Microsoft Xbox Lets Homophobia Fly Online. Why Not In The Office Too?


Given the treatment that gay users of Microsoft’s Xbox receive, is it any surprise one of Xbox’s own employees says the company is rife with homophobia?

From banning gay gamers to letting openly gay gals get harassed on the Xbox Live service, the video game company’s record with the gays is far from stellar. Now a former Xbox designer says what users see online is similar to what’s going on beyond the scenes at corporate: Homophobic jokes are commonplace, peers pass around nasty notes, and there’s no rulebook when it comes to protecting against sexual orientation discrimination.

So Jamie Durrant is suing. For nearly $70,000.

Mr Durrant claims that mocking messages were circulated with headings including ‘I’m Jim and I’m Gay’, ‘Me and My Favourite Men’ and ‘Ladies Are Bad’. A message about ‘Fag Boy Jim’ was allegedly put up in the office’s shared kitchen. Mr Durrant earns £50,000-a-year designing video games for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console.

He claims that the firm did not have policies in place to deal with his complaints about homophobic harassment. Mr Durrant, of Godalming, Surrey, is suing Microsoft at London South Employment Tribunal for discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation. He has been signed off sick for depression for seven months and is demanding £45,000 in compensation for lost earnings and injury to feelings.

[…] In legal papers submitted to the tribunal, Mr Durrant claimed that the abusive emails were first sent in January last year. He said: “I have never hidden my sexuality from the office and I felt this could be targeted at myself. This was not the first time there was homophobic content in the office. Previously, I had tried to deal with it myself. This time, I did not feel that I could.”

Mr Durrant said he complained to human resources chiefs that there was a “homophobic attitude” within Microsoft. He claimed he agreed with them not to raise a formal grievance for fear of creating an “uneasy atmosphere” in the office.

Instead, it was allegedly agreed that HR would email staff reminding them of “how to behave responsibly in a diverse office”.

Mr Durrant said he expected the email to be sent within a fortnight but months went by without anything happening. When he queried the delay, he says he was allegedly told that the firm would have to draw up new policies before any email could be sent. He said: “I was very surprised that Microsoft did not have any policies relating to this sexual orientation harassment.”

Mr Durrant claimed that he did not think HR chiefs were taking his complaint seriously.

He was allegedly asked to sign a document agreeing not to raise a formal grievance and confirming that he was happy his complaint was being dealt with. He said that he refused but it was agreed that Microsoft would post its anti-discrimination policy on the firm’s intranet for staff to see. Mr Durrant has accused Microsoft HR chiefs of “blatantly disregarding” and “obstructing” his complaint.

He said he was offered counselling but said: “I feel like they’re making out that I’m the one with the problem and not the homophobic aspects of the company.”

As for Microsoft’s side? They’re not commenting.


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  • Tallskin

    Sadly it;s going to be very difficult for us to boycott fucking Microsoft as they have a near monopoly on computer software.


  • tavdy79

    @Tallskin: Buy apple. They contributed to “No on Prop 8” last year, so you’ll be doing yourself a favour twice! Alternatively (if you know what you’re doing) use Linux.

  • jwbcubed

    No Problem there- I’m a Mac.

  • manimal

    Or Linux, that weedy and marginal operating system with .8% global marketshare. It’s a fully decentralized computing ecosystem developed by millions of people around the world, so one could always choose what to run or not to run based upon personal politics. Though, when no dollars are exchanging hands, that’s just petty.

  • Whoa nelly

    I worked for Microsoft and while there were certainly some dopes there (mostly closeted geeks from what I could tell) it was a very gay-friendly place to work. There weren’t a lot of gays working there, but it was very gay friendly. Sorry, but I worked there so I know.

  • Pragmatist

    I’m pretty suspicious of this. I’ve known several Microsofties and this story contrasts sharply with how they’ve described their work environment. Microsoft was extending its really amazing health care benefits to same-sex domestic partners eons ago, before there was ever any domestic partnership law in Washington.

