It’s easy to have a knee jerk reaction to some things, but hardly ever conducive to putting things on the table where they can be discussed in a peaceful and intellectual manner. I’ve taken a few deep breathes, run this story over in my mind again and again and yet still return to the same annoying factor: Why does ‘gay’ automatically equate to sex or “of a sexual nature” and carry with it such negative and deviant overtones.
The recent furor over one Mr Richard Gaywood having his gamertag revoked because it went against the Xbox Live Code of Conduct has kicked forth a flurry of questions we as paying members of the service really need to consider. Not least of all for me, as a gay gamer, is Microsoft’s backwards approach in assuming ‘gay’ to be “of a sexual nature”.
Over at Kotaku they contacted MS regarding the revocation of Richard Gaywood’s gamertag (despite the fact that’s his name) and got a response from MS Spokesperson Stephen Toulouse. His response truly yanked my chain as a gay gamer paying them for a service - a service that apparently I’m some sexual deviant on. "We want the Xbox LIVE community to have the freedom to express themselves, but we also have a responsibility to create an inclusive, safe environment," - a safe environment for who one has to question.
When TheGayerGamer got a ban it was fair according to MS spokesman Stephen Toulouse because "Gamertags are visible to everyone and it would be hard for me to defend to a parent of a young child who saw it that the name did not contain content of a sexual nature."
Content of a sexual nature? Let’s assume it isn’t Gamer or The he’s talking about, therefore the “Sexual content” must be Gayer. Are we truly so backward that a parent cannot explain that Gayer or Gay might refer to the person being gay? Or for those that couldn’t possibly stomach assaulting a child’s fragile mind with such information, to suggest it may also mean happy?
I can understand Microsoft are trying to protect users, but perhaps there needs to be some tabled debate as to what they’re protecting whom from and what they’re perpetuating in the process. Linking ‘gay’ to some negative or sexually explicit content merely fans the fires of homophobia.
The excuse that perhaps someone with ‘gay’ in their gamertag may get abuse also holds no water because as a paying member of the service it should be your right to have a gamertag that speaks for you or about you in some way and provided that way is not harmful to others, then it should be alright. We’re not all stupid, we know the rampant homophobia that some Xbox Live members love to throw around; just as there are racists and sexists on there, should I not have ‘girl’ in my gamertag on the off-chance some sexist moron wants to let me know their opinion? No, because it should be a personal choice. I’m not suggesting gamertags like Fuck You ‘insert racial or other labeling slur here’ should be allowed, but what I am suggesting is that ‘gay’ is not a harmful word and should therefore not be categorized in the same way vulgar swears and other ‘offensive’ words are. Apparently MS don’t agree and one has to question why that is.
This isn’t the first time this sort of thing has occurred either. Back in 2006 a gamer in City of Heroes was told to change his name as it was seen as ‘vulgar and offensive’, the name in question? The Gay Avenger. There was also the furor over the LGBT mentions in World of Warcraft in 2006 when Blizzard expelled a player for trying to make a gay friendly guild.
It does not take a genius to work out what all of this negative affiliation does, not only for the language itself, but for the rebound effects that language has on gay people in society as a whole. The more we accept people using gay in a derogatory manner such as “that’s so gay” to denote something is bad, sub-par, stupid or unworthy, the longer the hatred will flourish. The more we sit back in blinkered silence as the word gay is linked time and again to something sexual, deviant or negative, the longer the hatred will fester.