It isn’t game over in the fight for more LGBTQ+ representation in gaming and these five professional esports players are proving above and beyond that the competitive gaming scene has more than enough room for people of all genders and sexualities. Before pride month ends, let’s celebrate five outstanding players breaking through esports’ rainbow glass ceiling!
Who says esports are only for kings?
The new king is a queen. #BreakTheCode pic.twitter.com/KzRzfaL7QOFEATURED STORIES
— Blacklist International (@BLACKLISTINTL) May 31, 2021
Team Captain Johnmar “OhMyV33nus” Villaluna, affectionately called the Queen by fans, led Blacklist International to victory at the season 7 Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Professional League Philippines (MPL PH). With the veteran mid laner at the helm, Blacklist International saw an almost undefeated run throughout the season, dropping only one series to the season 6 MPL PH champions, Bren Esports.
After being the target of homophobic comments during a broadcasted match, OhMyV33nus took to Facebook to address the situation.
“As a member of LGBTQ+ Community, and a pro player of MPL-PH, I do stand to fight hindi lang para manalo, kundi maging inspiration to each member of my community,” he wrote. “I will use any platforms that I can to spread awareness about how homophobic slurs affect a member of LGBTQ+ and how to turn that negativity into inspiration to keep moving forward.”
Conquering MPL PH is just the start for this Queen as OhMyV33nus and Blacklist International are the Philippine representatives to the 2021 Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Southeast Asia Cup.
won my first match #REVMajor2019 pic.twitter.com/CpFRDFA2BK
— Alexa Asahina (@alexaasahina) September 28, 2019
Alexa “Asahina” Gabriel is not one to be underestimated. Having competed in League of Legends as Ardent Esports’ mid laner and as a competitor for Tekken7, Asahina proves proficient in every game she touches. Bandai Namco has even referred to her as one of the Philippines’ Tekken Queens.
In an interview with One Esports about being a transgender woman in a male-dominated scene, Asahina said that “what’s great about video games, in general, is that for a couple of minutes of your life you are not you — you are your character. That’s why video games are so addicting because it’s an escape, and for that three minutes worth of match I had, I was Lili, I was Eliza. For me gender is not significant — you can be whoever you want, whatever you want, whatever you want to look like. We’re all equal when it comes to video games.”
Image via Riot Games
Nick “LS” De Cesare is a name known to every League of Legends player, but before he broke through the League of Legends scene, LS, previously known as Last Shadow, found his start in StarCraft. However, his competitive career would be halted when he was caught cheating and essentially banned from the community. Heading to South Korea for a brand new start, LS transitioned to League of Legends, not as a player, but as a coach and analyst. He would eventually be immortalized in the game when an update in March 2021 added the ability to use the search terms “LS” and “Last Shadow” in the in-game shop resulting in displaying the items Liandry’s Anguish and Morellonomicon, items LS has been associated with in the community.
In 2020, a leaked conversation revealed that T1, the world-renowned South Korean esports organization, was looking into signing LS as their League of Legends coach. Being American and openly gay, LS found himself in the middle of xenophobic and homophobic attacks from T1’s hardcore fans, including having his grandmother doxxed. LS did not end up signing for T1 and the org would eventually release a statement informing that moderators involved in the incidents have left and internal discussions involving all T1 staff regarding social media policy and communication guidelines.
Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn at North American Star League Season 3 | Photo by Kevin Chang/Team Liquid
Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn, also known as the queen of StarCraft II, is the first woman to win a major Starcraft II tournament. In 2016, she was published in the Guinness Book of Records for having the highest career earnings for a female competitive video game player. Scarlett has also been referred to as the Korean Kryptonite for being one of the few foreigners to defeat Korean players in major tournaments, a difficult feat considering South Korea’s proficient StarCraft II competitive scene.
During her victory in the Iron Lady, Scarlett, a transwoman, was faced with backlash from transphobic players outcrying her involvement in the exclusively female StarCraft II tournament.
“It is true I am [male-to-female] transgender, and I kinda expected this reaction,” Scarlett wrote on a fan blog about the situation. “I have never tried to bring attention to myself for anything other than my play, so I don’t feel like this should be a big deal. In terms of actual play, there is (as far as I know) no advantage to being born male or female.”
Dominique “SonicFox” McLean at the 2018 Game Awards | Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
Dominique “SonicFox” McLean is not your average player. Fighting game extraordinaire, SonicFox has gone down in history as one of the greatest esports players of all time conquering the scenes of four different fighting games to be a five-time Evolution Championship Series champion. Included in Forbes’ “30 Under 30” in the Games category, SonicFox is well-known for dominating the fighting game scene and their openness about being a member of the queer, nonbinary, and furry communities.
“I guess I wanna say this is a big honour,” SonicFox said about being voted the Best Esports Player at the 2018 Game Awards. “I really, really enjoy playing video games competitively. I’ve never really done it for the fame, I kinda just enjoy the rush of beating people up, y’know?”
Of course, there are more to these five outstanding players than their queerness, but their skills and titles speak for themselves as these players pave the way for queer voices in the heavily heteronormative field of esports. While queer players continue to face homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of bigotry, the rainbow glass ceiling can feel as daunting as ever before. But if there’s one thing these five players prove, it’s that rainbows can pass through glass.
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