of relevance), thankfully, Wu most assuredly was not the one who did this. Soon after, the mystery editor trying to add Samus being Trans to Wikipedia was banned and the article was reverted.. The actual culprit responsible for the Wikipedia updates would become visible in due time.
An enormous number of Brianna Wu's supporters, even die-hards in GamerGate opposition, wound up calling Wu to task over this incident - since the entire thing that Wu tried to claim was evidence of Samus Aran being trans was - arguably - an openly transphobic off-color joke made by a member of the Metroid team - in essence, completely undermining the entire argument. There is literally no evidence to support that Samus Aran is transgendered other than said joke. The damage this did to Wu's credibility online, amazingly, was easily among the heaviest Wu suffered so far - she lost, by all accounts, over 100 followers and blocked about four times that number, to say nothing of how many Wu pushed to have banned via her friends in Twitter's leadership. The incident caused an immediate ripple effect as well-meaning people immediately began to discuss how Wu was blocking people for being caught in a lie.
The plot only proceeded to thicken when Kadybat, the original proponent of the Trans Samus theory being added to Wikipedia, later had a complete meltdown when said theory was removed from the article and reverted, admitting openly that she cared nothing about the game, series, characters, canon, authorial intent, etc, and admitted openly that she did it solely because she wanted to "appropriate" characters and "take away from cis people." It's important to note that a number of posts Kadybat made (and subsequently deleted) indicated that she was, indeed, the one who intiially put the posts on Wikipedia, but without evidence this must be considered conjecture.
Wu entered full-fledged damage control with Myers soon after this, because the pair had essentially systemically incensed everyone from Transgender rights activists (who called Wu and Myers both out for being openly transphobic with how she used this theory), fans of the Metroid franchise (who will fight to the death to defend the canon of their franchise, as any fandom with an established history will), GamerGate supporters (since Wu was at it again), GamerGate opponents (who correctly accused Brianna Wu of being a troll and doing this entire stunt for attention), Feminists (who were demanding to know why Brianna Wu and Maddy Myers were trying to erase the identity of one of video gaming's most beloved female characters by saying she was born male), and even several in the press, who accused Wu and Myers of sensationalizing the entire incident with their "ready to light the internet on fire?" posts.
Myers heavily redacted and reworded the original article after it went up, heavily blunting how confrontational the original was in an effort to make the incident seem less like the entire incident had blown up in Wu and Myers' faces, but by this point the damage, as we say, was already done. In spite of all this, Wu went gone on to double down on her trying to make this the hill she'd proverbially die on, continuing to declare it to be the case long after it had been comprehensively debunked.
Finally, to drive home the full truth of this entire ordeal, it became known soon after that Brianna Wu knew the actual truth about how false her allegedly-vital Samus Trans Theory was, months before she did anything with it - but that Wu elected to sensationalize it later anyway, knowing well in advance that it was patently false.
- Metroid Database - Promotional Materials
- Metroid Wiki - Hirofumi Matsuoka
- /r/Metroid - This Legit or Bullshit?
- Mombot's Twitter - Wu is Lying About Samus
- The Mary Sue - Samus Aran is a Transgender Woman. Deal With It.
- Brianna Wu's Twitter - JUST ACCEPT THAT SAMUS BEING TRANS IS CANNON
- Brianna Wu - Denying my Headcanons Murders Transpeople
- Brianna Wu's Twitter - Disagreeing with me about Trans Samus is Transphobic
- KotakuInAction - Brianna Wu trying to get Samus's Wikipedia entry changed to define the character as a transwoman; Describes Brianna Wu as a "reputable author"
- Wikipedia - Sandstein's User Page
- Creation log of Wikipedia's Brianna Wu Article
- Wikipedia - IP Address of the Mystery Editor
- Gamerghazi - Well, That Escalated Quickly
- BBSeal's Twitter - A Collection of Posts about Wu's Trans Samus Incident
- Kadybat's Twitter - This is Militant Queerness
- Izzy Galvarez's Twitter - Brianna Wu is a Troll
- Brianna Wu's Twitter - Ready to Set the Internet on Fire?
- Brianna Wu's Twitter - Samus is Trans?