« Racism in Second Life and Other Online Communities - Great Article on "E-Race" SXSW Panel | Main | Second Life's Survival Seriously Threatened by Second Life Users' Hate and Fear of Change (1st of a Series) »

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Adeon Writer

It's not so much prejudice as it is personal taste. But other than that, great article! I use alts, but they are used for solitude in a world were it's socially unacceptable/cumbersome to hide your status from everyone. As such I try to communicate as little as possible past "sorry, this is a building alt I try to keep to myself." If they continue on after that, clearly have no issues with not knowing who I really am.

Angel Slocombe

Just to throw a different angle on this.
I am pre-transition FtM transgendered in real life, and so in real life, I look, walk, talk and am seen by others as female but I in fact identify as male and so have a male avatar in SL. (let's leave aside for the moment the fact that in my profile i'm completely open and honest about my RL status, I know many FtMs with male avs in SL who aren't) I'm curious, would you consider this "roleplaying" a male?
My SL life allows me to express myself in a way I'm unable to in my real life for a myriad of reasons. I don't consider myself as a roleplayer though, my SL Avatar is in fact a closer representation to the REAL me than my real life persona.
I have however chosen to be open about my status, partly to raise awareness of Transgender issues, and partly to avoid those sticky situations when you realise you've gotten too close to someone before realising there's still been no mention of the elephant in the room. Being open leaves me vulnerable to a lot of prejudices and I know it prevents a lot of people making the effort to get to know me because they look at my profile and then wonder what on earth they could talk about with me. However, I came to realise, it's become a great BS filter. Those who learn who I am and show interest anyway are the kind of people I want in my life, those who turn around and walk away, well .. their loss.

Iris Ophelia

@Angel Well I had men trying on the busty Barbie persona in mind a little more than transgendered persons. I suppose the argument could be made that it's a kind of roleplaying (you could argue that everyone is roleplaying in SL to some extent), though I've had some experience with transgendered friends in the past which would make me very uncomfortable applying that word in this situation.

I think much like you've described the advice still applies. It's not easy to be upfront with people, but if you hide details that may be problematic down the line you're ultimately wasting time you could be spending with someone who'll like you no matter what your identity. And yep, it is definitely their loss!

Adeon Writer

@Angel: I wouldn't consider that roleplaying at all! Nor is the fact that you what's going on in your profile even required. (Although from a guy who wants to be a guy and plays SL as a guy, it is nice of you to do.) As long as you're not intentionally deceiving poor saps, all is well with the world. For example, you'd never get in any serious real world relationship without honesty. There shouldn't be an exception to internet flirting. :)

Jack Abraham

I have to disagree, Ophelia. I make it a rule to take people in Second Life as being what they present themselves as being. I really don't *care* what you are in RL; I'm going to treat you as a man, or a woman, or a tentacled cardboard box.

Part of that presentation is (or should be) some idea of whether *you* care what *I* am in RL. If you do, then I should take that into account. In all likelihood I'll just not get close to you. But the default should be, as suggested by the community standards, full separation of SL and RL.

brinda allen

@Adeon Writer, @Angel Slocombe, @Jack Abraham... I totally agree.

Come on Ms. Ophelia, I'm sure you can find a troll somewhere that hates a bit of everything.
My feeling is that those who come to Secondlife to stay and become a viable part of our world don't care one way or the other
about anothers gender... unless... they intend on making a real life connection.
Rarely have I seen real life connections end well, Pituca Fairchang not withstanding, she and Garth had a wonderful life.

I had a female avatar managing my estate for a year and a half that came to me in voice one day and wanted to tell me they were real life male.
This person is still a friend of mine and I still address "her" by the name on the account as per TOS.
A big part of the magic in Secondlife is a lack of racial, religious, and gender identification.

I did not come to virtual worlds to bump pixels... or fall in love with anything except the magic of Secondlife.


Gender bending doesn't have any effect on me and I liken to think I approach SL users with the same open mind I approach strangers in RL. That being said, I'm married in RL and do in fact know that if I hang around too many female AV's the wife does get concerned. But one of my best friends in RL interacts as a mostly female formed fury, and I myself have an alt that is one of the hottest avs I've ever seen.

But honestly, RL gender to me has no effect, because I really am not involved in the sort of behavior that might embarrass me, if the end user turned out to be something other than who they're portraying.

