It’s hard to imagine the word gay offending anyone anymore. Microsoft seems to think otherwise, though, as evidenced by the company’s recent campaign to rid Xbox Live, the online service for its popular Xbox 360 video game system, of gamertags (think usernames) that include the contentious term. One of the first such gamertags sent to the gallows: thegayergamer.
Stephen Toulouse, program manager for the Microsoft Security Response Center, added on his blog that “there could be an argument that the text is not pejorative to homosexuality and should therefore be allowed. But there is no context to explain that.”
Gay gamers aren’t the only ones being forced to make their Xbox Live identities a little less fabulous. Shortly after Microsoft got rid of thegayergamer, it got rid of Richard Gaywood’s gamertag, too.
Although Gaywood describes the situation as “astoundingly stupid,” he isn’t turning his back on Microsoft or the Xbox 360. At least, not yet. “I'm not really annoyed at all this, just bemused by how stupid it is,” he says. “Between this and the two times my Xbox 360 has had to go back to Microsoft for repair, though, it's hard not to start suspecting them of being idiots.”
Rene Rivers, whose gamertag, sleepygaymer, has yet to meet Microsoft’s axe, offers a similar assessment. “The policy doesn’t make any sense,” he says, especially since the company’s own games for the system feature gay content. “Mass Effect has a lesbian love scene. [Soon-to-be-released] Fable II has gay marriage,” he adds. “So it’s OK to play a gay character, but you can’t be gay in real life?”
(Note: This article was written last July. It was supposed to appear in one of the August issues of a bi-monthly LGBT publication but was "killed" in early February.)