Florida’s anti-trans law could affect CEO of fighting game tournament

The organizers behind Florida’s largest community fighting game tournament, Community Effort Orlando (CEO), recently found out the hard way why you wouldn’t trust the infrastructure of an increasingly fascist state to host your event, especially if you You care about keeping transgender people. attendees safe.

The Florida House of Representatives passed HB 1521 in May, which “prohibits knowingly entering the bathroom[s] or locker room[ies] designated for the opposite sex and refusing to leave when requested” inside government-owned or leased buildings. The bill goes on to define “male” and “female” according to narrow “reproductive roles” assigned at birth, making its anti-trans agenda abundantly clear. Those who violate these restrictions could face criminal trespassing charges and fines of up to $10,000.

The state’s far-right Republican governor and 2024 presidential candidate Ron DeSantis signed HB 1521 into law on May 17.

CEO, one of the most prestigious events on the competitive circuit behind the Evolution Championship Series (or Evo), currently has a contract with the Ocean Center convention center in Daytona Beach through 2024, a move that even before the approval of HB 1521 generated reviews from the fighting game community.

Since moving from Orlando to Daytona Beach in 2018, tournament attendees have reported hostile and fanatic I treat the locals. Organizer CEO Alex Jebailey was quick to ADDRESS open aggression from the city after the first year at the Ocean Center. However, rather than view the negative reaction of residents to the diverse crowds often associated with fighting games as a symptom of Daytona Beach’s cultural problems, Jebailey blamed largely on beggars.

And while the Daytona Beach area is apparently still adequate for the tournament’s needs despite these issues, Ocean Center now has one more black mark on its reputation in the fighting game community: As the property of Volusia County in Florida, falls within the scope of the impending state law. limits on the use of the trans bathroom.

Concerns about HB 1521 began circulating in the fighting game community shortly after it was passed on May 3, with members of the community. advising trans people via social media about the potential danger of attending CEO in 2024 (the earliest the bill will go into effect is July 1, 2023, a week after this year’s tournament). some locals implored players to stay away from the event entirely, echoing a similar warning from LGBTQ+ civil rights group Equality Florida in April warning against travel to the state.

“I have always felt relatively safe at CEO events, particularly in Orlando, although just living in the Daytona area gave me very bad vibes,” trans competitor Victoria “VickiViper” Taylor told me by email. “I loved going to CEO even though Daytona is Daytona, but honestly, this law makes it very easy for someone to completely legally harass me or worse, so the question is do I quit the event or do I back out completely. prepared to possibly have to defend myself. The fact that that’s something I have to think about is really crazy.”

Taylor, a talented multigame specialist who regularly attends fighting game events in the United States, said she’s still unsure about future trips to Florida thanks to HB 1521.

“I’m still weighing how much I want to risk having to defend myself or worse, even as someone who is seen as more ‘conventionally attractive,'” he said. “I really love these events and seeing my friends there and fighting everyone, so I would probably go against my better judgment anyway, but I seriously don’t blame anyone who doesn’t.”

Alex Jebailey did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the situation, but the tournament’s official Twitter account shared This statement on May 4:

Most Community Effort Orlando attendees and staff live in Florida. We recognize that our state is troublesome for our community, but it is unrealistic for us to leave, and we will not give up on the community living here. We are doing everything we can to create the safest and most fun events that we can. We will continue to communicate directly about concerns with the venues, vendors, and community members we work with to try to create enjoyable experiences for attendees.

Despite his importance to fighting game players around the world, the CEO has long struggled to establish a welcoming environment in an area of ​​the United States that may be anything but welcoming to many members of the community. Now, with HB 1521 on the horizon, tournament organizers face an even bigger hurdle: How do you get people to attend an event where the mere fact of existing could pose a serious threat to their safety? Hosting a large-scale fighting game competition is tricky, but at some point the safety of your community has to come first. Whether that means moving back to Orlando or finding a smaller venue not under local government control is up to the organizers, or withdrawing from the state entirely, as others have done, but the gravity of the situation in Florida requires action. to safeguard the diversity of the fighting game community.