Queering Microsoft

Queering Microsoft

There used to be a rule in the Xbox LIVE code of conduct that seemed homophobic, or at least overly-protective to a lot of gamers. Under the old code, a queer gamer could not call him or herself a “gaymer”—which is an increasingly popular colloquialism amongst fans of the Xbox LIVE experience. The words “gay,” “straight,” “lesbian,” “bi” and “transgender” were banned from Gamertags—the Xbox version of a screen name.

This policy has been updated and now these words are permissible for use in Gamertags. But there is some discrepancy as to why the words were banned in the first place and why Microsoft has decided to change their policy.


Recently, Microsoft released an open letter in which they explained the new rule change this way:

“The Xbox LIVE Terms of Use and Code of Conduct are designed to create a place where people can safely enjoy all of the ways to interact on our service [...] without fear of discrimination or harassment. As the service evolves and our customers provide us with feedback, these rules evolve to incorporate new features or changes in how people wish to interact.

“With that in mind, I’d like to announce an update to the Xbox LIVE Terms of Use and Code of Conduct which will allow our members to more freely express their race, nationality, religion and sexual orientation in Gamertags and profiles. Under our previous policy, some of these expressions of self-identification were not allowed in Gamertags or profiles to prevent the use of these terms as insults or slurs. However we have since heard feedback from our customers that while the spirit of this approach was genuine, it inadvertently excluded a part of our Xbox LIVE community.”

But in February of 2009, Meg Marco of Consumerist.com described the situation in much more direct terms. In a column entitled “Identifying yourself as a Lesbian Gets You Banned” Marco describes how one gamer named Teresa was repeatedly harassed by homophobes on Xbox and when she went to Microsoft with her complaint, they banned her from the network, telling her that she was being offensive simply by identifying herself as a lesbian.

The article on Consumerist.com goes on to list many more bizarre, and seemingly homophobic actions on the part of moderators and other players that lead to the victim being banned instead of their antagonist. In one case, a man whose real, legal name was “Richard Gaywood” was reportedly banned without recourse from the network.

So, whether you believe Xbox LIVE was looking out for their beloved “gaymers” and protecting them from harassment or maybe you think they were just being fussy to the point of homophobia - this new “game changer” is a most welcome adjustment to their code of conduct.


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