I remember the first time I saw Sabriel Mastin of Overbuff. It was the beginning of the inaugural season of the Overwatch League, media day, and she was sitting in the audience during the press conferences held by each team. I watched, when it was time for the media to ask questions, as she gently, respectfully, made certain players think about the consequences of using derogatory language. She was so calm and non-judgmental, in fact, that I saw a certain player felt comfortable in engaging in further discussion with her after the press conferences were over.
I thought it was amazing, and a sign of the kind of league we were about to launch. When I spoke to her later, blue-eyed with a big smile, clad in a Zarya hoodie, I was struck by her kindness, openness, and confidence.
When it came time to write this story for Pride Day, I knew exactly who I needed to talk to.
Transgender lesbian and cyberpunk shieldmaiden, Mastin has been a fan of Overwatch since the very, very beginning. “There was a booth at PAX East when Zarya and McCree were announced,” she recalled. “And seeing a picture of Zarya—as a tank character? I was just like, ‘What? I can play a tank that’s a woman and she looks this cool? I am in, I am in!’ That got me interested in the game itself, seeing someone who’s coded queer to many people.”
A fan of StarCraft II esports before the release of Overwatch, Mastin quit her “soul-destroying” job to take a summer to herself. That was when she spied a job opening for Overbuff. It was there that her love of Overwatch esports was born. Watching the old Monthly Melee tournaments and working with people who were equally passionate about esports—including our very own stats producer, Ben “CaptainPlanet” Trautman—caused Mastin to go, in her words, “all-in.” She started her own show, Pulse Bomb Ready, which now has over 200 episodes, and has been on a number of podcasts and panels.
Although highly engaged and successful, Mastin has found her success hindered at times. “I stopped sharing my stuff on Reddit—it can be the most awesome thing but also the worst thing,” she explained. “People would make fun of my transness instead of [discuss] my content. The moderators always stuck up for me, but still, why would I subject myself to that voluntarily? I know my content suffers for that.”
Despite this, Mastin has found her tribe. “A number of the communities I participate in not only have women but many of them are heavily queer,” she said. “I’ve met a number of lesbians, women who identify as bisexual, a number of trans women who play this game. We also watch the Overwatch League and talk about it. Every now and then I see a sign [in Blizzard Arena], ‘Give so-and-so a girlfriend,’ where so-and-so is a female character. I love that the Overwatch League has been pretty welcoming in that regard.”
Pride Day means a lot to Mastin, as it brings visibility to the LGBTQ+ community, uniting queer people and allies in a show of support and love to a community that is often discriminated against at best, and abused or erased at worst. “That is big to me, knowing you’re not alone,” Mastin said. “That’s why I’m open on Twitter and panels about being trans. I am here, I am visible, and I am in esports.”
She had no one to look up to when she was getting into esports—except Jaycie “Gillyweed” Gluck, former Heroes of the Storm commentator and a dear friend of hers. “She’s my representation,” Mastin said, pausing before adding, “but it only covered half of it.” Mastin wants people like her to feel welcome in Overwatch esports, and they should—everyone should. In a world full of soldiers, adventurers, and oddities, one like Overwatch, no one should be left behind.
“It’s a human world,” Mastin said. “It’s our world.”
This Pride Day, let’s celebrate the communities around Overwatch and the Overwatch League offering soft places to land for people of all gender identities and sexual orientations. You are all welcome. I promise.
In the wise words of Houston Outlaws main tank Austin “Muma” Wilmot…
happy #PrideMonth remember to be gay everyday :)— Austin Wilmot (@Muma) June 1, 2019
Follow Sabriel Mastin on Twitter, and don’t miss out on Pride Day at the Overwatch League on Friday, June 7!