I have the privilege of hosting the post of the legendary Torley Linden on my blog for Mix’n Match One, and what’s more, my wife, Princess Ivory, is similarly privileged to have Torley deal with the topic that she suggested. Torley is, in a word, brilliant. Torley has found Second Life to be an ideal environment to overcome Aspergers Syndrome, a syndrome he shares with my brother and on the same spectrum as my own ADD. Neither my brother nor I share the same interest in watermelons, however.



I’ve lived my
Second Life® as almost every possible gender: the “usual” male and female, plus a host of alien orientations, such as androgynous giant amoebae and lumps of watermelon-colored rock. This, in turn, has taught me a few valuable lessons. I was going to list them as bullet points, but they’re slightly more involved paragraphs, patches of an ongoing journey. Take what you can, smile at what you will, and if it makes you uncomfortable, live on — and learn from within.

It’s still a lot easier to find clothes as a girl. I don’t just mean accessibility, but variety. Unless you have a flamboyant style a la David Bowie or Elton John (I do), it’s hard for a guy to wear anything he darn well pleases. If you’re not versed in my backstory, my first female avatar was dubbed Torley Jr., a mysterious time traveler who came to me in a dream in Nov. 2004. At the time, my first life was suffering from depression. I decided to enact a unique kind of therapy by role-playing as my daughter from the future, come back to cheer up her dad. Definitely unorthodox, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more of this in the future. In the process, I delighted in all the wild fashions I could pick out, and wondered at my newfound cyber-femininity. Contrary to rumor, Torley Jr. wasn’t modeled on a single source, but like SID 6.7 — only not a mass murderer — is based on many women I admire. I’ll let your own experiences deduce which ones.

longestdayofmylifea9yz by you. Not dissimilar to first life, like how skirts on men are uncommon (kilts are an exception), a woman can wear just about anything a man can without being taunted. The opposite is not true, and bigotry and lame double standards upset me.

Electric lesbians?

I keep hearing how many guys play girls, but the opposite isn’t true
. At least, not openly. We may never have exact numbers, but despite how hard it can be to candidly discuss this in the open, being a female avatar does make me — as a guy behind the keyboard — feel different. I don’t type differently (I’ve long used cutesy emoticons like ^_^ as it’s a continuation from my raver days, as is “Friendly greetings!“), but I do pay special attention to my lady avatar’s body language through Animation Overrides. However, being me, that’s soon counterpointed by contortionist, meme-infected gestures.

After several months of being a fem av, I came to the realization that beyond the snits and giggles, Second Life can be quite a healthy place to explore one’s sexuality. Including the oppressed, the curious, and the disabled/differently-abled. But it can take going out of your comfort zone, perhaps bucking the traditions you were raised with to become aware of who you really are. Sometimes, I’ve been a furry, and while I’m not a full-fledged lifestyler, I do have several fursonas, including:

The Exquisite Ravenelle Zugzwang 23 by you.

Her name is Tollie and this avatar was created by Evangeline Suavage. Tollie is loyal, plays the cello, and enjoys hugging cats while drinking hot choco (as shown). Apparently, I also learned a lot about avatar customization simply by having many wonderful avies. Intricacies such as fitting high heels on small feet, resizing a watch to fit a fur’s thick prim wrist, and other usability concerns accompany my creative storytelling.

Land of 1,000 smiles

Some of my roots come from Thailand, where gender is a lot more fluid. There is a word: “kathoey“, which roughly translates to “ladyboy”, but it also refers to a third gender. Thai culture is quite tolerant of transsexuality compared to America, where gay-bashing continues to get headlines, despite homophobia being a disgustingly archaic and cruel form of barbarism. While I’m not a “RL kathoey”, I can empathize when I’m in my female forms. My personality has always been a minditching contradiction, blending gentle meekness with a fierce energy, and as different civilizations have tried to characterize this — as the Chinese did with “yin and yang” — I realize how much of the total spectrum I am, whether I’m a man…

Torley in high-res - Torley Sr. in Blade Runner trenchcoat

a Dazzle Bat (courtesy of Sylver Bu)…

Torley in high-res - Dazzle Batorley

MELONZILLA (thanx to Milki Unknown)…

Torley in high-res - MELONZILLA

or a fuzzy cousin of the FSM (w00t Yoa Ogee)…

Torley in high-res - Watermelon Plush

These, and many more each bring out different points of my personality.

