The Pathway to “One Community”

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This past week produced a whirlwind of emotions for many people in SecondLife and FirstLife and I want to take this opportunity to talk about some of them.

The news has inundated us with stories of increasing tensions with Syria and the possibility of chemical warfare, an alarming number of random acts of violence and murder, and the destructive fire that has already burned down an area the size of Chicago in Yosemite. These are just a few of the highlights and it feels terribly overwhelming.

In SecondLife, the LGBT Community suffered during the SecondPride Election which was filled with vast amounts of negativity, name calling and hurtful, drama-filled slander.  This election pushed many to their limits and some people left the in-world group, posting their exasperation on Facebook.

Yesterday, a female friend made a post on Facebook. She felt extremely upset and discriminated against because she was told to leave a male-avatar only sim.  The sim is not sex themed and she had only visited to cast her vote on a piece of artwork that her friend submitted.  She was not there to hang out or socialize.

… and yet, there is HOPE.  With all the negativity that has recently surrounded us, I still see little diamonds in the rough that make me smile from ear to ear, stand up proudly, and perform a little “happy dance” that would shame anyone’s parents!

A number of people that I respect very much replied to my friend’s post, offering their support and reminding her of how great she is.  She is one of the most sincere, loving, caring, and financially generous people I have ever met and has given away hundreds of thousands of lindens to venues and charities in the LGBT Community within the past few months.  One person publicly spoke out against clubs being only ‘male or female’ because it is discrimination.  An employee of the club replied that they were submitting their resignation; they could no longer support a club with that policy!  I’m not writing any of this to point fingers or portray any shame or disapproval. Having a venue/avatar specific sim does not violate Linden Labs Terms of Service but having a public discussion on the issue is healthy.

Within days of winning the election, Karl asked me to partner with him and be his Community Relations Co-Director.  This was not an empty gesture!  He saw the opportunity to connect and network more groups of people together by working with me and having us function as a team for the betterment of SecondPride and the LGBT Community.  We spend most our time in different places and with different people.  Our SecondLife Avatars show you how different we look from each other.  Yet, we are here as friends, partners, and allies in pursuit of a more inclusive world.  How could I say no to that?

I attended the first meeting of SecondPride and felt extremely proud.  There was no sign of the terrible mess the election portrayed.  Most of the previous board members were in attendance and offered their sincere congratulations and a peaceful “passing of the torch” ceremony.  The outgoing board members were all respected, thanked, and appreciated for all the hard work they had put into making SecondPride more successful than it had been in a long time.  Everyone glowed with positive energy!

I have learned that another person who ran for a position on the SecondPride Board was asked by a newly elected board member if they would get involved and bring their leadership skills to help make SecondPride a success.  This individual accepted and eloquently pointed out that they got into the election because they wanted to do more for the betterment of the LGBT Community.  Cheers and Applause!

Karl and I dedicate this post to a new day filled with new opportunities.  We give special thanks to those individuals who inspire us to to be selfless and do more for our community.  The actions we take are key to fostering an environment of partnership as we travel down the pathway that leads us to “One Community.”  We would love to hear your thoughts, insights, and/or suggestions and welcome any feedback you may have.

Sincerely Yours,

Joshie

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Announcing a Community Relations Co-Director

Karl and Joshie standing in the pride fountain after installation ceremony - resolving that there should be ground here.

Karl and Joshie standing in the pride fountain after installation ceremony – resolving that there should be ground here.

Community Relations is at the heart of what LGTB Pride – and Second Pride –  is all about. Pride is a celebration – but it is also a conscious effort to build community from our many different individual  LGTB cultures. Life is improving for LGTB people in many parts of the world because Lesbian and Gay elders stood together and refused to be marginalized for who we are or who we love. Our alliances strengthened us. And we live in a better world because of it.

During  and following this past second pride election, our sense of community has taken a beating.  Instead of banding together,  lines of division have hardened. Attention has focused on the things that make us different from one another:  Gay v. Lesbian. Bear v. twink. Human avatar v. non-human avatar.  Club goers v non-club goers. Young v. old.  I think a lot of us have been saddened and even depressed by this. All we have to do is look in today’s headlines – whether in Russia or anywhere in the world – to see why we need to continue to build a strong LGTB alliances. Like any oppressed minority – we need to stop fighting each other and learn to stand up together.

During the elections, I decided that, if I won, I would reach out to some other part of the community and offer to share my seat. I had a lot of reasons: First, the job of community building is huge. There is obvious work that needs to be done to repair the damage and hurt feelings following the election. There is even more work that needs to be done to broaden and diversify Second Pride. And finally, no one person has the connections and life experiences and perspectives to pull a community together. Community building is almost by definition a team effort.

During the election and following it, I considered several people to ask about Co-Chairing with me. But Joshie made a hard choice easy. He ran a great campaign and through his efforts, he got a lot of people to reconsider and rejoin the Second Pride festival group.  And honestly, if he HAD won the election, I know that he would have done a great job.  The way he ran his campaign should prove to everyone that his motivations were never about himself and were entirely about doing what is best for the community. I would be crazy not to take advantage of his energy and enthusiasm to make a positive change. And so, to the extent permitted by the bylaws, I have asked Joshie to be a co-diretctor of  Community Relations with me. We will work together. He will lead specific projects. And sometimes he will vote in my place as authorized under section 5 of the bylaws.

One thing Joshie and I have discussed already is that there is room for everyone that wants to, to make a difference.  We are not only willing – but eager – to empower other LGTB partners to help us build the community we seek. Do you have an idea about how second pride can be better? Are you a member of a group that feels left out? Do you feel like Second Pride doesn’t listen to what you want? Do you want Second Pride to come FROM YOUR community? Then – we ask you to please give us a chance. Bring us your idea and your willingness to participate. If you want to initiate something that helps build and connect the SL LGTB Community, we will do everything we can make it happen.  We are here to work for YOU.

Thank you, Joshie, for being willing to go on this journey together.

Karl

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Why This Blog

lgbt2bwiki2bworld2The Purpose of Second Pride is to help build our diverse online LGBT Community.  Looked at one way, Second Pride has been remarkably successful.  Over the years it has sponsored some of the LGBT community’s largest events. And Second Pride has contributed in excess of US$ 25,000 to charities and causes.  ( http://second-pride.com/aboutus/ ).

But looked at another way, there is a long way to go. The vast majority of Second Pride has developed around human male avatars and DJ-based dance parties. Being human, a male, and a DJ – I have nothing against any of those things. But I know Second Pride can and should be so much more.

Where are the Lesbians? Where are the Bisexuals? Where are our straight friends and allies?  And where are LGBT expressions unique to the online world- furys, tinies, lycans, vampires, Gor and others. What can be done to reach out and heal whatever mistrust or disinterest exists?

The purpose of this blog is to create a forum where ideas about increasing diversity and improving Second Pride can be discussed. My hope is for a frank but positive conversation about why some parts of our community feel excluded, unwelcome, or disinterested.

To me, community building is at the very heart of any LGBT effort – including Second Pride. But community building is not something that one person – or even a Board -can do. To be successful, change has to have the support of the community. Through this blog I am asking for your support: Your ideas, your contacts – your knowledge of what’s worked or not worked in the past.  With the help of the community, I hope we can make Second Pride not just bigger, but better, for everyone in the community.

Karl

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