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Xbox Live Shuts Down 'Gay' Gamertag

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More gay gaming quandries for this week: Consumerist reader Grant writes to complain that his gamertag, "theGAYERgamer" has been spontaneously banned by the Xbox 360 Powers That Be. Grant spoke to an Xbox Live supervisor who said that while she didn't personally find the gamertag to be offensive, it had been deemed so by the "greater Xbox 360 community:"

Consumerist,

I have had a bad morning. Last night when i tried to sign into my xbox live account "thegayergamer" I was told that it had to be changed. I figured that it was just from people reporting it as an offensive name being that the greater Xbox live community isn't exactly welcome to gay people, i spend a lot of time muting people on Halo3. I assumed that once i called Microsoft they would straighten things out.

I talked to a supervisor there, Roxy, who told me that she didn't personally find the fact that my gamer tag had gay in the name offensive, but that the greater Xbox community did, so i would have to change it. I hope I'm not the only person who finds this don't ask, don't tell policy disgusting... eek

From Grant, thegayergamer

This is hardly the first time we've seen such behavior, which follows the typical community guideline model for keeping things under control: most MMOs and online gaming services won't let you use certain language in your character name or user ID, and although it's unfortunate to have a clever name taken away from you, it really does seem to be a necessary part of the process of making an online community such as Xbox Live safe and friendly - following the logic of 'don't bait the haters.'

Given the recent attempts by Xbox brass to reduce homophobic behavior on XBLA, it seems to me to be even more likely that this restriction comes from a well-intentioned place. (Although Consumerist asks quite aptly if the gamertag 'theHETEROgamer" would be banned as well, and I think we deserve the answer to that question).

What do we think about naming policies? Do they help curb homophobia or just limit gay visibility in the online world? Is this discrimination, or the necessary sanitization of an environment already prone to mouth off offensively?

"Gay" Player Name Banned By Xbox Live [Consumerist]
[Thanks, Steven]

21 Comments

tentaclesex said:

As much as I like to complain about censorship (I actually had my gamertag censored not too long ago), I'm glad I'm not in a position where I need to shape or enforce policy on that kind of thing.

It must be fucking stressful.

Vodkie said:

I think it's a tough issue, but I think in this case it's too restrictive. I've heard that companies like Blizzard will do that for WoW because people with names like that will end up bringing homophobic speech to the public chats. It's not their fault, but the game is meant to be enjoyed and if I log on to hear a long discussion on how homosexuals are disgusting in general chat, I can't fault Blizzard for snipping it in the bud. Then again, I don't know how they would word that particular warning, and the way XBox is reportedly putting it across comes off badly.

Also, I think it's a bit different when you're doing it in private(ish) games, where it's being broadcast to fewer people, fewer times, and XBox can more easily clean up the people who *are* being offensive, rather than claiming the offensive person is the harmless guy who uses gay in his screen name. I can understand forcing a name change when it causes discomfort for other players, innocent bystanders, and I sincerely hope that was their motivation.

Alex said:

I think it's discrimination. To me, doing this is like bleaching black people to "protect" them from the KKK. Well, maybe not that dramatic. But it's of the same spirit. I don't really see them taking a side with homophobes, but rather that they don't want to deal with people complaining about a name and others complaining about harassment that they got because of their name. Microsoft isn't a social corrections company, and they probably don't feel like they need to be. So instead of dealing with all of the bickering, they'd rather just sweep it under the rug.

BlackRabbit said:

I think it's plain pathetic. XBox has no idea how to handle the hateful community they helped create, and now they're just sanitizing the victims rather than the perpetrators.

jayoshi said:

wow this is bullshit... so if someone had a gamer tag "thejewishgamer" would that be ban? no... would "theblackergamer" be banned? no.. so why the hell is "thegayergamer" banned... this is discrimination

MuddBstrd said:

Definitely not a fan. Already said this in the forums, but I basically feel there is a huge double-standard at work here. Gamers who identify as homosexual via their screen names are banned, while gamers who identify as heterosexual via screen names (there are definitely names that say they like women when their gender is male) encounter no problem at all.