Silverfox Rainbow

i know quite a few people who play opposite gender in sl,i do it myself IRL Female but i perfer to wear a male avi, i first started doing it cause i didnt want jerks hitting on me, now it doesnt bug me, my avi over time has come to look more like my irl self, only differance is its a guy, but i dont roleplay or trying to be someone else, just being myself but in sl i am just a different gender :) (though i do have a female alt, and i treat her the same way to)


I'm a trans woman, and I've found this very difficult in SL. Personally, I think the Cis people should say whether they are transphobes. Why should the minority have to bear the burden of the majority's prejudice?
So far as getting to know people is concerned, I'm proud of it; and why shouldn't I share my life with others...

I don't understand why people get excited about it. I know female avs that are driven by RL males, and they seem like women to me; I've met other female avs that seem like men. Just be confident in what you like, I think.

Arcadia Codesmith

I'm a RL androgyn with characters in a host of MMOs and VWs of many genders (there are more than you think).

I tend not to reveal my biological sex because I feel it automatically places me into one container or another, neither of which fits me.

But in any context where it matters, I try to be up front about the fact that I'm not going to reveal my sex (or if I do, it's because you've reached a strong level of trust with me).

People who make casual assumptions about the real me based on my avatar, well... you know what they say about "assume".

Foneco Zuzu

Arcadia Codesmith words Mine ones.


Thanks for that info. Arcadia. Very enlightening.


I think the trend is for SL to become integrated with RL, which may be the only way for SL to remain viable and grow.

I've personally integrated my SL and RL life by uploading my RL pic to my profile, so no one has any doubts as to who I am. I now prefer to deal with other people in SL who do the same.

Iris Ophelia

Really good point Arcadia!

The fact remains that while NWN has a lot of open-minded readers, the population of SL in general is not so uniformly accepting. As I said, I really don't believe that RL gender needs to be a factor in casual relationships, but when you step into romantic situations in particular, people may start taking things more seriously and that is definitely the time for both participants to put their cards on the table, in my opinion. To a very open minded person it likely won't matter at all, but to someone else it will, and unfortunately that's a choice they have to be able to make themselves.


Relationships in SL, or at least those which are entirely confined to the virtual plane, are generally not conducted with an actual partner, but rather with one's internal representation of that partner, which is projected on to the "partner's" avatar. In these circumstances the actual characteristics of the person controlling that avatar are largely irrelevant, and knowing too much, or indeed anything at all, about that person only spoils the illusion.

So you should keep your RL gender to yourself


''Or do you just continue to roleplay AS the alt then destroy their illusion?''

You're keeping the illusion alive by staying as your alt not destroying it.

Most of the time the alts I make i don't really bother to make friends, even if I did I just don't use that alt often enough to really matter.

The whole point of SL is fantasy. If you want SL to be a mirror of your reality, why not just walk out side and be IN reality? It's cheaper, there's no lag, and the grapgics are AWESOME!!


As someone who's been faced with this conundrum about my *main* SL account for a long time now, I thought I'd share this middle ground I eventually established. I also don't consider it "roleplay" that I'm female in SL and male in RL, it's true to who I am, although I've backed off on the notion of calling myself transgendered since I don't currently have any plans to transition.

The point I was getting to: I provide links in my profile that indicate my RL status. My groups list includes my membership in transgender support groups. In other words, anyone who cares to *look* will get the picture. Beyond that, I act like my normal, goofy, female self and to hell with anyone who thinks that's a deception. If they can't even be bothered to sort it out ahead of time, why should it be on my shoulders to deal with their prejudices?

Extropia DaSilva

Oh, I give anyone who wants to form a romantic relationship with me the facts. You are dating ME, and the relationship occurs within the context of online spaces. You are not in a relationship with my primary and you will never meet, or be given any personal information about, that person. If you do not like these conditions, do not date me.

ONTH if a couple intend to move a virtual relationship to RL, I agree that is best to remove the mask of fantasy and let your partner in on your actual RL appearance and personality.

Extropia DaSilva

As far as I know, nobody ever suggested there was something wrong with authors inventing characters whose gender was the opposite of their own. Have you ever heard of anyone reading 'The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole' and being disturbed by it, on account of the author being a woman? And when it came to Sue Townshend's motivations for creating Adrian, how many people would leap to the conclusion 'oh she is a gender-bender'?

Similarly in films and plays. Sometimes a man is cast as a woman, or a woman portrays a man. For instance, Cate Blanchett portrayed a young Bob Dillan. How many people fretted over the morality of Cate acting the part of Bob? I would guess, none.

