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Microsoft Tries to Mend
Rift With "Gaymers"

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.

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 and but mainstream news sites like and .

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."

Actually, Toulouse and his team have been working on a solution that would allow gamers of all orientations to do just that since early last year. That's when Toulouse says he came to the realization "that while the policy [of suspending the accounts of gamers expressing their sexual orientation] was fair -- meaning [it was] equally applied to all types of sexual orientation -- it was viewed by the community as unjust."

Although Toulouse says input from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and Microsoft's LGBT employee group, GLEAM, has been "extremely constructive," he can't say when his work will be completed and Xbox Live users will be allowed to come out of their virtual closets.

Transgender game designer Jennifer Reitz hopes that day comes sooner rather than later. After all, she said recently on, as long as Toulouse and his employer do nothing, they are "promoting a de facto heteronormative agenda against LGBT people. If they don't want the majority to rule, they need to make room, and allowance, for minorities and support their right to exist openly."

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Microsoft Tries to Mend
Rift With "Gaymers"

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