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Xbox LIVE players can now identify their sexual orientation

Gamers who play via Xbox LIVE can now identify their sexual orientation as part of their profiles.

This morning, Microsoft announced that it has altered its code of conduct to allow Xbox LIVE members, if they so choose, to identify themselves as straight, gay, lesbian, bi and transgender in their gamertags.

Microsoft has been under pressure from gay rights groups to allow gamers to share their sexual identity with others. Last year, a player who identified herself as lesbian in her profile was reportedly banned from Xbox LIVE, and the news stirred a furor in cyberspace.

Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and other gay rights groups began a dialog with Microsoft, which stood by its policy that the global company didn't allow users to declare their sexual orientation in an effort to prevent player harassment.

Xbox LIVE's general manager, Marc Whitten, sent this open letter today to Xbox LIVE members:

“Since the beginning, Microsoft has made an investment in the security and safety of Xbox LIVE and created tools and monitoring practices to ensure it is a fun and welcoming entertainment experience for people of all races, nationalities, religions and sexual orientations. And thanks to this investment and the enthusiasm of community members like you, we’re proud to be the strongest and most diverse online community of its kind at 23 million.

“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, be it online multiplayer gaming, photo sharing, Netflix parties, or social games such as 1 vs. 100, 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. This update also comes hand-in-hand with increased stringency and enforcement to prevent the misuse of these terms.

“I truly believe that our diversity is what makes us strong: diversity in gaming and entertainment options, and diversity in the people that make up this amazing community. I look forward to seeing you on LIVE soon.”