Online gaming services have been accused of “rampant homophobia” after a lesbian was harassed and banned from the XBox Live online service.

According to the woman – known only as Teresa – she was harassed by other players and her account was suspended after she identified herself as lesbian in her ‘gamertag’.

“…my account was suspended because I had said in my profile that I was a lesbian. I was harassed by several players, ‘chased’ to different maps/games to get away from their harassment. They followed me into the games and told all the other players to turn me in because they didn’t want to see that crap or their kids to see that crap,” she said.

She further claimed that when she complained to Microsoft, which owns XBox Live, she was told that other online gamers found her sexual orientation “offensive” and refused to re-instate her account.

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) in the US, said that the organisation was aware of the problem and had been “in active conversations with Microsoft… about XBox Live and how their policies affect LGBT people.”

XBox Live’s Stephen Toulouse, explained that “expression of any sexual orientation (straight or gay or otherwise) is not allowed in gamertags. However we’ve heard from the user-base they want that capability, so I am examining how we can provide it in a way that won’t get misused.”

GLAAD said that online gaming services barred words such as “gay” and “lesbian” in order to actually avoid harassment of gay players.

“The online world provides unprecedented anonymity for people. They can, and do, say what they want. Unfortunately, in online gaming that has often translated to homophobic, racist, and misogynistic attacks.

“Sony, Microsoft, and many others have been trying to address this by putting policies in place to prevent subscribers from using the online shield of anonymity to harass, verbally assault, and generally defame others. Are they the best policies? No.”

GLAAD added that the companies are working to improve these policies and have invited GLAAD to meet with them to find a more effective solution to the problem.

“We’re truly in a new era. And with new technologies, come new challenges. LGBT people have fought hard for years to come out of real-world closets – we’re not willing to accept virtual ones,” said GLAAD.

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