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League of Legends competition places discriminatory limit on LGBTQ players

Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Esports league Garena Philippines is limiting the number of lesbian, gay and transgender women who can can compete in its women's League of Legends tournament, saying that some players "may probably have some unfair advantage" if they're LGBTQ.

In a published ruling for its monthly, all-women League of Legends competition, The Iron Solari, Garena Philippines says that "for any competitions, we seriously look at ensuring there's a fair level playing field for all participants. And there are arguments and concerns from other participants who disputes (sic) that Lesbian, Gay, Transgendered Women members may probably have some unfair advantage."

Some competitive gaming leagues and tournaments hold separate competitions for women players. Male players often dominate those competitions, though participation and interest from female players has risen in recent years.

Garena Philippines says it's attempting to foster an "inclusive environment where no one feels left out," but is outright limiting the number of participants who can join its all-women league based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

Here's the ruling for teams participating in The Iron Solari, which Garena Philippines describes as an "all-feminine tournament":

1) Each team will be allowed to have a maximum of one (1) Gay/Transgendered woman for the entirety of the tournament day. Therefore, teams cannot do the following: Team_A's first game will be 4 female members and 1 gay, then on Team_A's second game, they will have 4 female members and replace with another gay or transgender member.

2) Any team who has violated the above provision, regardless if intentional or otherwise, whether discovered during the day of the event or some time after, will have all their team members (the female members as well as the Lesbian, Gay, Transgendered women member) sanctioned with a 1-year ban on all Garena-organized events, including subsequent Iron Solari Tournament.

"We've given a lot of thought on this subject, and we've similarly consulted and talked with various parties including the female teams who joined the 1st leg of Iron Solari, and a number of LoL players belonging to the Lesbian, Gay, Transgendered Women community," Garena Philippines says of its ruling. It also says it plans to "closely monitor the impact of the changes made and will continue to have an open dialog with all parties involved as we continue to look for ways to keep improving Iron Solari."

The second leg of Garena's The Iron Solari will take place on Feb. 22 in Manila. We've reached out to Garena Philippines' parent company, which is based in Singapore, for comment on the ruling.

The league's exclusionary ruling is reflective of how more traditional competitive sports organizations — including the International Olympic Committee, International Association of Athletics Federations and CrossFit — which typically segregate men and women players in the interest of fairness, have struggled to accommodate and fairly treat LGBTQ participants.

Update: League of Legends developer Riot Games responded to Garena Philippines' policy on Twitter this afternoon.

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