What I like are safe zones, such as smaller communities within a larger. The club I run does that (http://www.fvrb.org). We really strive to not only be accepting, but encourage others to take risks and be willing to fail or look foolish.
If someone threatens that safe zone at our club, I remove them. We simply do not tolerate people who are disrespectful to others. That doesn't mean we agree on everything (in fact we argue all the time!) but as long as things remain respectful, and apologies are publicly made when the line is crossed, our club remains healthy.
Smaller communities are, IMHO, the best way to foster growth in those of us with fears about being different.
I'll also speak candidly about this issue, knowing that what I'm going to share will offend some people. If you find religious stuff offensive, please just move on and disregard this comment. This isn't for you.
"I also think it's up to individuals to grow a tougher skin"
What makes this line of thinking so utterly useless is that you can't force someone to "toughen up" versus bullies/assholes if they lack the capacity at a particular point in time. The attitude only empowers the bullies and assholes.
Having a thick skin isn't sufficient. Simply patiently explaining your position to people who are being hostile (eg: my previous experience on HN) doesn't do anything more than make them form up into mobs and start pursuing you and harassing you. (Seriously, everything from blatant name calling, to finding personal revelations in past comments and then posting them publicly to be mocked... ok I'm a minority, I should feel bad about that? Mocking me for being a minority was massively upvoted, while me asking why this was tolerated here was downvoted.)
Eventually, I find this site to be too much to waste time on, and simply left. (I doubt this account will last more than a day anyway.)
This site has a narrow minded and intolerant culture. (And those who are within the range of whats "Acceptable" think that its quite the opposite so they never see it.) This culture knows that it can call people names, attack them personally, dig up private information and harass them and get away with it because there will be no punishment-- since they all vote each other up in their game of "smear the queer".
This is, of course, why they do it. Hounding those who are different into leaving until you have an ideologically pure little "community".
Meanwhile the moderators of this site hellban people for the "crime" of linking to a scientific paper that disagrees with global warming (since this is a leftist site, obviously, if you disagree with global warming you're not part of the realm of people where "tolerance" applies.)
And so the people who are different leave, the "community" sits around and congratulates itself on how tolerant it is, never recognizing how completely homogenous it is.
> Meanwhile the moderators of this site hellban people for the "crime" of linking to a scientific paper that disagrees with global warming
Hellbans are not always moderator implemented. Usually hellbans are the result of people downvoting. Since climate change denialism is usually bullshit I can understand why that kind of link gets many down votes.
The other stuff sounds horrible, and surprising, and I'm sad if your account of it is accurate. For what it's worth I've seen personal attacks heavily downvoted, and I've seen homosexual-positive comments upvoted.
This site has a narrow minded and intolerant culture.
Perhaps... I am not sure I agree, but I did not have your experience. I did, however, notice that people sometimes react more to the style and less to the substance of what has been said. Which is remarkable considering how much effort is usually spent on focusing on the substance. I suppose we are all human.
It is fairly homogenous, in that it's made up of mostly men with a strong engineering/computing/scientific bent. I've not seen people react that violently to anything, though. You must have either said something that stirred people up a lot, or you may be overreacting. It's almost certainly not due to your status as some sort of minority.
I agree with you, having a thicker skin is not sufficient, but to me it's not either/or, it's both/and. We need better communities and people with thicker skins. Sometimes things can become so evil and caustic, no skin in the world is thick enough to endure it. That's when it's necessary to leave.
HN is probably too large of a community to improve the vitriol that sometimes flows here. I like what http://lobste.rs is trying to do, where you need a recommend to submit and post.
I agree you have to pick your battles on HN. You have to realize, however, that it comes with the nature of the animal that the progressive left is much more outspoken and mob like in their views. There are more people that agree with you than you realize, it's just that few of them bother to make it public.
For a tolerant, civil, agreeable collection of intelligent human beings who are interested in perusing anti-global warming literature while taking your throbbing martyr complex into nuanced account at every step of the way, please navigate to about:blank. It loads a hell of a lot faster than HN.