It seems a lot like a "don't ask, don't tell" policy. If MS doesn't want to take the time to make Live a safe and welcoming place for gay gamers, and instead just brush us back into the closet, then I don't want to give them my money. PS3, ho!

mec said:

i find it offensive that they would ban the use of "gay" just because some homophobes don't like it. they can't go around blaming the victims for the acts of hateful people.

Ashley-Yin said:

first time ive heard of this happening and it makes me sick. i feel sorry for those who pay a subscription for something that should be free and i feel extremely sorry for those who get treated like 2nd class people and pay for it more than once. no wonder Nintendo are doing soo well, i have always loved Nintendo and i have a PS3 & PSP(sorry Ninty) i didn't trust Microsoft much before and now i never will.

BOYCOTT!

Kaptain M'Bargo said:

Aah of course, the gays are the problem. I see.

Ry-guy said:

While I agree that it's pretty disheartening that such a thing takes place, I also feel as though it's for the greater good. I'm not getting into another war about this crap (Like what happened with the "xxxgayboyxxx" 'experiement'), but we need to stop advertising it and separating ourselves from society if we want to be EQUAL.

It's the same thing as the whole upset on some "African American Blog Site" dealing with RE5, and the main character is white, killing black people. They are trying to create a problem where there ISN'T one. That's what this whole thing does. I really think that it's something you just need to keep to yourself unless specifically ASKED for whatever reason. Don't put it in your gamer tag. Don't use it for your character in WoW. Don't use Create-A-Character in some fighting game and name him Kween Gayashi and take him online.

In short, quit complaining because you're bringing injustice upon yourself (NOT saying you or any of us deserve it, we all know that we don't). 'Ya KNOW what's gonna happen. Even though it's awful, and we SHOULD live in an age that is beyond all this crap.....we don't. Just take it in stride, keep your chin up, and use a new gamertag. Something like ChinchillaMolestorXTREME.

This is ALL I have to say on this matter.

.Ry-guy

EshuElegbara said:

I wasn't going to comment in this thread, but Ry-guy... I don't want to hide. I don't think it does anyone any favors. Sure, if I have a blatantly gay screen name I'll get harassed more often, but the fact of the matter here is he wasn't getting harassed. His handle was a facet of his life, similar to if you called yourself KittyLuvr43 or somesuch, and he found himself banned for expressing himself. I don't know how much closer to flat-out discrimination you can get than "You identify yourself as gay, so you can't play our games." It takes outrage at shit like this to make a change. I don't see a line of people waiting to defend us, so we're gonna have to do it ourselves. This is a petty issue, I'll agree, but change always starts small, and the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. We've got quite a community here, made up of GLBT gamers, and our straight allies. I believe our outrage at something like this matters, and is damn necessary. I'm not about looking for drama, I just don't see a need to hide. I'm 23, gay, white, and a nerd, and I don't give a shit who knows it.

-Eshu

Randle said:

I agree with the seperation comments made by Ry-Guy, but at the same time I think that's besides the issue.

What X-Box did is clearly wrong. The simple issue is that "baiting" (although nothing is to say it was actually an attempt to provoke idiots) the haters is a terrible reason to ban somebody else. As far as I'm concerned, if those haters can't keep their biggoty little mouths shut they deserved to be banned themselves, not us for being proud of who we are.

...however tasteless the handle may be (says the naked gamer).

Fortunately my X-box handle is Panda_Convoy, a twisted Beast Wars: Transformers/Pandas are adorable reference that can't possibly offend anybody. But for TheGAYERgamer, it was most unfortunate. This is just like how you can't advertise to be GBLT friendly in WoW.

Fastmode said:

I see both sides here, but I call bullshit on MS on this. They said that "StaighterGamer" would also be blocked. But if you search for StraightGamer, there IS a tag for it.

Plus, isn't every other tag on live ending in 420? Like "Bluntkillaz420"? Over and over and over. It's a reference to an actual illegal activity not just one that people may get all squeemish about. It's so stupid. Either let people pick what they want or tighten the net, but don't pick and choose.

Some of the comments on this on kotaku are sickening, as were the ones on gixmodo today about Apple being gay friendly while Samsung is not. You should see the homophobes out in force there....

