Who is Katie? In a male-dominated esport like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, it’s surprising to see a name like “Katie” popping up on CSGO subreddits and on the game’s leaderboards. But she’s there for a reason.
Kaitlin “Katie” Boop first gained massive attention from the CSGO community in April, when she qualified for ESEA MDL Season 31’s Relegation Tournament with the team slashLEVEL. The team ended up placing third. This made Katie the first female CSGO player to compete in the MDL.
That same month, Katie qualified for the FACEIT Pro League. The FPL Twitter page recognized Katie for her performance in the FPL-C NA in March. This made Katie one of the first women to qualify for the FPL as well.
Then, at the end of last month, Katie was announced as part of Mythic Reborn’s roster, set to compete in the MDL once again. She was known as a top fragger for slashLEVEL, on a roster where all of her squadmates were male, and is expected to bring that same aggression and precision to Mythic.
All of these accomplishments have led CSGO fans to debate if Katie is the best female player in CSGO right now. But that’s not all they have been debating.
Sometimes called one of gaming’s most toxic communities, the CSGO forums lived up to the name in many posts surrounding Katie.
In a video of Katie showing off some “crispy” frags in an intense 1v5 in the FPL, Reddit users quickly steered the conversation towards Katie’s identity. While Katie has never outright told the CSGO community about herself, some members took it upon themselves to dig up Katie’s old tweets about needing her parents’ permission to take estrogen as a teenager.
This doesn’t change the reality that Katie is a woman, transgender or otherwise.
But that was all that most fans could focus on. They mocked female video game players, laughing that the first time a female player was in the FPL it was because they were “actually a man.” Of course, that’s incorrect. Katie is a woman.
This also sparked sexist debates regarding women’s video game skills and reaction times. Many debates concluded with the overall agreement that men were just better at video games in general, whether it be a biological advantage or through childhood exposure to gaming, and this apparently played a part in why Katie was so talented.
Whether these factors truly play a part in the lack of female pro players or not, it seemed to be all anyone could think about when the topic turned to Katie.
No matter where the discussions on Katie took place – HLTV, Reddit, Twitter – it seemed to always circle back to Katie’s identity as a possibly trans woman. They would pull up photos Katie had on her social media accounts, pointing out her appearance. Oftentimes they would not only insult her, but say sexually charged things about her, too. Others would only use the word “she” in quotes when describing her, refusing to call her by her preferred pronoun.
In one recent instance, a since-deleted clip was shared around HLTV that had forum members pointing out Katie’s private parts, visible as an outline through her pants, and moments where Katie supposedly “forgot to use her girl voice.” The thread was also full of sexual harassment, and more comments about how biological women cannot be good at video games. Someone even called Katie “mentally ill.”
This forum existed on a website solely dedicated to CSGO esports. But this is what people felt the need to focus on instead.
Katie isn’t the first female player to be in the spotlight for not only their talent, but also their identity.
Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn is the only woman to win a major international StarCraft 2 tournament. She became a well known StarCraft 2 player in 2012, after beating well known pros at an event in Las Vegas. By 2014, Scarlett had already placed in seven tournaments and won over $110,000, making her the second highest-paid female pro gamer at the time.
This success led the StarCraft 2 community to call her “the queen of StarCraft II.” She was labeled “the most accomplished woman in esports” by the New Yorker, and was the only 2014 finalist from a country other than South Korea to be at the Red Bull Battle Grounds. Her fans started calling her “Korean Kryptonite” at that time.
Scarlett is also transgender.
This has led to Twitch chat rooms to become full of harassment whenever Scarlett is playing. Instead of solely watching her wreck opponents, spectators become obsessed with Scarlett’s apperance and identity.
In one stream, viewers asked about Scarlett’s dick size, a form of sexual harassment and bullying. But Scarlett said she is used to seeing these kinds of comments every day.
“It is true that I’m transgender. I have never tried to bring attention to myself for anything other than my play, so I don’t feel like this should be a big deal,” Scarlett wrote in her blog. “In terms of actual play, there is (as far as I know) no advantage to being born male or female. But even if ther was, being transgender means you are born with the brain of the opposite gender, so I would not have that advantage or disadvantage. All I ask is for people to be respectful and refer to me as ‘she.'”
It appears that Katie is looking for the same treatment. By never coming out and speaking about her identity or personal life, it seems that Katie is looking to be recognized solely for her skill and CSGO accomplishments.
It’s not often that a male CSGO player has their personal photos and private tweets plastered around various forums for people to mock and sexualize. No matter how Katie identifies herself, and no matter how toxic she is said to be to her teammates, the CSGO community should marvel at her fragging, not her gender or the nature of her appearance.