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.
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.
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:
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…
a Dazzle Bat (courtesy of Sylver Bu)…
MELONZILLA (thanx to Milki Unknown)…
or a fuzzy cousin of the FSM (w00t Yoa Ogee)…
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.
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…
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.
- Torley’s blog can be found at http://torley.com/second-life-bloggers-mixn-match-1-posts-are-up
- Princess Ivory, who suggested this topic, has a blog that can be found at http://hrhprincessivory.blogspot.com
- Alphonsus Peck’s entry for Mix’n Match One is on the subject of “My Life and Exploration int the Virtual World” and can be found on the blog of Quirky Quaintly at http://quirkyquaintly.com
- Alphonsus Peck’s suggestion for a topic was “Digital Suicide” and can be found on the blog of Second Effects at http://secondeffects.com