After several weeks of extended hours at work and domestic stuff that needed attention, I had a few hours of slack time this weekend so I used it catching up on my imaginary friends in Second Life.
I’ve written about Second Life before: It’s a virtual world, that is to say you control an avatar that represents you walking through an imaginary landscape. For some that means 3-D roleplaying games — you can edit your appearance to look like a knight fighting dragons (or other knights), a 19th-century cowboy, a space explorer, or whatever. For others, it’s an extended social network where you can actually see the people you are chatting with, or at least see what they want you to think they look like. For people with gender dysphoria of any type, it’s a dream come true: You can make yourself over into the woman (or man) you always wanted to be without the real-life hassles of social stigma, expense, and regrets. Just click a button and you become your own sex kitten (and speaking of sex, there are more things you can do besides fight battles with other players, if you know what I mean and I think you do).
Anyhow, for me it’s a combination of the social interaction and a way I can show myself to the world as I really am without the unpleasant side effects like getting beaten to a pulp or run out of church because of the way I dress. Certainly showing up at a party as a muscular, hairy man in a pink dress is a guaranteed conversation starter, even if the conversations tend towards advice on how I can change my appearance to that of a woman. They just can’t grasp the idea that I don’t *want* to look like a woman, I just like to wear the dresses.
Unlike a lot of similar virtual worlds, Second Life has absolutely no limits on how you can modify your appearance or dress your avatar. It’s also free for the most part. You can spend big bucks if you want private land or you want to wear realistic clothes that someone else put a lot of time and effort into, but you can also find enough free stuff to keep you entertained for years without ever spending a dime.
I mention this by way of saying that over five years I have accumulated a LOT of inventory, some of it free and some of it paid for (the real secret to how Linden Labs can afford to give the game away for free… eventually you like the appearance of some trinket enough to be willing to spend real-world money on it, and those micro-transactions of a few pennies to a few dollars add up across hundreds of thousands of players a day).
Mostly, I collect outfits that I wish I could wear in Real Life but could never afford or find that fit me (that’s the other advantage… with a few clicks you can either resize your body to fit the clothes, or resize your clothes to fit the body. Would that it were that easy in RL!). Since I prefer to use an avatar that resembles the real me but buy clothes designed for barbie doll models, this means that I have to put in a bit of work resizing the clothes to fit me.
Today I found an outfit I liked a lot, so I put more time than usual into getting it to fit just right — stretch the skirt to fit around my beer-belly waist, stretch the puffy sleeves to fit around my bulky biceps, stretch the collar to fit around my huge shoulders.
As I finished, it occurred to me… this is another trait that makes it difficult for me to identify with or fit in with my male friends. Most of them are avid hunters, ranchers, and mechanics; they probably spend just enough time indoors to sleep and eat whereas I go outside a couple of hours a day for exercise and the rest of the day and night I’m either asleep or at my computer for work and play. I can’t imagine any of them wanting to spend one second playing dressup with imaginary characters, even without the crossdressing aspect of it. “Wait a minute, you’re saying I should buy pretend boots and a pretend cowboy hat to put on my pretend avatar? Why the hell would I want to do that?” I’ve always tended towards more creative, imaginative pastimes than my male friends as far back as I can remember. It’s one of the things that made me wonder in years past if I was truly transsexual.
Now, of course, I know that’s not the case. I *am* a man, “fearfully and wonderfully made” just as God intended. I just happen to enjoy some activities that are extremely uncommon among men. As I told my children when they were growing up, being different isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You just have to decide if the way you are different is worth the problems it may cause if you flaunt those differences in a society that, for the most part, abhors that which is different. Being a little eccentric, I can handle; most of my friends think it’s endearing and the ones who despise my eccentric behavior aren’t friends at all. But this side of me… the side that likes to wear dresses and play dressup and socialize in an imaginary world… it’s just not worth it to me to try and convince people that it’s a harmless diversion that doesn’t make me any less of a man than they are.