Governing body rules that the word “gay” is not well enough understood
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 last month that denied community status to the “.gay” application.
ICANN is the non-profit corporation which serves as the governing body for domain names and addresses on the Internet.
In establishing dotgay LLC, its chief executive officer, Scott Seitz, wanted to ensure that an LGBT-owned corporate entity was behind the initiative to secure a TLD for the LGBT community, and that it was governed by a community-comprised board.
|dotgay LLC chief executive officer Scott Seitz
“It’s not as if we decided the world needs a .gay,” Seitz told Press Pass Q three years ago at the beginning of the effort to secure the domain for the LGBT community.
“We realized that in the 500 new domains, chances were high that a number of non-gay investors were going to do .gay. But this domain needs to be part of the community,” explained Seitz, who is the openly gay founder of SPI Marketing, perhaps best known for being the agency of record for Absolut Vodka to the LGBT market. “The purpose of .gay is to create something that has a benefit to our community. And if it that doesn’t happen, then a rare opportunity to unite the global community and invigorate our non-profits and businesses has been lost.”
He added in recent email correspondence, “In a nutshell, if we don’t have a place at the table, ICANN will have removed the LGBT community from direct access to the dynamic economic and social benefits the Internet has created.”
The .gay initiative, Seitz explained, is all about community building and networking, with two-thirds (67 percent) of the profits from the sale of .gay domains going back to the community via a non-profit foundation.
|dotgay LLC vice president of marketing
During a recent telephone interview, dotgay LLC spokesperson and vice president of marketing Jamie Baxter discussed the decision to deny .gay community status.
“ICANN’s evaluators said that we don’t meet the standards for community status designation,” he said.
Baxter was referring to the Community Priority Evaluation (CPE), which gave dotgay LLC a score of only 10 on a 16-point scale. Achieving community status required a score of 14 or higher.
“It’s a lost opportunity not to win outright as a community,” he added. “Now we are being forced to bid for .gay with the standard applications that did nothing in the community in the development of their models.”
Baxter went on to explain that there were “two tracks to follow. We could apply as a standard application, which is a generic business proposal, or we could apply as a community, knowing that we would have to jump through higher hoops. In doing that, we would come out the winners if we jumped as high and as far as were we were asked to.”
While dotgay LLC passed the initial evaluation process, it fell short in the Community Priority Evaluation phase.
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 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 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.”
The effort to gain community status for .gay is not over yet. “We have to go through a reconsideration process, but we don’t get to challenge the decision,” explained Baxter. “We have a chance to show where the evaluators went wrong, where they did not apply the rules consistently or fairly.”