The map is not the destination, the label is not the limit

As a versatile spirit of this cyberworld, I call myself an omnisexual, which means I’m open to being attracted across all genders, but my actual intrigue is very specific. Someone can’t just be a man/woman, they need to possess a personality and charm which fascinates me. (I think this is true for many, but I state it for clarity.) If you’ve studied my past, you know I was involved with Jade Lily, who’s also male in first life. After discovering ourselves and each other further, we separated and are now both with women in real life. The stereotypical knee-jerk is to assume I was in denial of my gayness, but of course, I’m far more flexible than any cramped perception… it wasn’t that. As Bill Cosby would vocalize, you see, when I was younger, I termed myself a “straight guy”, but I now see how that doesn’t even begin to describe me and my celebration of your love across cultures, creeds, colors, and classes.

As the story would have it, I met a creative woman named Ravenelle Zugzwang who I’d rise (not fall) in love with. I mused before hearing her voice, that I couldn’t sure if she was really a woman or a man. Interestingly enough, she previously presumed I was really a chick too! But what did it matter? As I’d learned in my inworld adventures, being an avatar can bring out the real us, and as dismissive as it sounds to older attitudes, our physical bodies are just “details”, flesh prisons which limit us all too often, when we can see far beyond… if we allow ourselves to.

<img title="" alt="LOVECATS

Lovecat tinies by Achamo Paine.

Get me right

It’s intriguing how popular view of me has transitioned from thinking of me as male, to female, to male, and then to all manner of watermelon-colored crazy. I once was afraid of voice chat, but after making many video tutorials, 1,000s of Residents heard my genetic voice and I could muse:

Behind every great female avatar there’s a great man.

(Meant with a touch of jest and a dash of earnesty.)

We wouldn’t have Second Lives if we didn’t have first ones. And there is joy in accepting our imperfections, growing on what we can improve, and letting the rest be. As obvious as water is wet, desires differ. For instance, depending on your priorities, having children may be a must, or for others, adopting a pet cat is what’s right. But there is so much out there for us as humans, and the more I got to know Ravenelle, the more I knew she was for me. We enjoy our present together, making funny home movies…

… oh, and enjoying both a contented domestic existence and a fruitful Second Life.

This is a new age!

A new age where people are born with a biological gender and elect optional genders online. Just as how we can choose a new name and identity within Second Life for ourselves, gender is part of this overall package. It gets regarded as freakish by some, even some SLers, but the real forward-thinkers and -doers know how antiquated this mentality will be in years to come.

Hating someone for a choice of love and friendship is as ridiculous as banning colors from the rainbow. Nature adores diversity. My wife prefers me to be in a male avatar, but there are times when we are sexay doggirls…

close up by you.

Beautiful skins by MiaSnow Myriam, I must say.

The reasons for being an opposite gender have been discussed in surplus: some do it as a social experiment, others don’t think much of it sexually, and others still use it to find relationships they can’t fulfill “IRL”. Mine has been a combination of reasons, but primarily, finding peace with myself, being a whole me by not just expressing my femininity, but my humanity!

It strikes me as strange how choosing to be yourself can take so much courage. But when I see people who’ve freed themselves from behaving as others expect them to, it all makes sense.

Torley amplifies your awesome with the useful and fun. The aforementioned views are my own and don’t necessarily reflect the position of my employer, Linden Lab. Especially everything about watermelons.



16 thoughts on “GENDERBENDER OMG!

  1. As another guy who inhabits the online world in both male and female form, I must say that was an excellent post, and totally agree that RL gender should have no bearing on how we choose to represent ourselves.Good one Torley 🙂

  2. Torley, while I have to say that I loved your essay, and agree with much of what you have to say, I must remark on what you chose to leave out.What about the other party in the friendship/relationship? Maybe gender DOES matter to them. Are you upfront right from the beginning in a relationship, in case it does matter to them, so they will not be hurt further down the road when the truth comes out, and they have become more emotionally attached to you? Or do you wait until later when you have a better sense of where the relationship is headed?It’s a difficult issue, and certainly a difficult conversation to have with someone you care about. How do you handle it? Knowing what you know now after so many various experiences, how would you advise someone to handle this type of disclosure?(And please, I hope that neither you nor anyone else thinks that I am not open-minded; I am. It’s just that what is acceptable in a SL relationship does not always translate well to a RL relationship, which is what some SL residents are hoping to find.)

