Monday, June 16, 2008
About My Second Life Avatar Gender Identity
My avatar's gender in Second Life (SL) is male. I look to be in my twenties and my skin is blue. In real life (RL) I am female, caucasian, and a baby boomer. But I didn't start out with a male avatar in SL, I started as a female. So what happened? And why do I remain a male avatar?
My first avatar was a large overweight female (I had not even considered making it male, though I did think about possibly being a furry (animal like avatars). I made myself large because I had seen videos of anorexic and voluptuous looking female avatars and was not interested in being either. Within my first three months of joining SL, and after spending little time in-world, my female avatar had run into two rather negative incidents. (Note: This was before the advent of private orientation islands, where new SL residents currently can be more safely oriented in SL.)
Simply put, one incident was verbal rudeness from a female avatar and the other incident involved being physically accosted by two creature type characters. Neither incident was major, but they both bothered me. After the second incident, I wondered to myself whether they would have occurred had I been a male avatar. Would I have been treated differently if my avatar's gender was male? This lead me to experimenting with my avatar's gender. What took place after participating in SL as a male avatar (or my perception of that) has led me to remain that way, at least for now.
In my opinion, from my experience thus far, a male avatar is no safer from griefers than a female. But I discovered something along the way during this experiment as a male that I had not anticipated. I began to feel that I was being listened to and treated differently. That what I had to say meant more than it did as a female. I have no data to prove this, it's only a feeling, but as someone who has been around a good many years in a female form, it's a very strong feeling. And since I've never taken on a male identity before in RL or SL, it is unlike anything I've experienced.
A little background on my RL female identity: I am and always have been a bit on the ADHD side (some may say more than a bit). I personally see this as an asset, but the benefits are not apparent to all. One thing I have always had to work on is listening and waiting my turn, especially if I feel passionate about something. As a youngster I was told that my behavior was not appropriate, and at times I was told it "was not lady like." I still remember wondering what exactly that meant.
As a male avatar I have attended and participated in many events - presentations, discussions, and classes in SL (I must admit here that I did little of this as a female in SL. My comparison is more with my RL experiences as a female vs. my SL experience as a male).
At first I just listened and did not participate at all. I had a lot to learn still about SL and about how people interacted in-world. Slowly I began to participate. A question here and there, a comment now and then. Some would bring no response, but others would cause avatars around me to comment or ask me questions. I remember how at first I found that surprising and how, eventually, I began to feel that I had something to say that was worth hearing to some. Eventually I began to receive private IM requests from others to help or to become involved, and even to take the lead in some situations.
This felt foreign to me. It was around this time that I began to feel that I was experiencing things differently and felt it was connected to my avatar being male. And as I began to develop relationships with some of the RL people behind the avatars, I felt more sure than ever that I was being treated differently. With males, I sensed that we were on a more level playing field, there seemed to be a new level of camaraderie, and maybe more respect. With females, I sensed greater acceptance.
I know I have used the words felt or feel a number of times. I know I could be completely wrong in my analyses here. But I know how I feel, and whether my perceptions are skewed or not doesn't really matter.
Posting this info here is partly an attempt to fully disclose my RL self to some in SL whom I have come to know and respect. To attempt to make amends perhaps. I have met some wonderful RL people in SL. Very helpful, smart, and kind people. I never meant to be dishonest about my identity, and I apologize to any reading this who felt I was. I will be linking to this post from my SL profile, under my 1st Life tab, where I also uploaded a RL photo of myself.