Since we can create our virtual selves to suit our aspirational selves, most of us come to see Second Life® as a refuge from the kinds of discrimination and bigotry that infect our first lives. Linden Labs has deliberately fostered a culture that actively discourages and prohibits racism, bigotry and hatred. Opposing intolerance is the very first principle in the Second Life Community Standards and LL claims it is a cornerstone of their standards.
Combating intolerance is a cornerstone of Second Life’s Community Standards. Actions that marginalize, belittle, or defame individuals or groups inhibit the satisfying exchange of ideas and diminish the Second Life community as a whole. The use of derogatory or demeaning language or images in reference to another Resident’s race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual orientation is never allowed in Second Life.
Last night a gay couple went to a dance club. They were dancing together as couples are accustomed to do in dance clubs when the owner, Zardozer Kirax interrupted. He asked them to read the club rules and “helpfully” sent them a notecard with the rules included. They soon discovered what rule they were violating.
We are asking all our Gay or Lesbian visitors to respect those patrons around them by not dancing up front.. We fully understand that you would want somewhere nice to spend time too. The garden is large and plenty of places for you to enjoy our venue.
Holy Rosa Parks, Batman! Could someone be more obtuse and offensive? Yes, I know and many have said, it is his land and he could make it private and only allow members, he could be explicit about his bigotry and declare it a straights-only club just as there are furry-only clubs and role-play-only clubs and so on. But he does not do that.
Like the businesses of Birmingham and the Jim Crow South, he wants the business, the traffic, the tips, the money of gay people, he just does not want to see their gayness and he wants to protect the delicate flowers who dance in his club from having to see “the gay.” This is about as obtusely offensive as one can be. After all, he is okay taking their tips, their traffic, but ewww, don’t let him see them dance together.
Here is a portion of the conversation between the club owners and the people he was discriminating against. “I would be full happy to see you guys dancing off to the sides in the back half over at the falls in one of the hide outs we provide. All we ask is not in this area.”
Asking someone to move to the back, to the hide outs is the very definition of marginalizing them. If Linden Lab is serious about tolerance, they would discourage this behavior in a public club. And yes, I know his land his rules, but he is operating a public club, not a private club. Perhaps if he wants to impose his bigotry, he should create a private club for members only with his homophobic rules clearly stated before people join, then they would avoid the very public pain of being asked to hide themselves from view.
So yes, “his land his rules”, but that does not exempt him or his club from criticism. Yes, people who are lesbian, gay, bi, trans, intersex or questioning may just decide they do not want to go to a club that does not want them. However, I hope people who support our LGBTIQ friends and family also would not want to go to such a place to support such a business.
Several people will wonder why anyone should care about some homophobe using a bit of server space in a virtual world to assert his bigotry. But here is the thing, this couple was told they are not welcome because of who they are, that they should hide in the corners out of sight, that their presence offends the people he cares about. The harm, the hurt, the emotional damage is as real as anything said on Main Street.
UPDATE: The rule has been changed and an apology was made.
UPDATE: I put scare quotes around “His land his rules” to clarify that I was responding to the several people who made that argument and not asserting that argument myself. Here in Oregon, refusing service to someone on the basis of the sexual orientation is against the law. A bakery was recently fined $150,000 for refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding. It is also illegal in California where Linden Labs is incorporated. I would assume that would govern the rules in Second Life. However, the club owner shared a conversation with Second Life support that implied he was free to make up whatever rules he likes.