At a time when many red states in the U.S. are passing laws against drag performers and transgender people, it’s vitally important for LGBTQ people and their allies to have safe places in which to gather and find like-minded community, both in real life and in virtual life. Second Life has always been a welcoming virtual space for the LGBTQ community, with its own special landing page and numerous sims devoted to any and every aspect of the queer community (of which I, a cisgender gay man, am a part).
Last week, while club hopping as Vanity Fair, I came across the White Pearl Salon, an LGBTQ-friendly space which caters to the trans community. I received such a warm welcome from the staff and patrons of the club, that I have paid many return visits! I think I might have found my new hangout spot in Second Life, the first since Bray’s Place Blues club sadly closed its doors (you can read more about it here on my blog).
The White Pearl Salon is the brainchild of its proprietor, Robin Palmer (Robinpalmer7 Resident), who describes herself as “just a simple garden variety cross-dresser”, and who very kindly agreed to be interviewed for this blogpost, while she worked a DJ set at her club:
Robin Palmer (R): I was a guy first, then a woman.
Ryan Schultz as Vanity Fair (V): In real life, or in Second Life?
R: LOL… SL only. I came out as trans 30 months ago. I go to real-life trans parties when on the road (not in my town).
V: It can be a scary step to do in real life. I have a lot of respect for the trans people I have met at my local bars and elsewhere. And what is happening right now in some U.S. states just enrages me. So I fully support what you are trying to do here, Robin.
R: Oh yes. And it’s good that, in my experience, there is no judging. Some are out, others in. No pressure ever to “come out.”
V: First question: when did you join Second Life?
R: 12 years ago? Let me check. It was before this account. Yes, about 12 years.
V: When did you decide to create the White Pearl Salon, and why?
R: Well, first, my old avatar was a guy. I dated some ladies, and they told me [most] guys are creeps in SL. So then I created a lady account… this one…”Old Robin.” I created an entire sim dedicated to Victorian art and culture, a “Disneyland for Victoriana,” as a lady. About 30 months ago, I came out as trans. I visited the other [trans] clubs, and thought there should be at least ONE with a focus on relationships, not quickie pose ball sex. Thus the Pearl. 🙂
V: Tell me a bit about the art gallery in the Pearl.
R: Well, the one in this club is called the Gerda Wegener Art Gallery. Did you see The Danish Girl?
V: Not yet, no. It’s on my list of movie to watch, though.
R: Eddie Redemayne won an Oscar as a 1920s SRS [Sex Reassignment Surgery] trans. His wife was Gerda Wegener. Gerda was fem, but an advocate for trans in the 1920s, a heroic person and great artist. I created the gallery as a draw to real-life trans people. We can have exhibits that no other gallery in the real-life world can ever have. I want to promote trans and trans-friendly artists like Gerda. No porn, no BDSM; pride, dignity, beauty, and elegance only.
V: So you want to bring more real-life trans people into Second Life?
R: Exactly. I forget the figures, but the UN estimates at least 2% globally are trans. So, of 8 billion people….we’re talking millions.
V: Can you tell me what sets your club apart from other trans clubs in SL?
R: I’ve come to feel that a huge majority of current “SL trans” are cosplay trans… young boys playing games for some quick sex. And the other [SL trans] clubs are mainly part of the global “Adult Entertainment” industry…i.e. porn/BDSM.
V: And you wanted to provide an alternative space?
R: Yes. One tiny island of social engagement, love, joy, laughs, chat, romance. and relationships for SL trans people. I am liberal. I do not judge. If you want porn/BDSM, fine… but I just want to offer an option.
V: How long has the White Pearl Salon been operating?
R: 25 months. We have 1,030 members now, and over 7.5 million views of our White Pearl Salon Flickr photo pool.
R: Yes, we’ve been growing a lot after the “Covid drop.” As COVID restrictions eased, visits here fell. I guess it was true for all SL.
R: Since January 2023, we have had strong growth We track traffic to the club. I try to run Pearl as a real-life business.
