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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

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Lissa Pinion

My opinion has always been that you can be whatever you want to be in sl. For me, my av emulates a great deal what I look like in rl...ok a few pounds lighter but I'm digressing. I have many friends in sl that do not fit the norm and really, who cares? I have found out thru accidents from a few who they really are in rl and it doesn't detract from who they are in sl to me. Others have been honest from the beginning. If you are trying to be malicious about things then I have an issue. Otherwise, whether you be transgender, gay, neko, furry, vamp, etc. Who cares? I know I don't.

Chestnut Rau

Brava Vax!

Fleep Tuque

Our ability to express our inner selves in whatever way it manifests and free of the constraints of the avatar we happened to inherit is one of the most magical things about the metaverse. Even those of us whose SL avatar doesn't differ too wildly from our RL avatar can experience the kind of transformation you described, just by being free to explore if nothing else, and to feel beautiful or dress outlandishly or..

It is the diversity of so many people with so many cultures and sub-cultures in Second Life that make it interesting and meaningful, I hope all of us remember that even if we tailor our message to specific audiences when trying to bring others on board.

Thanks for a great and thoughtful post!

Zarkinfrood Miami

Bravo! One of the reasons I love Second life so much is the ability people have to be the person they WANT to be, and not be forced into a role because of gender, class, race, or sexuality. I'm glad you've found that.

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

We all engage in some transformation in SL. You can be another gender, another race, another species, or a rusting Steampunk mechanical man in a virtual world.

It's part of the magic, and part of the reason I disagree with Hamlet's idea that linking all of us in a Facebook-type social network would provide some secret sauce for mass adoption. How many of the core SL population would that change lose?

SL *is* the social network when you are in-world and immersed. Whether you leave the RL you behind or not is up to you.

I put dreads on a bald head that looked surprisingly like my own, before my beard went gray. It took a while, but my RL name is now in my first life profile tab.

Good luck with your journey.

RvA Hax

strong post vax, respect

Trinity Dejavu

There is a huge and distinct difference between gender expression and "playing" gender.

I am less than a month away from GRS and completion of a journey that was in many ways made possible by Second Life. Expression, acceptance and realization that I could do something about my gender was made possible thanks to SL and the people and communities I encountered. My world and me in it have changed beyond all recognition the last few years.

I now run a Transgender peer support group in Second Life (The Transgender Lounge) and spend much of my time engaged in one on one peer support with people from all sides of the gender spectrum.

The biggest issue with 'girls who are boys' is not those who are expressing and exploring gender identity, it's those who are using their female in world presence as a sexualized play thing, a route to on screen lesbian pixel sex (and not seeming to notice that in pretending to be a girl with real lesbian is about the most demeaning situation possible).

The adult scene is SL is wall to wall with boys who for no other reason, "play" girls simply to get there jollies, because being a girl is more submissive, being a girl is more slutty, being a girl is more gratifying to watch.

A RL/SL gender mismatch is not a huge deal, as long as you're not out solely to use your alternate gender identity as a masturbatory aid or play with peoples hearts.

Being transgender is all about self expression, so is Second Life.

Arcadia Codesmith

Androgyny is the least understood of gender identities, because it requires the greatest distance from our ingrained cultural suppositions to look at objectively.

But there are always those of us who, when presented with a choice between fashion doll and dump truck, understand instinctively that there's no reason it couldn't be fashion doll DRIVING a dump truck.

Just not in heels. That'd be dangerous.

brinda allen

Thank you! It's not what you are, but who you are. Who we are is determined by how we act... by our ethics (or lack there of).
In "real life" I'm invisable... that doesn't mean that I've found magical powers... it means that I'm old.
If you are still relatively young, strong,healthy,thin?,etc....you can imagine, but you don't know. When you are born before world war 2...today you are invisable.
In Secondlife all of my friends and residents know I'm 68...but I'm not invisable.
When's the last time you sat down and had a one on one conversation with a senior citizen on and equal footing? I get to do that on a daily basis.
That is just another way that this experience can enrich all of us.

Miso Susanowa

Hurrah for this lovely post!