    That said, was XBOX developed internally or was it an acquisition? For obvious reasons, bought-out groups can sometimes have a very different culture from the rest of the company. (Witness YouTube — they had a slew of anti-gay employees before Google snapped them up.)

  • strumpetwindsock

    All you have to do is open the lid and climb out of the box.

    This is yet another reason to run linux. I have been doing it for over a decade now, and frankly going back to microsoft would be like nailing my foot to the floor. They are thieving bloodsuckers, and their product is garbage.

    And they are far from cutting-edge. Their browser is so far behind the industry standard that they are holding evryone else back.

  • strumpetwindsock

    Have you tried it? I can certainly put up with an install that hasn’t had one virus (without an antivirus program) and has remained bug-free for the past six years.

    And while there are commercial linux programs which I think deserve to be supported, mine is free and legal. It’s hard to beat that.

  • Pragmatist

    @strumpetwindsock: I’m no Microsoft apologist, for sure. Over the years they’ve offered some pretty bland, bloated software with some questionable UI decisions too. But the software, as unsexy as it is, is functional. (Btw, I do think Vista is gorgeous, and hands-down prettier than Mac OS or any X window implementation I’ve seen for Linux.)

    You just can’t dump all commercial operating systems if you have actual work you need to get done. If you work in graphics, you need the Adobe suite; GIMP just won’t do the trick. Likewise if you have serious word-processing needs (such as for legal work), you need a robust office suite. is nice for free software, but it can’t handle sophisticated formatting tasks such as pleading paper, and it fails to render most Word files correctly (a necessity when everyone else is using Word). And at that, OpenOffice required a significant push from Sun — so it doesn’t quite fit the model of anti-corporate garage software anyway.

  • strumpetwindsock

    You are right.

    I do actually have jobs for which I need Illustrator once every six months or so (that is the only reason I still have a small internet-disabled windows partition on one of my boxes).

    I am fortunate that I can do virtually all my graphics work in Scribus and just convert to pdf.

    I was more commenting on the assumption that linux is not a real alternative. If more people would start using it on their home boxes the situation you describe would change pretty fast. Microsoft only has their market share and de facto monopoly because we let them have it.

    And at this point I think MS is trying to make their programs less compatible cross-platform in a desperate attempt to keep it that way.

    My personal decision against microsoft was made the day a school-employee friend of mine told me how the microsoft rep came in and shook down the school for license payments on all their donated computers (and again, this is not directed at you, because I agree with your point about necessity).

    For anyone actually interested in trying linux, I would recommend downloading several of the bootable CD versions. It runs a bit slow (because it’s running your computer from the CD drive) but it gives you a taste without having to do a full reinstall.

  • damien

    The problem is that Microsoft is so big, so of course you will find some idiots in a pile of nearly 85,000 employees – though it certainly doesn’t excuse the behavior. Microsoft, as a company, has a very very gay-friendly work policy.

    Also, I’m shocked everyone fails to mention that Microsoft employs the highest-ranking transexual executive in the country: Megan Wallent (formerly Michael). And she’s a true doll!

    And seriously, folks, do we have to get into the Mac vs. Windows argument? I’m typing this on my 24-inch iMac, running Windows 7 beta (which is amazing, btw). Call me platform agnostic :)

  • Duffman

    I think this is very unfair to Microsoft. This guy didn’t work at Microsoft’s main campus in Washington. Uniform corporate culture, especially on a sensitivity issue such as this, is difficult to maintain. I would guess it simply reflects a more homophobic Britain (despite the fact they provide more legal protections for queers).

    A college buddy of mine has worked their two years now for their marketing division in Redmond, and he’s mentioned that is a very gay-friendly environment.

    And as for Microsoft’s XBOX Live issue and the ban of “gay” and “lesbian,” I think the whole thing’s way overblown. Their policy of banning the use of these in profiles is intended to protect us! I’m a frequent XBOX Live user, and I very rarely actually look at profiles anyway – I doubt anyone seriously does. But I think it’s a good step, because based on the voice chat while playing Call of Duty 4, XBOX Live’s a pretty homophobic crowd.

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