Within esports, there are so many different people that make up the industry, and the LGBTQ+ community is a huge part of that. In this piece, we hope to highlight and showcase some of the amazing groups in the industry that promote the inclusivity of all.
There are several organisations within esports working to promote further inclusivity. As of a study conducted by UKIE in 2020, LGBTQ+ people make up 21% of the gaming industry, which is a large portion.
However, there are still areas of improvement in the industry, especially surrounding inclusion of LGBTQ+.
There is a distinct lack of representation for the LGBTQ+ community in the esports industry. However, steps are being taken to further promote the diverse range of individuals in esports.
More positive representations are becoming more prevalent, especially within the games themselves.
Games publishers have begun to show their support in different ways – varying from characters being openly LGBTQ+, to in-game cosmetics.
Some good examples of character diversity are:
Tracer from Overwatch, who ‘in her comic debut, she is revealed to be a lesbian, a depiction that was positively received by media outlets and players.’
Bloodhound from Apex Legends, whose identity “is a mystery wrapped in layers of rumors… they are non-binary, or at least not specified in terms of gender.”
Neeko from League of Legends – the first openly gay character recognised by Riot Games, with Neeko being ‘a genderfluid lesbian’.
As well as this, you see support shown through the use of in-game cosmetics – with one example being the pride flag available across several different titles, including Rocket League, Warzone, and Valorant.
With the games studios promoting positive representations, the industry is also working to promote individuals.
Caster James ‘Stress’ O’Leary (He/Him) is one of many individuals that are open about their sexuality and hope to showcase that esports is for everyone.
James told Outsports in an interview: “I don’t want this to sound like I’m a man on a mission to fix everything myself, because that’s absolutely not the case. But I don’t think it can hurt having more representation from every walk of life in the media. Especially those that feel comfortable to stand up and say that this is who I am. I’m proud to be this person and, if you’re like me, come stand with me. That right there is what I think empowers people to feel welcome.”
NUEL Creative Director Natacha ‘Sunkern’ Jones (She/Her) told Esports News UK: “I think esports is making steady progress. Seeing people like JessGOAT, Fluke and Froskurinn on tier one broadcasts is amazing, and I think esports is ahead of traditional sports and TV in its on-air representation of LGBTQIA+ folks. Off-air, I feel like there’s less representation – we don’t see enough openly LGBTQIA+ people running esports companies or teams, speaking on panels or at conferences.”
By having further representation of those within the LGBTQ+ community on-screen and promoting positivity, the industry will continue to flourish.
In the industry, it’s very important to make sure everyone feels welcome, by being able to express themselves. With the introduction of pronouns to social media platforms, this is a really good start for the industry to allow individuals to state how they want to be identified.
On platforms like LinkedIn and Instagram, you’re now able to state what pronouns you go by – which gives individuals more clarity on their social platforms.
Although the explicit use of pronouns is something that has been associated with LGBTQ+, anyone can use the social features to showcase more of their identity in the industry.
Kally Taylor (She/They), Stream Lead and Community Manager at Vulpine Esports, said: “We’re seeing it become more of the norm to attach pronouns to bios on Twitter and more players, casters and staff within esports who are openly on the LGBTQ+ spectrum.”
“It’s so great to see casters asking for player’s pronouns before a match so they don’t misgender during the broadcast – props to the casters who do that! Let’s get more of that in the space too.”
Toxicity towards minority groups is quite prevalent in esports, and things need to change.
People use being gay as an insult in and out of games, and homophobic behaviours have crept up before. These are seriously looked down upon by the industry, and communities are working to eliminate all instances of homophobia in esports.
In order for change to be made, organisations need to openly show their support for a more positive and welcoming esports environment – and this is gradually happening across the whole industry.
Some ways of which organisations can do this include:
– Sharing the work of and celebrating LGBTQ+ individuals
– Incorporating the pride flag into their logo (mainly done during Pride Month)
– Creating content to promote and celebrate those who identify as LGBTQ+
– Making everyone feel welcome and wanting to approach your organisation
Although this is not an in-depth guide, organisations can start out with these small steps to make themselves more inclusive, and celebrate!
Em ‘Fluke’ Donaldson (She/Her), R6 Caster, said: “Gaming, on its origins, is a nerdy and retreative pass-time. To absolutely no surprise that’s led statistically to a large number of those in our community to be big into games, those that enjoyed the comfort of a company that welcomed them, because they set the terms.”
“Esports is no different, but it is at a bit of a hot-temperature moment. Scenes are erupting, there is a lot of heat around it and it brings these other cultural arguments into the forefront because people attempt to demand spaces from each other. Some forget that not every scene is a warzone.”
“But those are the vocal minority regardless of how loud they may feel,” she added.
Kally also added: “It’s so important for every team out there from the grassroots all the way up to the franchises, to foster a supportive environment for their players and fans, especially for those who identify as LGBTQ+; they may not have the same luxury outside of gaming to feel safe.”
Changes are being made across all sectors of esports in order to promote a positive and welcoming environment for all. With several groups and organisations coming together to celebrate LGBTQ+ individuals, esports can continue developing into an incredibly diverse space.