Having benefitted from several years of Jungian analysis and therapy, I don't see much difference between the masks/personas we all wear daily in different situations and the "masks" of SL. Accidents of birth, including gender, sex, skin color, ethnic and racial stereotyping have existed forever, and people have fought to be free of them (pls see George Sand, James Tiptree Jr, Teresa of Avilon, Jimi Hendrix et al). SL offers a beneficial tool to this end.

As far as the "day trippers," they've also been there forever, shallowly playing with whatever titillates them at the time, only to go on to the next stimulus when they are sated. "You don't need a flag or badge to know your own."

The issue of "who's who/what" in SL is a press-generated tempest in a teapot. Be what you are. Forget containers and temporary shapes; you'll lose it all in the end anyway.

Nova Dyszel

great post Vax, thank you for sharing your truth.

Similarly, I think the many bdsm and other sexual subcultures in sl need to be recognized as a huge part of the core of sl users, and sl creators and consumers. Freedom to explore sexuality, including forms not always accepted or available to people in their rl lives is a huge part of the draw and excitement of sl for many, and completely legitimate.

What's the point of creating a second life if you can't be and do who and what you want?

CronoCloud Creeggan

Yes, I too have found that SL has helped me deal with what I sometimes half-jokingly refer to as "This Thing of Ours". I've written about SL and my gender issues a "few" times, here and there on me blog: http://ccslfashionista.blogspot.com/search/label/transgender

One way my experience is different is that I was a fashionista before I joined SL and didn't know about the SL fashion community when I signed up (or I would have chosen a much prettier and fashionable name) One other thing I thought was important was openly stating what I am in my profile.

I have met quite a few other transfolks in SL, we're like snowflakes, every one of us unique and different. And yes, one of the great things about SL is that we can define ourselves as we want to be seen and to have others interact with us as.

Lauren Weyland

An amazingly strong post. It will resonate differently depending on the expansive or limiting mind. And the comment about androgyny encompasses so much. I have never found myself locked into a specified gender and SL has allowed me to explore the depth of feminine but since I use voice as a comedian in SL it is most intense. I have no other avatars. And, one can never fully enter a gender not born with due to the physical reality of reproductive nature of gender. I congratulate you Vax for your deep insight into who you are. Philip Linden was right SecondLife will make many people find the depth of self.

Loraan Fierrens

Thank you for this post, Vax! It's really well written and I think captures a vital aspect of Second Life's soul.

This transformative power of Second Life is very important for me too. Since Miso mentioned Jungian analysis, I'll just mention that I've been going to therapy recently dealing with mid-life issues (the typical, cliched stuff). Part of that therapy has been looking at my dreams, and I've been using Second Life to help me realize elements from my dreams... to capture them where I can look at them again and think about them. That's involved changing my avatar too. Where once, Loraan was a tall, strapping fellow with the pony tail I always wanted and could never manage, now "he" is a "she"... and just a little slip of a thing at that. In a sense, I've turned my avatar into a kind of totem for what Jung called the anima (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anima_and_animus). The way I like to look at it, when I'm walking around Second Life, I'm actually out for a stroll with a much-neglected part of my inner self. Something like that has really never been quite possible before.

For all its flaws and frustrations, there is real magic at the heart of Second Life for the people that see it and have the will to use it. For me, half the fun is seeing what unique and curious things people decide to conjure up.

Cheyenne Palisades

Congratulations, Vax, for your courage and honesty in writing this marvelous piece. I wish you the best in your personal journey.

Chey

Exuberance LaFleur

Exuberance LaFleur Stands and Applauds! Bravo Madam. Well Done! :)

Jenny Fallopias

You mention twice about being overweight.

Have you tried spending maybe a few hours less on SL and getting some exercise?

It can do wonders for your confidence you know.

