Virtual World and Real World Permeability: Transference of Positive Benefits for Marginalized Gay and Lesbian Populations


  • Jonathan Cabiria Professor of Psychology, Baker College, Flint, Michigan



virtual worlds, marginalization, positive, gay, lesbian, psychological development, broaden-and-build, educational technology


This study looks at how marginalized gay and lesbian people experience social pressures to conform to hetero-normative culture, how those pressures may lead to negative states, and how positive experiences in online virtual worlds would provide benefits over time and, presumably, become transferable into real life. I will show that engagement with Second Life can be a positive experience and that this positive experience can extend beyond the virtual world to provide lasting benefits in real life. The implications for educators are impressive. In creating virtual world communities, educators, psychologists, and other researchers can provide a safe harbor in which marginalized people can more fully explore their identities and develop the positive coping skills needed to deal with real world stigmatizing influences, which originate within the social environment. For scientists and technology innovators, the creation of virtual world communities and gaming/training programs would be an exciting path to explore, especially for those interested in social justice concerns.