The player in question, Makani Tran, only 16 years old, shared his story via Twitter on an emotional account earlier this week. He claims to have lost over $800 going to the event, besides missing out school time to be there.
In Round 6 of the tournament’s Swiss Rounds, Tran was against Alex Schemanske, a prominent US player, when he was told their match would be streamed and that they would soon get them ready for camera. Before the match started, a judge asked both of them for their preferred pronouns, a measure that is made to include players of all gender identities.
Nervous, Tran claims he laughed uncomfortably and stuttered his answer, struggling to find a third pronoun (i.e. He/Him/His), and said, “Um he or him or uh”. His opponent, Shemanske, shared his pronouns right afterward without much issue, which caused Tran to repeat his pronouns awkwardly and laugh once more. Right then, the judge would have taken issue with his response:
“Okay, just wanted to check to be safe. I go by they/them so don’t be a d*ck about it,”
The match then carried on for around 20 minutes, before it was interrupted by event staff. Tran claims they were both pulled out of camera and told another match would be streamed instead.
They told him he was disqualified for breaking the inclusivity cause and ensued final steps to close Tran’s participation in the event. His nervous laughter when disclosing his pronouns had apparently been the cause for the decision:
“The judge said that while he believed that I had no bad intentions, it didn’t matter because at the end of the day, someone was offended and upset,”
The case soon gathered attention in the community, as players and fans alike pondered over the judge’s decision to disqualify, and many claimed that though the inclusivity clause is important on its own, cases like these must be evaluated further and handled better.
Tran shared he “signed his match slip while crying” and had to request assistance because, as a minor, he had no way of leaving the event safely.
Alex Schemanske, his opponent, shared his own view later on:
No accounts have been made from the judges’ point of view.
A final bright side to the ending, Tran managed to cover his expanses via a GoFundMe page, which surpassed his goal of $800 and gathered over $1,500.