Silverfox Rainbow

this post reminds me alot of myself - am also in my thirties and overweight, and still single IRL, but in my case i have chronic depression, so its not easy for me to just go out and exercise
In SL i am an IRL female, who wears a young male avatar, i started off as furry back in 2005, andwent thru a whole bucnh of avi changes, been a dragon, a tiny, in 2007 i created a ghostbusters avi, and wore that for a long time, and i found i was quite comertable with wearing a male shape, i have never been overfond of wearing a female avi, not really much into wearing shoes or clothes galore, i remodeled my avi after a few more years now i look like a young man in his thirties wearing glasses - which is the conenction i make to my IRL, and i am ok with it, i am not gender or roleplaying, just being myself, wearher i be male or female. thats the beauty of sl to me.

Commizar

Wonderful, Vax! I think it's great the way SL has been beneficial to you!

Remington Soup

Beautiful writing. Thank you for sharing!

Eleri Ethaniel

Jenny Fallopias- Pffft. Judgemental much?

This is just the kind of attitude that Vax speaks against- assumptions about physical form, appearance and motivation.

Yes, there are asshats in SL, who are doing whatever just to "get their jollies"- but as long as the *default cultural assumption* is that a guy in a girls avvie, or someone enjoying tentacle porn, or a Gorean slave auction is somehow a perversion that should be swept under the rug, then people like Vax, and any other consenting adult activities -from Jollies to Serious Interaction- gets painted with that brush.

~Eleri who is very very proud and pleased to have a wonderful RL husband, and SL wife in Vax.

Rawst Berry

Everyone is applauding your post now but in a few weeks time there will be another reference to "the fat guy pretending to be a girl". It's always easy to turn others into a joke when you don't have to live their life.

The article Vax linked actually struck me as kinda sexist. We have to make sure the hot female avatar you want to bang in SL is really a hot chick irl too, because if it was an uggo, fatty or tranny we might feel "tricked" for being attracted to their av.

LL's little PR campaign is all about trying to shove square pegs into round holes. Many people play SL specifically to escape the limitations of RL, to have kinky sex, to explore their identity, etc. Maybe we should learn to celebrate human diversity instead of trying to cover it up.

Eleri Ethaniel

Sadly yes, Rawst. But the more voices raised, then slowly, slowly, what we may or may not have between our legs becomes less important.

Noctis Oh

This post resonates very strongly for me, as a trans person. I empathize deeply with what it's like to experience gender dysphoria and to find a haven in SL. Of course, for me, I was the "pretty lady" in RL "hiding" behind a somewhat goofy-looking male avatar--inverting the stereotype. It was finding support in SL that gave me the strength to legally transition in RL, so now I match genders in both worlds. But I'm still way shorter and lack the kitty-ears and tail in RL, and nobody gets on some moral high-horse about how "deceptive" that is. . .

The truth is this simple: all the negative comments about pretty women in SL "secretly being men" are blatant transphobia. This is just what trans people have to deal with in RL: people mocking us, dissing us, expressing revulsion at our existence, panicking when they find us attractive. Transphobia, like all forms of prejudice, is the real social evil. What LL should do is fight transphobia, not bolster it.

There's fat phobia operating here as well.

I have met a lot of my SL friends in RL. Many of them came to my wedding to my lovely spouse, whom I first met in SL--and who is, by the way, a trans woman. And the thing that has always struck me in meeting SL friends in the real is how much people's RL and SL avatars are similar. It's just not always the superliteral correspondence of the LL campaign. It's something deeper--an essence or soul--that animates both manifestations, and it never ceases to awe me how it works.

Thanks for the post, Vax.

Arcadian Vanalten

We all have different personas we adopt, even those who've never heard of SL. The guy you are in the administrative meeting at the office probably isn't the same one you are when reading a bedtime story to your kid or hanging out w/ your buddies or whatever. People are complex. Gender identity is one of many variables that may be in play at any particular time w/ different individuals.

To argue that one has been deceived involves a certain amount of arrogance in the first place, that people should adhere to your impression of them come hell or high water. I prefer to accept people as they present themselves to me. Even if the image they project isn't a full representation of them, it IS at the very least a good snapshot of their ideals and values, and that, I think, is a streak of honesty in and of itself. Understanding who they want to be is quite acceptable to me, regardless of what their RL setup may be.

