Microsoft Tries to Mend Rift With "Gaymers"

Microsoft is looking to make amends with gamers whose gay-identified Xbox user names were banned by the company's stringent, and some say discriminatory, terms of use.

BY Bryan Ochalla

March 16 2009 11:00 PM ET

Even among American
corporations that proudly and publicly support the LGBT
community, Microsoft has long stood out for its stamina and
spirit. Case in point: In 1989 the software giant was among the
first companies in the country to include sexual orientation in
its employee nondiscrimination policy; in 1993, it
extended benefits to staffers' same-sex partners.

But Microsoft's rainbow
reputation took a hit last May, when word spread on the Web
that the division dealing with Xbox Live, the online service
for the company's popular Xbox 360 gaming system, had suspended
the account of "thegayergamer" because the username
"insinuate(d) content of a potentially sexual nature" -- a
big no-no according to the company's terms of use.

A few weeks later,
Richard Gaywood's account was suspended for the same
reason.

The story stayed under
the radar until late last month, when a gamer
complained online

that her Xbox Live account was suspended after she outed
herself as a lesbian in her profile. The incident not only
caught the attention of community sites like

GayGamer.net

and
Gaymer.org

but mainstream news sites like
MTV.com

and
Yahoo.com

.

The scrutiny has
prompted Microsoft to loosen its previously pursed lips (the
company refused to comment when it was contacted by
The Advocate

after last year's incidents), with Stephen Toulouse, program
manager for policy and enforcement on Xbox Live, stating last
week via e-mail that "we have heard clearly that
customers want the ability to self-identify [and] it's our
job to provide this in a way that cannot be misused."

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