I don’t think this will come as a surprise to anyone who has stepped into a multiplayer game of Halo or Gears of War recently, but the word gay is thrown around a lot and it isn’t used as a compliment or a neutral adjective to describe someone’s sexual orientation. No, it’s used as an insult, and according to Stephen Toulouse, Xbox LIVE’s head of policy and enforcement, it is used as an insult 98 percent of the time whether that be verbally or in someone’s Gamertag.
Of course the issue of referring to one’s sexuality in a Gamertag has come up a few times before, and as of right now it is against the rules to do so. “The overall policy we have today is that the expression of sexual orientation in a Gamertag or text field is not allowed,” he told Kotaku yesterday before hosting a panel on the issue at EA. “That doesn’t matter what the orientation is.” Oh, really? That is funny because I had my text fields literally saying I was straight for about five months and heard nary a word for Microsoft. I guess they didn’t get too many complaints on that one.
Still, Microsoft sees the issue with banning someone because of their sexual orientation and is hoping to change it by working with GLAAD and other groups to figure out a way that people can represent who they are without also allowing hate speech to overflow LIVE. “We recognize that the policy is not just that some communities feel like they are being targeted,” he said. “Our challenge is how to (change the policy). We are working on that now.”
It’s good to hear that Microsoft is working on this as I don’t believe the argument that people shouldn’t express who they are just because it has to do with sexuality. The real issue however is the 98 percent of the time when the word gay (or worse) is thrown around as an insult or a negative term. I’m not proud to say that I use to do it too in order to describe things I didn’t like and I know a plethora of Dtoiders who also do it — Dtoiders who I would never label as homophobic. I’ll just pose the question my freshman year roommate posed to me that got me to stop using gay as a negative adjective: “Why are you using gay as a synonym for bad? Do you think gay people are bad, evil or wrong?”