Welsh woman has found unquestioning acceptance in esports since coming out and cannot wait to compete on one of the biggest stages of all
In just a matter of days, Rosie Williams will step out into the Commonwealth Esports Championship arena in Birmingham as a proud member of the Wales women’s DOTA 2 team. For many reasons, it is something that until very recently she had not even dreamed of.
“I never would have imagined I would have been able to compete in esports as a woman. I thought I was going to always have that stigma around me of ‘Oh, you’re not a real woman’ and all of those stupid arguments,” said Williams, who came out as a trans woman four years ago, aged 16.
“But it’s just lovely to know that the Global Esports Federation for a start is more than happy to include me and the same with Esports Wales. Both communities have just been so supportive of me.
“There were absolutely no barriers stopping me, I just walked in and said, ‘I’m a trans woman, that’s fine right?’ and they said ‘yeah’. It is huge.”
For a 20-year-old who has endured a long and extremely arduous journey to get to the point where she feels safe and accepted in her everyday environment, it is easy to see why this arms-wide-open approach from both esports bodies has made such an impact. Particularly when the issue of trans women in sport is such a high-profile and contentious topic.
Perhaps the world’s sporting leaders ought to listen to this Swansea University student.
“Many traditional sports in many countries have attempted to argue to some degree why trans women shouldn’t be included but with GEF there’s never even been a single doubt. It’s just, why are they any different?” Williams said as she put the final touches to her training ahead of the competition starting on 6 August. “Trans women are women, trans men are men. Simple. Which is how it should be. And that should be the standard for the world.”
Williams has been “in and out” of her family home during the past four years and only now after “everything is finally cleared up” is she close to getting her first appointment at a gender identity clinic. Throughout this “very hard time” DOTA 2 has given Williams a much-needed escape route.
The complex, strategy-heavy gameplays to the Welsh woman’s strengths. Like a “chess match” it demands great communication, a talent Williams has long excelled in. And now, the relatively inexperienced Wales team will be relying on just such skills as they look to build on a highly successful qualifying campaign.
“I am optimistic. I think we’ve got a good chance of at least making it to the finals. We had our boot camp, we’ve been working very well together. We’ve got a good chance, we’ve got a lot of chemistry,” said Williams, who will have five Welsh teams competing alongside her DOTA 2 outfit.
Williams will not be the only trans athlete competing at the CEC. With more and more video games featuring LGBTQIA+ characters and many more games offering players nuanced gender options, as well as non-binary pronoun options, it is a healthy sign that the industry is moving forward at pace.
For Williams and her family and friends, it will be the most memorable of weeks.
“There was never any indication I would be a national-level player and now it’s happened it’s very overwhelming. Everyone is amazed and so proud,” she said. “Walking out to that stage is going to feel so good. I can’t wait, honestly.”
Before embracing that honour, Williams had a final message for anyone else out there dealing with gender identity issues.
“Be unapologetic,” she stated firmly. “Being unapologetic is the best thing you can do. Everyone else will come around.”
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