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By Oscar Lopez
MEXICO CITY, April 30 (Openly) - Confined at home by the new coronavirus, and often in the closet too, LGBT+ football fans in Mexico will get a rare chance to kick a ball about and make friends online on Friday in a national 'gaymers' tournament.
LGBT+ gaming is in its infancy in Mexico but the event's organisers hope the three-day tournament, which is available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One gaming consoles, will give people a chance to connect during the isolation of lockdown.
"Many young people in the LGBT community, when we're in confinement, a lot of us live in double confinement because many of us live in the closet," said Ivan Lara, chief executive of the National Association of LGBT+ Sports.
"There's a lot of desperation ... by giving them this itch for competition, even if it's virtual ... it lets them change their minds a bit so that they don't feel so shut in," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
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Mexico declared a health emergency on March 30 and shut down non-essential businesses to combat COVID-19, which has killed some 1,800 people with about 18,000 confirmed cases.
Many gay and trans Mexicans struggle to come out to their families, although discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation has been illegal since 2003 and most states allow gay marriage in one of Latin America's most pro-LGBT+ countries.
The video game industry has been criticised for homophobia but LGBT+ representation has been growing steadily in recent years, with Xbox set to release a game this year featuring the first ever trans hero of a major video game.
Gay and trans players have also become a more visible online community, often labelled 'gaymers'. However, a 2015 study by data firm Nielsen found about two-thirds of LGBT+ players said games did not represent all sexualities.
Lara said the virtual tournament could help assess how much of a problem homophobia was among gamers in Mexico, a largely conservative Catholic country, and it could be an opportunity to change hearts and minds.
"It's much easier (to attack people) when you hide behind a screen," he said. "But it is part of what we have to fight ... you can really explain to people why their homophobia is wrong."
The tournament is being run in partnership with the Mexican Federation of E-Sports.
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(Reporting by Oscar Lopez @oscarlopezgib; editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
Openly is an initiative of the Thomson Reuters Foundation dedicated to impartial coverage of LGBT+ issues from around the world.
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.