There may be other guys out there who feel differently, and that's fine, but as far as I'm concerned, when I see a well done avatar, I admire her creator's taste regardless of who that person may be, and if her character is also well crafted, again, I couldn't care less if the flirty babe sprang forth from the brain of a retired male trucker w/ a beard, a paunch, and a cigar. I'll never see that guy (nor want to), but I can damn sure appreciate his creation, and that's good enough for me.

Codesmith

I do not have gender confusion, but I have to say I find the stereotyping in which some people engage to be absolutely vile. There is a photo that a few twisted immature types like to post featuring a morbidly obese naked man at a computer, with snickering commentary usually along the lines of what you describe in your article.

It is abhorrent and all people of good conscience should stand up against this type of bigotry as much as they stand up against racial/ethnic/religious stereotypes.

Enjoy your life, and I am glad to hear that Second Life is helping you find peace within yourself.

Wol Euler

I'm amused by a pair of statements that recur frequently:

1) All the female avs in SL are really fat guys.

2) SL is a game for bored housewives.

They can't possibly both be true, unless the housewives are male. But both are presented as truths (condemnations, actually) about SL.

And for what little it's worth, the vast majority of female avs that I have met in SL are female in RL too.

Arcadian Vanalten

I just think who or what you are in RL is beside the point and utterly irrelevant. I am, admittedly, one of those folks some like to call Immersionists or whatever, but I have no desire to blend SL and RL myself (I live my RL in RL already; why go into a world of limitless possibilities just to relive RL there all over again?). Hence, to me, whoever they are in RL has no bearing to me.

I'm usually a fantasy-inspired critter of some kind, or I'm a guy based on who I was in early undergrad college mostly b/c I already have a full & generally satisfying RL, but when I need a break, that's where SL comes into play. It's my time to escape the stack of degrees and obligations that have overtaken my RL and turn back the clock to a) a simpler and more fun-centered time in my life, or b) a full-tilt escape into literary fantasy overall. WHy on earth would I begrudge someone for wanting to see how the other gender lives?

Oura Scribe

/me applauds your courage and honesty. I must say the hairs on the back of my neck stood up when i read Jenny's comment.

FYI - Club One has been doing trials in sl for over a year now - and reporting that their weight loss participants have indeed lost more weight in second life than the ones in the trial at their real life gyms....

I'm not sure if your comment about being over weight is just a fact you chose to give to describe your physical being or something deeper. In any case, it is not often that others will stand up and put themselves on display (in picture or words). That shows an extreme amount of confidence in my opinion.

My comments on your post :) I have discovered and learned many new things about myself in second life. I see tiggers, boxes, dragons, and all sorts of other characters and they do not have to have a sexual orientation. I have friends that are boys playing girls - and I don't think of any of them as "dirty" .... I know their personalities, their characteristic traits, and when i think of them I do not picture a boy or a girl. I was just discussing this very thing last weekend... I must give credit to my friend Ahuva. She told me when she pictures this SL person, she actually sees their name most of the time (in her mind) and not a picture. This because we spend a great deal of time in IM's...

So, what does it mean to see black and white letters or a personality and not a dress or slacks? I think it means we are not superficial.

Morgan

Wonderful post, Vax. The people who disagree with it are probably just staying quiet, but it seems very helpful, to me, to have a voice crying out in the wilderness here somewhere.

Jenny, I can't speak for Vax, but for most people losing weight is a really difficult process of changing long-ingrained habits that are tied to tricky emotional stuff. I know where I'm coming from: I used to be very much overweight, and now I'm one of the fittest people I know. It was not as easy as signing out of Second Life and going for a run (although something like that was part of it). It CAN be done, but implying that someone is lazy and stupid doesn't usually (in my experience) seem to help.

I'm a little torn on what people have said about gender changing joy riders. Most of the people here who've responded seem to feel supportive of virtual gender changing for anyone who's trans or feels out of place in their own gender. But isn't there some good--a lot of good, maybe--in EVERYONE getting some clue what it's like to be the other gender? Admittedly, if a male puts together a bimbo avatar and runs around in it for arousal, that's not the most enlightening experience ever, but I'm skeptical that the gender joy riders are doing it solely for the jollies (although even then, there's an argument that sexual pleasure isn't necessarily nefarious).

