UPDATE 10/5/17 5:00AM: This story seems to have been based on a hoax designed to get BuzzFeed and, by extension, other sites to publish an inaccurate news article. Sly Buehl Rigilio is quoted in a new article on Infowars saying that he and his friends posed as trans women to trick BuzzFeed “for the laughs”.
It appears, based on screenshots in the BuzzFeed story and based on comments from the ESL, that Rigilio and co really did try to enter a women’s CSGO tournament, and they did correspond with ESL. Rigilio claimed to Infowars, however, that he’s not trans, and it was all a big prank. He pointed to his team’s name as a giveaway. It’s associated with a small, troll-y YouTube channel. I should’ve noticed that red flag, but didn’t. In reporting this story, we’d taken Riglio and the ESL, who appear to also have been duped, at their word.
When this sort of prank gains widespread publicity, it makes people and organisations more likely to distrust actual trans people. By failing to adequately vet this story, I gave it more publicity. This should never have made it to our site. We should have been more sceptical in reporting this story, and I apologise to our readers for this mistake.
The original story follows...
Late last week, news broke that a women's CSGO tournament hosted by ESL rejected a team of trans players because they couldn't provide official documentation stating they were female. The incident was eye-opening for everybody involved.
Sly Buehl Rigilio, a transgender player who lives in Sicily, Italy, tried to register her team in the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive 5on5 Female Open Summer 2017, a tournament hosted by ESL and organised by Munich Finest Gaming. As first reported by BuzzFeed, however, Rigilio's dreams of competitive glory were cut short by a very rude awakening. Upon submitting her request to ESL, she received the following response:
"No males are allowed. Please take care fake your gender can be penalised."
Surprised and more than a little upset that her and her team had apparently been rejected based on their appearances, Rigilio reached out to Munich Finest Gaming, who said they'd need to see passports that designated Rigilio and her teammates as female. They also said they couldn't understand why she was so enraged about the whole thing. ESL head of communications Anna Rozwandowicz added that the two companies had to do it that way in order to comply with German law. "I completely understand the team's frustration at the situation, but I also understand that our admins have done their jobs by following the rules as it was required of them," she said at the time.
Pictured: Rigilio and some of her teammates. Image credit: Rigilio (via BuzzFeed).
Unfortunately, Rigilio and her teammates didn't have that kind of documentation. "Gender isn't just as simple as what was written on your old passport, there's more to it," Rigilio told BuzzFeed. "Some of us have already started [hormone replacement therapy], and some others are fairly new to coming out and expressing themselves as a female. I know some of the girls in the group have yet to go through the trouble of getting their info changed on [their passports], so we are out of luck."
In the aftermath of the incident and in light of the publicity it received, I reached out to the ESL to find out if they plan on making any changes. Rozwandowicz said that she's now working with diversity-focused partner organisation AnyKey to revise the rules.
"We believe that esports and gaming should and can be an inclusive, and I have taken steps internally to revisit the tournament rules and to align them with AnyKey's recommendations," she told Kotaku. "We definitely want to make sure that this will not happen again, so I'm working with admins and AnyKey to investigate this case and advise on a policy change."
Rigilio, however, is still pretty disappointed. "I have yet to hear anything from Munich Finest or ESL," she told Kotaku. "No apologies, nothing of any sort whatsoever."
A longtime gamer and Counter-Strike player, Rigilio was hoping to make a real push into the high-stakes world of competitive play. Now, though, she's reconsidering.
"I've yet to compete in other tournaments, but my team and myself were initially planning on joining one of the FaceIT female-only tournaments," she said. "But ever since we were treated the way we were with ESL, we've been discouraged to try and do so. We really don't want to go through the same abuse as we did with ESL."