Teen disqualified from Pokémon tournament for laughing upon being asked his pronouns


A teenage player was disqualified from a Pokémon Trading Card Game tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina, after an exchange with a judge regarding his preferred pronouns.

Makani Tran, who took time off school and spent $800 to participate in the tournament, was brought to tears when the head judge told him he was disqualified from the event due to allegedly violating their inclusion policy by making someone feel unsafe and uncomfortable.

He gave his side of the incident in a lengthy post shared from his Twitter account.

On our way over to the stream area, the judge asked us for our preferred pronouns. I said “Um he or him or uh” and I paused trying to think of the third pronoun (the third pronoun being his). As I just stood there looking stupid trying to think of the third pronoun, I felt embarrassed because I was failing to think of a simple word. Due to the nerves and me being embarrassed, I let out a little laugh just a normal nervous laugh. My response together ended up being “Um he or him or uhhhh haha his.” That’s it.

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It appeared that the judge became uncomfortable after Tran had an awkward laugh upon being asked his pronouns.

"OK, I just wanted to check to be safe. I go by they/them so don’t be a jerk about it,” the judge apparently responded.

Tran was escorted off the game stage by the head judge, to whom he explained that his nerves had caused him to laugh. According to the teen, he was 5-0 at the tournament and was given a sixth-round matchup against well-known player Alex Schemanske.

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“I remember saying ‘Wait what?’ I was so confused. I had just explained very calmly what had happened and he seemed that he was listening,” Tran wrote, adding that he was brought to tears after his request to appeal was denied.

I’ve never cried the way I cried that night. I told him that I didn’t even have service and I had no way to contact anyone and didn’t even have a key to my hotel room that I would’ve had to walk to. I’m being completely honest with everyone when I say I have never been this upset in my entire life.

The teen also clarified that he does not have a problem with using pronouns nor did he have any negative intentions.

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After Tran shared his account of the incident, his friend started a GoFundMe page to help refund his travel expenses.

As of Thursday, the fundraiser has collected over $3,000 in donations after an initial $1,500 goal.

In a tweet thanking contributors to the fundraiser, Tran emphasized that he does not condone the harassment of members of the trans community:

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One more thing, do not use what happened at charlotte as an excuse to bully and harass the trans community. That shit is not okay and I do not condone this behavior at all. That’s all I had to say and again thank you for all the support i’m so happy right now

Tran’s opponent, Schemanske, also took to Twitter to express his thoughts on the matter.

This is probably a dangerous tweet for me. Should Makani have been DQ’d? I don’t think so. But remember y’all, this isn’t an excuse to attack inclusivity/people’s identity. Also remember that judges are, by the rules, completely unable to share their side of things.

However, Will Post, a Pokémon tournament judge, later responded on Twitter.

In a now-deleted tweet, Post appeared to agree with the decision to disqualify Tran.

Whether you agree/disagree with a ruling, a Pokémon judge should not have to worry about people coming to workplace over a call they were involved with at a Pokémon tournament. If you think doxing people over judge calls is the right play, go home and rethink your life. This community complains about the quality of judge calls all the time. I promise no quality judge wants the pressure of breaking even taking a lead role in an event to worry about their safety and professional life following an event if a call goes sour.

Tran has declined to provide a statement to NextShark.