I ran across this WoW message thread because of a referrer link from my site. It’s commentary on a newly proposed gay-friendly guild on the Sunstrider (Europe) server.
There were the overtly homophobic comments:
But I think the most intriguing comments were those that claimed to be non-homophobic but argued for suppression of minorities:
It’s interesting that someone argued that you can’t have more than one gay-friendly guild on a server - partly implying that there is a single gay identity and one affiliation would suffice and also implying that there is only a certain quota of gay men that can be tolerated. The second comment is even more intriguing in that it suggests victims should censor their own identities and have only themselves to blame.
Lisa Nakamura wrote about this with regards to race in LambdaMOO - articulating how minority identities were blamed for their own victimization:
This petition, entitled "Hate-Crime," was intended to impose penalties upon characters who harassed other characters on the basis of race. The players' publicly posted response to this petition, which failed by a narrow margin, reveals a great deal about the particular variety of utopianism common to real-time textual on-line social interaction. The petition's detractors argued that legislation or discourse designed to prevent or penalize racist "hate speech" were unnecessary since those offended in this way had the option to "hide" their race by removing it from their descriptions. A character named "Taffy" writes "Well, who knows my race unless I tell them? If race isn't important than why mention it? If you want to get in somebody's face with your race then perhaps you deserve a bit of flak. Either way I don't see why we need extra rules to deal with this." "Taffy," who signs himself "proud to be a sort of greyish pinky color with bloches" [sic] recommends a strategy of both blaming the victim and suppressing race, an issue which "isn't important" and shouldn't be mentioned because doing so gets in "somebody's face."
There is a very strange and twisted message in virtual environments like WoW. By showing a pageant of races and intentionally-balanced classes, one message is that diversity is welcomed and valued. But the real message seems to be this - If you’re a minority, you can be anything you want … except who you really are.