In celebration of Transgender Awareness Week, we wanted to highlight just one of the amazing talents in esports – Layla Abbott. Her journey in the industry has had its ups and downs, but Layla has now formed a community that supports her for who she is.
We spoke to Layla to find out more about her time in esports, as well as her journey as a Transgender woman.
Where it all began:
From streaming in her bedroom to casting the Splatoon 2 UK Championship finals, Layla Abbott has flourished in the esports community.
Going by TK_Layla online, she streams and casts various games on Twitch, and has managed to make her mark on the industry. Layla has been streaming for several years and continues to do it as her full-time job.
“My very first stream was November 2013. It always feels weird saying it, but my first ever stream was part of a 24-hour gaming stint where me and my wife were involved with a couple of friends. I definitely learned a lot about streaming that day, and sort of went into it from there.”
Gaming has been a massive influence on Layla’s life, with her growing up playing various games with her family.
“I’ve grown up with gaming, and I’ve pretty much been through all of the consoles, and all of the console wars. My family was never at the point of ‘oh there’s a console war we have to pick one or the other’ – we had as many as we could potentially get hold of,” Layla said.
She added: “It’s been awesome to play through a lot of these games at such a young age and going back to some of them and realising how difficult some of these were – or actually how much easier some of these are now!”
Now, Layla plays and casts several different games, but mainly enjoys Nintendo titles – especially Splatoon 2. She also casts for games such as Arms, Rocket League, Valorant and Overwatch.
“Splatoon was very much the main game that I clicked with, and I went ‘I want to stream this, I want to do more stuff with it’, and eventually that led to wanting to do commentary.”
Gaming has not been the only turning point in Layla’s life – she is an openly transgender woman.
Between 2012 and 2016, Layla considered herself to be gender-fluid, and came out officially in the Summer of 2016 as a transgender woman.
Layla explained: “It was a bit of a hard moment having seen so many negative stories. I told close friends first and slowly came out over the weeks and months. Everybody was supportive, some people knew from the get-go, my mum was pretty much like ‘yeah I’m not surprised!’.
“My wife took it a bit harder, cause obviously she married me as my previous name. But, over the next year or so, she very much caught up with it and she came out as being demi-girl and pansexual, so it rolled into its own ball,” Layla stated.
Layla had been streaming before her transition, but she did not let that stop her from continuing what she loves most. However, with streaming generally comes toxicity – and Layla was determined not to let anyone online get her down.
She explained: “I was quite nervous because we know how many negative trolls are out there. They like to rear their head and be like ‘oh you’re a guy’ – no I am not. Luckily nowadays, it does not happen as much, and thankfully I have friends and I have moderators who are very quick to squish them down.”
Layla held onto an incredible amount of courage through her transition and has managed to create a welcoming community on her Twitch – and now even being an affiliate on the platform.
“I want to have a community that is very much oozing out as much openness as possible!” Layla explained.
Road to the champs:
After being able to showcase who she really is, Layla was invited to be a caster for the Splatoon 2 UK Championships in 2018 – which was a dream come true for her.
Layla said: “I didn’t even think I was going to be anywhere near that kind of scene, but I got asked to do two of the UK Championship qualifier stints, one at Insomnia and then one at EGX. This is what led me to being called up to do the finals at MCM Birmingham later that year.”
“I was surrounded by friends I had made along the way, my wife was in the crowd, I had a great caster alongside me in the form of Bowie Alexander (aka BowieTheHero), and knowing that Hasashi Nogami, the director of Splatoon 2 himself, was there as well as a guest was just like the stars aligned.”
Since then, Layla has cast and hosted several tournaments, including ones in Arms, and the British Esports Associations’ Huntress Trials for Valorant.
Now that Layla has been able to cast for a UK Championship series, her ultimate goal is to be able to cast for a European, and eventually a World Championship. But until then, she will continue inspiring many, as well as producing amazing gaming content to share with the world.