Thursday, November 6, 2008

Peaceful thoughts after Proposition 8

In the aftermath of the 2008 elections, I and many of my friends and coworkers have been stunned, saddened, and definitely angered by Proposition 8 passing. It's an incredibly divisive issue, and we are so passionate about it - on both Pro and Anti sides. Many of my close friends are Married/Partnered Queer couples of many flavours and I am *staunchly* supportive of this and their families. I stay embedded in very liberal and mostly Queer communities, as I really enjoy the contact and familiarity and our common grounds, and I love showing that I am part of their lives.

I was present in British Columbia when canadian federal law passed the Gay Marriage approval for the entire country, I've seen many european countries follow suit, I've watched how things have turned out in MA and CA, and complacently assumed that I would see this spread rapidly through the US as the fundies were proven wrong, and that the feared hellfire & damnation and "damage to traditional marriage" are not the aftermath of gay marriage, just a long litany of bad bridesmaid dresses and the Chicken Dance. I assumed California would defend its position with ease, and I was wrong. 3 states passed anti-gay marriage or partnership propositions, and AK banned gay adoption. The voice of Conservative America has spoken emphatically.

With proposition 8 passing before our unbelieving eyes, I've found myself agreeing with angry twitters and blog posts from my friends, and then today I was humbled by a great post from Wil Wheaton which I've dubbed "Quaker Wil", and I was reminded of my own humanity, my own tendencies to anger, and my promise to always work to bring people together, not to exacerbate the divide. We must have empathy and understanding and kindness to solve this problem, not angry confrontation. The people who passed Proposition 8 are not our Enemy, they are our family, our neighbors, our co-workers, our employers, and our friends. I didn't speak up when my friends called it "Proposition Hate", and that was wrong of me. This was not passed because of hatred, or bigotry. My neighbours are not evil people. They may be ignorant, and swayed by voices motivated by questionable perspectives, but they are good people, and worthy of my respect. I must listen to their perspective, with honesty and humility.

The ignorance of our previously nationalized racial bigotry was not solved by riots, but by reaching out to each other, getting past our fears and prejudices on *all* sides, and recognizing that we are all the same people, regardless of colour. It takes time and honesty and getting to know each other, and does NOT require assimilation, just understanding. We still have chinese culture, black culture, polish culture and italian culture all throughout every major city in the US. The same can happen with Heteronormative Conservative Culture and us Queer folk as well.

One of the many reasons that Prop8 passed was the common story that "gay domestic partnerships already give you the same legal rights as a marriage". This is patently false, and this is a discussion that you can have rationally, with dignity, in any circumstance with both proponents and opponents of this measure. People need to know the facts, and an honest discussion with the facts well in hand can be the answer. Americans with any sense of recent history will understand that "Separate but Equal" is not Equality, and we can have hundreds of thousands of real voices sharing the powerful truth. Be respectful, but be persistent, and direct. Share your truth, and that of your neighbours, your family, and your friends.

I suggest we start with the 1,138 rights that are federally mandated for Marriages that are not extended to Partnerships, if we ever travel domestically with our families. Share the real stories of your family and your friends, who have been or will be affected by these real laws. Having real citations for this is critical - millions of people truly believe otherwise and they need to face the indisputable truth about people they know, face-to-face. We have families being kept apart during medical emergencies, paying a "Queer Tax" by being unable to file jointly, unable to leave inheritance to their chosen Spouse, and thousands of other day-to-day realities that Married couples can understand. The truth can set us free.

More on this later.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Second Life is a Post-Gender environment

I've actually spent some of my life in some very progressive spaces, and I must say that some communities - extremely liberal college campuses (Antioch and Evergreen spring to mind), the Vancouver BC and San Francisco queer and "fetish" communities, and a few odd pockets here and there, have made the jump to what I would call "Post-Gender".
It's not to say that Gender isn't important in these spaces, it clearly is, mostly because we're sexual people, and because we have preferences about what genders we're attracted to and which we "associate" with. The big difference is that these environments run (mostly - we ARE made of individuals after all, and no utopia is universally perfect) without the assumptions of gender based on birth/physical characteristics. This is harder than you'd imagine in RL, but it is possible to take the time to talk, and listen, and pick up on the cues of someone's current Gender Identity rather than simply scanning some physical characteristics.
It's not unlike joining a roleplay community in SL, where the rules of exchange dictate that your RP character cannot automatically know anything about people whom you meet - including the person's name that's floating in glowing characters over their head. You have to engage and learn based on how they interchange with you.
In fact, it's a *lot* like SL RP in that way, because a person's identity can be just as fluid in RL, and you might be talking to Fae as Femme one day, and Butchy Fae the next day, even though it's the same person, or an Angel one day, and a Demon the next.

So the really interesting jump, to me, is that SL imposes a direct filter in your interactions - you're facing an Avatar, and not seeing the person's RL Gender, Race, Age, (dis)Ability, or other factors that normally in RL society provide the cues as to how we're "supposed" to treat them.

The beautiful thing about this filter is that it removes the tools of prejudice in immediate 1st-time interactions. If you cannot see someone's gender, race, age, or other factor during your 1st meeting, you must evaluate them based on the core person that they present, that is to say, the core person as that person defines it, not you the viewer. I call this core person their Identity, the one that they own and define as they choose, to differentiate from your preconceptions of it.

Some people find this filter, or even the concept of it, to be deeply offensive, because they're not "seeing the real person" - and precisely for this reason I point out that they don't need to know these preconcepts, they're striving to reach for their RL prejudices, and they need to learn to rise above them. Even though we politically and socially agree that prejudice in housing, employment, social organizations, healthcare is abhorrent, it clearly still happens constantly. This is because it's near-impossible for our society to overcome these assumptions we have about women, and racial minorities, and our older members, and "put them in their place". Feminism has been a strong and active force for half a century, but yet we've made no significant progress in salary equality in the past 20 years. Racism has too many clear examples to even begin the list.

Second Life pushes us past these filters, and allows people to meet and talk, on truly level ground, for the first time in many ways. Let's not let our prejudices creep back into the equation. Hold firm that we are all strong people, regardless of our RL bodies, and let's show what new types of open, richly diverse, and stronger societies we can build if we truly are listening to each other's True Identity rather than the physical masks we're forced to wear.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

RBD - Plague of SL Bloggers

I've been reading up on my Violet Blue lately, and she reminded me of an associated topic. You've all heard of it, many of us have experienced it, the shame of our times: Rezbian Blog Death.
It has many causes, in my case over-commitment to work and never having time for inworld friends, besides drive-by Tweetings, mostly. I ended up having to pull out of my sim, due to lack of time to keep the community together, that was most disappointing.
But I'm back around, occasionally, and starting to get inspired about some more build ideas I have, combining some very simple AI, a few creative Av-makers, and an open Combat System, and one more secret ingredient to maybe have a constantly fun and challenging multiplayer game going on that can scale really well. We'll see.

Anyhow, I've got other plans bubbling for some more topical writing for this blog as well. I'm not done talking yet. So, wanted to say "Hello Again" for now. *mwah*