V: Oh, interesting. I notice that you also have a room devoted to a matchmaking and/or dating service. Could you tell me more about that?
R: Well, as a great part of my vision is relationships. I thought a direct dating service for trans would be useful. Again, not porn or escort stuff.
R: This year, I’ll try to get some RL corporate sponsors…. perhaps Bud Lite? LOLOLOL!
V: You can always dream! Tell me your vision for the White Pearl Salon, Robin. What is your dream for this place?
R: To have 1-2 million members. 🙂 Truly, the global potential is almost infinite. Within SL, it is limited; Linden Lab does not [really] understand that at all. Of LGBTQ, the T can use SL the most. A huge percentage of global trans people are in the closet. Second Life can be a path out of that closet.
V: So you see SL as a way for trans people to step out of the closet.
V: Experiment with how they wish to be perceived by others.
R: Exactly. 🙂
V: Thank you! Before we end this interview, is there anything else you want to add, Robin?
R: One sec. About 20% of our Flickr photos have a text. Let me get it for you:
SECOND LIFE – A Path Out of the Closet
For the LGBT community, and especially for transgender Ladies and Gentlemen, Second Live (secondlife.com) offers a world of opportunities to explore new worlds, both romantic and exotic, adventurous and relaxing, beautiful and mysterious.
But most importantly, Second Life (SL) allows you to explore yourself – your heart, needs and desires – and to share your journey with thousands of other lovely people – both transgenders (TGs) and their friends and admirers.
Basic membership in SL is free. Create your account, your avatar, your wardrobe and begin exploring.
Searching for a friendly companion? Come to SL. Searching for a shoulder to cry on? Come to SL. Searching for virtual romance? Come to SL.
As in Real Life (RL), SL is not without perils. We are all avatars—we all create our perfect self-images, whether close to our real selves, or dreamboats. But take a chance. Step into a world of endless virtual possibilities.
And if you do, please visit the White Pearl Salon (in your Second Life client, Search > Places > “White Pearl Salon”). Here’s your limousine to the Pearl. Our calendar of exciting DJ dance and costume/theme parties is here. Photo albums of past and future events are in our award-winning 7,000,000 view Flickr albums can be found here (there’s also a visitor’s photo pool). We also run a fashion blog.
For transgenders, their friends and all people, the White Pearl Salon is dedicated to the principles of respect, dignity, pride, beauty, charm and, well, the best time ever in a virtual environment. The Pearl is Second Life’s most “safe space” for transgender people.
So take the next step and join Second Life. Celebrate the woman… or man… within.
In addition to the main club, there is a small store, The Cultured Pearl, off to the left of the main entrance, selling fashions for avatars of all genders (along with a generous selection of fashionable freebies, no group required!):
Also off the upstairs balcony are a changing room, a ballet studio, the previously mentioned matchmaking/dating services room (please click on each image in the gallery below to see it in full size).
Upstairs, you can also find the previously=mentioned Greta Wegener Art Gallery:
Please note that there will soon be a second art gallery on the same sim, the White Pearl Art Center (SLURL), which will have its official grand opening on May 7th, 2023. If you are an artist who is interested in having your work shown at any of the galleries, please contact the White Pearl Salon art curator, Juana Ametza (Juana Secretspy).
The main floor of the White Pearl Salon is down the winding staircases. Tucked under the stairs is a cozy, well-decorated bar:
The dance floor offers both couples and singles dances, as well as one of those fancy synchronized dance floors! Just touch the gold ball next to the grand piano to dance in sync with the other avatars, or use the pink dance balls for couples and singles dances. There’s even a blind dance board if you want to find a dance partner!
There’s an extensive calendar of events, with a list of DJs performing. Many days at the White Pearl Salon have a theme (e.g. Formal Friday, Hat Day, Angels and Devils, Spring Fling).
I leave you with a two-hour Netflix documentary on YouTube, which Robin Palmer highly encourages those people, who might want to learn more about the trans community and why she created the White Pearl Salon, to watch:
Why not pay a visit to the White Pearl Salon? Tell’em Vanity sent you… 😉