Online shopping website eBay has banned a Christmas t-shirt depicting Rudolph the Reindeer wearing a rainbow scarf from being advertised to gays and lesbians – saying it’s like fetish wear.
The lesbian couple who sells the tops were also told they couldn’t market t-shirts and sweatshirts depicting a snowman wearing a rainbow scarf.
But the problem is not the items themselves – but the fact they were advertised as ‘gay and lesbian interest’ items.
According to eBay, they are doing this to crack down on ‘adult’ or ‘fetish’ items being sold through their site.
Teresa Millward and Helen Brearley became a couple in 2003 and started their business Pretty Pink Pearl in 2007, selling gifts and clothing aimed at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender shoppers.
For them, eBay is an important outlet – and it’s the first time they have run into this problem.
It appears to be a result of a change of policy for the online auction and shopping site.
One of eBay’s ‘trust and safety team’ emailed them to say their festive tops fell foul of the new rule.
The eBay representative, Steve Jude, told them: ‘I reviewed your listings and could see that you mentioned “gay interest” in the title of your listing. Our policy expert team is taking action against listings where member is selling new/ used clothing items and mentioning these words.
‘There has been a trend of adult or fetish themed used clothing items being listed on the site; these items are not a positive reflection on eBay or our member community. As such we remove any items we feel include inappropriate or adult related content.’
Strangely he claimed the team had looked at the Rudolph and snowman tops and still decided it was ‘adult’.
He said: ‘In making this assessment we review the full listing content including description and images.’
Millward and Brearley say this is the first time they have run into this problem.
Millward told us: ‘We thought are we hallucinating. Did we drink some very strange tea? What’s going on?
‘“Gay interest” is what they deem as words that are pornographic and in clothing it is considered to be fetish wear.
‘Gay is not a dirty word. And gay interest doesn’t necessarily imply sordid and sexual either.
‘We feel very disgruntled at the moment. It is peak season, it is Christmas, and all of our items are in one way or another “gay interest” so we should be able to sell them as such.’
After exchanging several emails with eBay, though, it became clear the shopping giants were not going to shift: Pretty Pink Pearl is allowed to sell the items, but can’t use the word ‘gay’.
Gay Star News also contacted eBay but has not yet heard back.
UPDATE: A spokesman for eBay has now sent a response.
He said: ‘eBay is a marketplace for everyone and we would never want to discriminate against any customer.
‘To keep eBay a great place to shop, our listings have to follow certain rules and accurately describe the item for sale.
‘We welcome listings using "gay" as a factual item description, for example "gay literature" or an item with a gay character.
‘We don’t allow use of the term "gay" as a marketing term to imply a sexual aspect to an item, and this listing was mistakenly identified as such by our system. We will contact the seller to put it right.’