But when it comes to roleplay in online worlds, it's like the most controversial thing in the world to portray a character whose gender is not that of the actor, and we leap to the conclusion that anyone who does so simply has to have issues with their RL gender, rather than following one or more of the countless other reasons authors, playwrites, screenwriters and actors create/ act out an opposing-gender role.

Oriella Charik

Cross gender roleplaying has been discussed since Dungeons & Dragons was first published in 1975.
There are as in many other fields three views on this:
The majority don't care. They don't cross gender play themselves but it doesn't bother them. A minority do it and see nothing wrong with it. A smaller minority find it creepy, even perverted, and are sometimes in denial about being a minority.

Yes, I've encountered this minority in SL. I've seen Residents abusing avatars in Chat for no other reason than their Profile saying they don't use Voice. One roleplay Sim I used to visit suddenly announced that cross gender play was 'deception' and declared that anyone caught doing it would be banned.

It would be nice if the two minorities were to accept the existence of each other and make allowances, but this isn't going to happen. Newbie residents are going to sign up, hop onto poseballs, and then discover to their horror that their partner isn't actually a sexy blonde with big hooters in RL.

CronoCloud Creeggan

Perhaps I should finally respond to this post. considering I'm probably one of the more "SL famous" openly transgendered people in SL.

Yep, I"m TG in RL, felt that being honest about that was a good thing, and I put it in my profile.

But it has bit me back sometimes. Not all SL residents are like those who post to NWN. I've received the "he" pronoun, when I don't identify as "he". There are places I cannot go, being openly TG, that non-TG men with female avatars can...as long as they don't use voice and do that "I keep SL and RL seperate" thing.

And I have been told that it has affected my socialization negatively, that there are people who see the "TG" and say "too bad she's TG"

But I do have friends, and I love the friends who a friends with me, faults and all.

Connie Sec

Your actions in SL say more about you than any supposed RL information.

Doreen Garrigus

There's a thing I want to point out about voice and gender. Not using voice may have nothing whatsoever to do with gender correspondences in RL and SL. I almost never use voice. My computer is becoming more inadequate to SL by the moment, and turning voice on causes it to stutter and struggle. I'd give you my home phone number before I'd talk to you in SL voice.


Well this is one of the most drama-prone issues in all of SL. Personally I think if you're going to have a *romantic* relationship which straddles the line between SL and RL then you should tell. If it's going to be strictly SL, however, then who cares? I'm the stereotypical trucker-in-tutu type stereotype but I've spent a lot of effort in forming my feminine persona and being a real person in SL rather than a big boobed bimbo looking for "lesbian" sex.

That said, I guess the taboo is that some people think pixelsex is really having sex with the other person whereas in reality it's a form of glorified porn. Is a porn actress having sex with the person who loads the DVD into the DVD player? Of course not. But if you think it *is* having sex with the other person then if the other person is really male and you are male and you have hangups about that then....

Anyways, for my part, the most enjoyable part of acting out being a woman in SL is getting to understand what a woman actually goes through in RL (i.e. having to listen to boring pickup lines, guys wanting to jump into bed with you instantly, being ignored or not taken seriously when certain topics are discussed etc). In other words very illuminating.

There are *tons* of hangups in SL and many people don't cross the lines although the lines are seriously blurred. In RL you can't have sex with a furry or a succubus or a robot or a car or various other fetishes/perversions and in SL not only can you but it's commonplace. In such a world it's obvious that we're going to have plenty of drama.

Personally I like the phrase "don't ask, don't tell". But that's just me.

Sphere Clarity

Having "accidentally" fallen into SL the first time as the "opposite" sex and spent several years as a female in SL I've never considered it to be an issue. I once had lesbian sex with someone without telling them first that the typist was male, and I really wasn't a very good whore when I tried to get by without spending USD. Mostly, I hung out with other women who accepted me as one of the girls -- and they knew the typist was male.

I found it very hard to create a male avie, and at first being male was very rough going. Now I live out in the Metaverse and have little contact with SL.

The typist is heterosexual male, and I'm not sure I'd call Sphere's life roleplaying.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Wagner James Au
Really Needy HUD for Second Life roleplay
Dutchie SL waterfront cottages
Sinespace virtual world Unity free home
Samsung Edge computing reports NWN
my site ... ... ...