Yuck.

AliceKK said:

Given that my room mates name is HoneyTaco (a VaJayJay) and shes never been banned, I think it makes me wonder...

then i remember my friend who got banned for having the name StorkPoop, then MonkeyP00, and also, something about Jesus...

Xbox live is stupid, for a service you pay for, you should be allowed any goddamned name thats available. If they dont want people with names, they should preoccupy them with fake accounts.

Besides, its microsoft... DUR.

raindog469 said:

Obviously Microsoft is doing keyword bans now, and "gay" probably made the list because hundreds of prepubescent boys were using variations of "YouAreGay", whereas the names of other minorities don't have insulting double meanings. It's pretty annoying but not especially surprising, nor would I call it gaybashing. I'm guessing if he'd used the name "ThaG4Y3RGam3r" he wouldn't have had to change it, though he'd also have been a massive tool.

What's more regrettable is that they resorted to vague corporate boilerplate in justifying their decision. That's their right, and our sole recourse is to stop using XBL and tell the rest of the world why, but it's still shitty.

The reactions that amount to "if you don't want to get bashed, stay in the closet", though, make me wonder if this is actually 2008 we're living in. Like if you don't want to get raped, don't wear a low-cut blouse, and if you don't want to get lynched, stay out of the white folks' neighborhoods.

Personally, I have no interest in being "equal" to cretins. But if you closet cases want to reduce yourselves that way, knock yourselves out.

Kit Fowley said:

I think it's regrettable that someone could be banned for such a thing, especially when there's much more pressing matters at hand. I've seen a plethora of gamers sporting tags like Bluntsmoker420 and the like, now whether you smoke or not is irrelevant, it's an illegal activity. Microsoft would rather ban someone for expressing their sexual preference, than someone expressing their use of illicit drugs.

Having said that, there has to be more to this story than we're getting. There are hundreds and hundreds of obscene usertags out there, and Microsoft does not ban at random (Though sometimes I really wish...) Which means that this individual caused attention to himself in a negative manner and was either seen my a Microsoft official, or reported by another user. What we're seeing isn't a random act of homophobia, it's more likely the banning of a socially-destructive user. (And honestly? Probably hetero.)

But like I said before, this isn't the whole story.

--Cheers! (Kit)

blacksheepboy said:

By preventing gamers from using a tag that advertises their homosexuality, MS is just furthering its invisibility, attempting to keep it out of a public discussion that needs to happen (except in response to it, I guess).

It's really no different than other policies which proscribe what sexual health education we can get, whether we can donate blood, what aspects of our sex can be shown on TV, and how we can serve our country.

NG said:

So in other words, a bunch of homophobes bitched to Microsoft about a gay online competitor and they retort by de-gaying him.

Why not Microsoft post a disclaimer on their XBOX product: No Homo's allowed; that way, the gay community doesn't bother purchasing their product and goes elsewhere with their money.

Brandon said:

And this is why I'll never get a Gold account, thank you Microsoft and your shitty online service.

TC said:

My two cents are thusly...

"gay" is an accepted term for "homosexuality", however it has always been a derogatory term for homosexuality. Not that it cannot be embraced, since it is much more harmless of a nickname.

The example of "why not ban "straight" or "hetero"" does not really apply in this case. Those are not "nicknames". What is more apt, is to ask why "nigger" and "mick" are banned? Because, like it or not, the word "gay" may have been adopted by the homosexual community, but the sarcasm is still inherent in the word.

If they had context-sensitive screen name checkers that made sure the word was used in a homogeneous way, that would be one thing. But, they don't.

So be proud, and use the word "gay" as a small affront against the homophobic world. But if there is any censorship in a forum like Xbox Live, don't assume the right to have an easily made offensive word in your screenname.

Plus, we can be more creative than that anyway.

raindog469 said:

Is "Mick" really banned on XBL? I'm willing to bet it isn't.

Also, "gay" was not originally sarcastic nor derogatory, but more of a euphemism like the more recently used "festive" and "flamboyant". It originally referred to hedonistic behavior in general and somehow came to refer to gay men in the 30's and 40's. I guess we just have more fun.

And girls who like girls who like rumble packs!

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