  3. Fabulous post, Torley! Although I’ve not created alternate gender and/or species avatars (though I think I’ll try it now!), I’ve used Second Life to explore many aspects of myself that I’ve been too timid to reveal in first life.I wholeheartedly support your view that we <>all<> contain the fullness of what it means to be human. We limit our potential when we assign labels and build boxes for ourselves. I’ve found that one of the greatest gifts of Second Life is the chance to take off those labels, climb out of those boxes, and get more connected with <>all<> of what we are — and thus with humanity in all its breadth and depth.Thank you for sharing this wisdom!

  4. @Alphonsus: I am delighted it was a lovely topical fit for your wife, too! What a lovely intro and thanks for posting!@Loaf: 😀@Mykyl: You’re graciously welcome!@Chestnut: Yeah, it’s as outdated to me as referring to a car as a “horseless carriage”. Well, almost!@Anonymous: Thanks for filling in that hole! While I didn’t address being EARNEST this time, I have before, and both (or more people) in a relationship should agree and be upfront with each other, or things will suck and crumble later. I generally suggest addressing this early on, because future expectations are built on that foundry of trust. Of course, the usual maxim of “no two are alike” is true, so this isn’t fits-all advice: just what I’ve observed. And from personal experience, I’ve always revealed my “RL gender” near the start if asked.@Joan: I enjoyed your post on the mix ‘n’ match very much! All too often, I’m saddened when labels constrict (like a mean boa snake!) than help us accessify and move on.

  5. I am bisexual leaning towards asexuality, transsexual and disabled in my first life but very few people except the closest people and my medical professionals I discuss this with.In SL I am primarily nonsexual Resident who blur gender lines with my male avatar and clothing designs because I enjoy doing so.It was really nice seeing Torley write here Alphonsus.I am not comfortable with wearing female avatars it just too uncomfortable for me on daily basis.Sometimes I get down because I feel like what I am trying to create there would be no interest in it.I was born both genders and raised as one I feel total uncomfortable with due to trauma but even though I am male, I am more then male too.It is nice and inspiring to see how others are also able to see and discuss gender more then male and female gender homophobic stereotypes and roles.It gives me hope that there is place for me too.Thanks Torley and Alphonsus for posting this.

  6. You continue to impress me Torley, thank you for an insightful and thoughtful post. The sooner we dump the labels society imposes on us, the better.

  7. As far as gender is concerned, I feel that I am my REAL gender in SL, while I am cursed with a non mod avie in RL. I do, occasionally, use an alt matching my RL gender, but then I truly feel that I am putting on an act and fooling the people around me, so I don’t interact much. I consider it important that my partner knows about my situation, but as far as other people are concerned, if they get to know me in SL they already know ME better than anyone in RL. That should be enough. Thank you for this post Torley.

  8. Thanks Torley that was a great post 🙂 The ability to be who or what ever I want is the thing I love most about SL. I feel very fortunate that the friends I’ve made here for the most part don’t have a problem with my gender switching. Though as anonymous had alluded to it was a great struggle as to when or if tell them. I struggled with it for quite some time feeling like I was lying to my best friends. Thanks again for your insight

  9. Great article, Torley!I like the notion of “omnisexual” — a concept I would perfectly and I would have just added another of those issues to your post: <>age<>. In SL, age is pretty much irrelevant to any group — which is totally different from SL as well. I’m always a bit queasy when with my 39 years I’m among a group of people, all of whom might be 60+ and sometimes even 80+, and I have no clue — except perhaps after several weeks when one or two of them tell me their ages. Second Life is the ultimate generation-gap-jumping tool as well; working on a company where the managing team has on equal standing people with 23 years and 60 is immensely gratifying, specially when you only knew about their ages months and months after getting people to work together.

  10. Personally.. I never ask someone’s gender, or age. (woa.. Is it odd that I only ask about location?)I let people be who they want to present themselves as.. and let them unveil themselves as they feel comfortable.. or not.Great post Torley!

  11. Torley as ever I love what you’ve written and this post actually does strike a very personal chord with me. My story is perhaps even more complex than yours but your words still were very heartening to hear especially from one as loved as you are in SL. Sadly I can’t share my story without betraying a confidence but maybe one day, as it’s quite beautiful IMO.Thank you for being you.

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