Earlier this week, Consumerist reported that Teresa, a lesbian Xbox Live user (or, make that ex-user), was allegedly banned from Microsoft’s Xbox Live service because she had identified herself as gay. Teresa made mention of her sexual orientation as part of her gamertag and in her user profile; these actions forced other Xbox Live users to report her because, as Teresa says, the other gamers “didn’t want to see that crap or [have] their kids to see that crap.”
This is not the first time a gay Xbox Live gamer has been banned simply because they’ve proclaimed their sexual orientation over the service. Like “theGAYERgamer” before her, Teresa was banned by Microsoft with the explanation that she “create[d] a gamertag or use[d] text in other profile fields that include[d] comments that look, sound like, stand for, hint at, abbreviate, or insinuate content of a potentially sexual nature.” A quick search on the Live service has shown that Microsoft’s policy is perhaps one-sided; gamertags like “StraightGuy,” “LongDong,” and “BigBalls” remain active on the service.
Teresa did not state if she was contacted prior to her banning, but according to Microsoft, “[p]rofiles that do [mention their sexual orientation] are asked to change the language and [are] suspended until changes are made.” Though, as her gamertag included a reference to her sexuality, Teresa would have been charged a fee by Microsoft in order to change her gamertag to something less offensive.
Whilst Microsoft maintains that “harassment of any kind is not condoned and is taken very seriously,” it would seem that the potential discomfort of heterosexuals over a gay-gamertag is more pressing than homophobic comments and actions toward those gay gamers. Microsoft advises those being harassed “to immediately report inappropriate behavior through the compliant tools in the service so that it can be investigated and the appropriate action taken.” One would assume that Teresa did after being, as she says, “harassed by several players.” Teresa claims she was “‘chased’ to different maps/games [by other gamers while trying] to get away from their harassment.” The homophobic gamers went on to allegedly use in-game chat to tell other players connected to the service to “turn [her] in.”
The result? Teresa complains about being harassed; nothing happens. Homophobes complain about Teresa; she’s banned.
This continues a long string of events that prove that Microsoft, for all its talk, cannot back up its dedication and committment to equality for the GLBT community. Another case in point? Poor Mr Richard Gaywood was banned from Xbox Live months ago because of his gamertag — “RichardGaywood.” Yep, it’s his name, yet he’s banned. Mr Gaywood, who you assume would already receive enough grief due to his surname, has no chance of having his gamertag reinstated. Whilst Microsoft can at least claim Teresa broke terms and conditions with her gamertag, they’d have a harder time with Gaywood; can his own name really “look, sound like, stand for, hint at, abbreviate, or insinuate content of a potentially sexual nature“?
Didn’t think so.