Before everyone jumps on me personally, I have been a female avatar, but not for sexual purposes. I'm not one of the people I'm talking about as joy riders--but I certainly do understand what it means to be a male in this culture and to be prohibited from a wide variety of behavior and emotional expression.

Back to the joy riders: my guess is that even among ones who think of themselves as doing it just for a turn-on, many are, without realizing it, trying to get at something more important in themselves. I don't think that this particularly dignifies objectifying women or waylaying lesbians, but I think that in at least a limited, fumbling way it's an attempt to get in touch with an almost hopelessly suppressed part of themselves, while maintaining the safe defense that "Hey, if I'm going to be looking at somebody's ass all day ..."

Lastly, about it being demeaning to lesbians for joy riders to impersonate women ... does this mean that everyone in Second Life should be required to provide full RL information--gender, age, etc.? If not, isn't the burden on everyone involved--both the lesbian and the joy rider--to get whatever assurances they feel they need and decide based on the information they have? I don't think it's particularly appropriate for the joy rider to explicitly claim to be a RL female, but it also doesn't seem particularly appropriate to insist that someone divulge whether they are or not--because if you ask, and the person refuses to answer, that's generally taken for an answer in itself, meaning you're forcing the information (or a lie) out of them just by asking.

What I mean to say on this last point is that if a lesbian, just like a straight male, wants to be absolutely sure there isn't a dreaded stealth male behind the female avatar, then they should probably stick to lovers who are already open about their RL identities and can provide some kind of proof. Otherwise, I don't see that there's any moral requirement that a joy rider disclose his RL gender regardless of who's interested in sleeping with her.

Gully Monkeyburger

Meh... I dunno if the whole oversized fake-looking boob thing is that 'beautiful' to be honest.

jt

My take is who cares what others think of you?
Second Life is the opportunity to be what you want to be and explore how that makes you feel in a visual way. I applaud the OP for being honest. As to the "evil" people who are exploiting others by pretending to be something they're not? It's roleplay, which is a game.

Just try not to get too attached because you're not really your avatar, you are yourself.

Lindal Kidd

True words, spoken from the heart. Thank you, Vax. Even more heartening is the number of comments here from people who agree with you.

Virtual worlds have tremendous potential to allow us to explore not only new worlds, but ourselves, and others. What would my life have been like, if I had done this, and not that? Who would I be, if I could be literally anyone I chose? What could I accomplish, what could I learn, what impact could I make on the lives of others?

What a waste, how boring, to limit virtual reality to a two dimensional copy of "real life". Why not embrace a world where everyone can be young, beautiful, strong, and agile? Where we can be the gender, or even the species, of our choice, or out dreams?

Brava, Vax.

Stephen Venkman

Much respect Vox for this post.

I love this response from Arcadian. "To argue that one has been deceived involves a certain amount of arrogance in the first place, that people should adhere to your impression of them come hell or high water."

I have always taken each encounter in sl at face value. It's how one treats me that determines my interest in engaging them again in rl or sl.

I believe there are many who wouldn't fit the form of their avatar much less the gender/race/sexuality of their avatar.

Thank you for your post.

CatSix McDonnell

Thanks for putting into words what I have been trying to say for years. <3

HALEY Salamon

I look just as i used to when I was 18 ,, is that wrong NO! WHO CARES IF I HAVE SOME FUN ,, my thinking is do what, ever makes u happy in sl as long as it hurts no one , transgender whatever if u are fun and nice , i would love to have u as a friend , um as long as u voice , I AM A VOICE GIRL !!

Foxxe Wilder

Kudos to you Vax. Not many have the cajones to publicly admit to such things.
(It has been said once, that it takes real balls to be a woman!) There are not many men I know in RL that are man enough to venture that far out of the emotional pit of the male ego.

Congrats and welcome to the sisterhood!

moncler sweden

thanks for your article,like your blog very much,well done

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