Friday, January 9, 2015

TOP STORY: Support from community builds for .gay Internet top-level domain

Decision forthcoming despite significant roadblock citing definition of “gay”
by Chuck Colbert

The effort of dotgay LLC to secure a top-level domain (TLD) for the LGBT community hit a significant roadblock when ICANN — the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers — released results late last year that denied community status to the .gay application.

The decision to deny priority status for the only community-based application for .gay is a huge setback, potentially requiring the community to buy the TLD at auction.

ICANN is the non-profit corporation, which serves as the governing body for domain names and addresses on the Internet. 

dotgay LLC vice president of marketing
Jamie Baxter
The rub for ICANN evaluators was that that .gay did not meet the standards for community designation, explained dotgay LLC spokesperson and vice president of marketing Jamie Baxter over the telephone.

In determining Community Priority Evaluation, ICANN relied on a third-party evaluator, Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), which is a part of The Economist Group and The Economist magazine.

In its determination, EIU said that “gay” is “not a well-known short form, or abbreviation of, the community.”

However, terms like “gay rights,” “gay pride” and “anti-gay” are “globally used under an inclusive interpretation or umbrella term in mainstream media on a daily basis,” according to a dotgay LLC press statement.

The EIU also said that dotgay LLC ‘”substantially over-reaches” to include trans, intersex and ally in the common community use of the term “gay,” citing the Oxford English Dictionary definition as “a homosexual, especially a man.”

Oddly enough, The Economist magazine uses the word “gay” to refer to all segments of the LGBT community and “goes on to describe the colorful acronyms that gay encompasses, extending out from LGBT to intersex and queer,” said dotgay's Baxter.

The EIU’s critique stands as a “double standard,” he added, "one that penalizes dotgay LLC and contradicts even their publishing arm’s use of the word 'gay.' By EIU definition, gay rights discussions — and events like gay pride — would be exclusive to 'homosexual men,' which is untrue."

Baxter said he believes that ICANN evaluators "don’t understand our community. We are being overlooked because of this weird word semantic. I can guarantee that when you use [the word ‘gay’], people understand what you are talking about.”

To support his claim of a double standard, Baxter points to the research of Dr. David Gudelunas, associate professor of communication at Fairfield University, who wrote to ICANN and the Economist Intelligence Unit evaluators on April 14, 2014:

“In summary, I present the following research as conclusive evidence that ‘gay’ is not only a clear match of the string and the name of the community, but that ‘gay’ also has a clear and common use for identifying the community. Without ever needing to explain how or why the term ‘gay’ continues to be the term most ‘commonly’ associated with the community of people described in dotgay LLC’s application, or if it is ‘the best’ or ‘least imposing,’ it cannot be disputed that it is a term most commonly understood by its members and ‘others’ as defined by the EIU Evaluation Guidelines. As ICANN considers whether the string ‘gay’ matches the name of the ‘gay community,’ it warrants restating that what appears as obvious to most can also be supported as ‘fact’ when statistical research is analyzed.”

Sure enough, the effort to gain community status for .gay is not over. “Swift and steady reaction from LGBTQIA organizations and media have drawn unwanted attention to ICANN, with hopes the Internet's governing body will take another look at the unwarranted and indefensible scoring of dotgay's application,” according to a dotgay LLC newsletter. A decision is expected soon, with strong community opinion in favor of such a move playing out in the gay press and on social media.

Meanwhile, letters supporting reconsideration for .gay have been submitted by a number of organizations, including the International Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association (or ILGA), the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), The Federation of Gay Games, the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) and Dr. David Gudelunas. 

Just as national gay and lesbian chambers of commerce in Argentina, Canada, Columbia, and Mexico co-signed NGLCC’s letter, so more than 80 groups from around the world co-signed the Gay Games' letter.

Writers in LGBT media outlets are also raising voices for a favorable reconsideration.

“We need to do everything we can to make it clear that LGBT people are a distinct community, and one deserving of community priority evaluation for .gay,” wrote Rob Buchanan in The Out Most, an online gay media outlet based in Ireland. “The very existence of a market for .gay proves that it has a significant potential value, and a large, self-identifiable target audience. It’s absurd that organizations for LGBT community should not be given priority access. More than most minorities, LGBT people rely massively on the Internet, to relieve isolation, to access vital health and education materials. Young people and closeted people especially avail of the relative anonymity and security the Internet provides. For millions, it is the primary method of discourse and dissemination of information, filling a huge gap that other heterocentric media entirely ignores.

“.gay would provide an indispensable tool for commerce for the LGBT community. It would help the social mobility of a community that in many parts of the world is forced into poverty and unemployment because of stigma and oppression.”

For Anne Stockwell, former editor-in-chief of The Advocate, the heart of the matter is community — “a word so central to us that it's almost beyond definition. It's the all-important ‘we,’ a circle of safety that materializes only after we've found each other,” she wrote in Huffington Post’s Gay Voices. “None of us knows the precise measure of our community. But we all know that it exists, because we know how unbearable life was without it. Surely that's why dotgay's community approach has earned the backing of so many of our people worldwide. More than 240 international organizations, representing millions of LGBTQIA people from all segments of our world, signed letters of support for dotgay's application.”

Other LGBT outlets than ran stories include Boston’s The Rainbow Times, The Agenda Florida Edition and Oklahoma-based The Gayly.

Dotgay’s letters in support of reconsideration and other materials are available at https://www.icann.org/resources/pages/14-44-2014-10-22-en.

For further information or questions, and anyone wishing to lend a lend a hand in some way, contact Jamie Baxter at Jamie@dotgay.com.

TOP STORY
Volume 16
Issue 10

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