Friday 6 August 2010

Gender and Identity.

Now, not being an expert on child development I can only say that one of the earliest steps we make on our path to self knowledge happens around the age of 2 (ish), namely, a recognition of our gender. I am not suggesting that we know what gender is, but, shortly after we learn our Name we learn that we are a Boy or a Girl..... our first step (or second, after Name) towards an Identity....and probably well before we are conscious of our Race.

As one two year old said to me...”I know who is a Boy and who is a Girl”.....”oh” I replied “how do you know then?”....”it’s very easy, girls have hair slides and boys don’t.”

Now, as a child we realise these are two exclusive clubs you belong to, one or the other, it’s easy. There are those in later life who would like this easy state of affairs to continue as was seen recently with the attempt to outlaw same sex marriages. Some religions and cultures are very keen to segregate these two clubs, one or the’s easy.

Cross-overs are rarely welcomed, some are tolerated. Of all the cross-overs, a ‘tom-boy’ is probably the most internationally tolerated gender subversive. Boys that play with dolls or dress in girls clothing are possibly the least welcomed in a community or household.

Now, coming into Second Life where ‘anything is possible’ there are those who decide to do a bit of experimenting with their identities, fair enough. No one gets very excited about a dragon in SL if they find out that he/she is not in fact a dragon in RL. This is not the case with gender experimentation.

I have two avatars, one male, one female, so, in one incarnation I am role playing a gender specific ‘game’. Unlike the dragon, I have heard gender role-play referred to as ‘deceitful’, ‘dishonest’ and other generally negative connotations. This interests me, as does anything that excites a rather illogical response.

Why does this disturb people more than the dragon?

Now, being an amateur Jungian, I always refer to the good doctor for words of wisdom as he has helped me often sort out my ideas. Jung is of the belief that the gender we are not, the opposite gender, is repressed and hides in our personal unconscious. That means.... if I am a girl, all the male parts of my psyche are forced ‘underground’ where they coalesce into an archetype he called the Animus.....and for a boy, his unconscious female psyche, Jung called an Anima.

These unconscious elements, because they are beyond conscious control (by definition as they are unconscious) are autonomous. They appear in dreams and fantasies (though we often call them by names of people we know in waking life) and take on various helpful or demonic qualities depending on the circumstances.

That means, in easy speak, Girls have boy psyches and Boys have girl psyches.

That means, in easy speak, we are both sexes.... one is conscious (biological) and one virtual (psychic).

Is this what disturbs us when people gender role-play? It shakes our (2 year old) belief that its easy to tell the difference?

For, in reality there are, one assumes, exactly the same proportion of deceitful dragons, foxes, lesbians and robots. The playing of a role does not make one more deceitful than someone who is glued to their personna.

I have a friend who has 30 alts. For me she is a sort of hero because I firmly believe that the psyche is that diverse and fragmented that choosing to represent the whole of our psyche with just one or two avatars is a poor show, the psyche is richer than that.

I would have more alts (I have 3 currently) but I forgot where I put that invitation to that Memory Enhancement Seminar as I would forget all my passwords...... that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

I can tell you from my experience of 3 years of being female and male, sometimes at the same time, that it is quite possible under periods of extreme ‘immersion’ to experience oneself as male and as female. This may sound illogical or impossible, but I assure you this is my honest experience.

So, lighten up people... it’s a game, and a research laboratory for the psyche if you so choose.

...get more alts....... you’ll like em...



  1. daughter found scissors at 4 and whacked off one of her "doggi ear" mini pigtails. OK, at that point we had no choice but to cut off the other and sqare all up as best we could. When we were done my daughter looked at her very short haired self and asked so sweetly, "Mommy does this mean I'm a boy now?".

    Since we are only "allowed" 5 accounts...I'll cop to that many. I deliberately named one "Leee" cause that was an ambiguos first name. I dressed 'Leee' up and while I have tryed to use 'Leee' a few times...I never seem to figure out what to do with my hands =^..^=

    As far as I'm concerned, unless some one is attempting to create some kind of intimate relationship....Yes, take a breathe, this entire thing is fantasy. After all...all those dives I took off of bar stools?... Flying would have been great.

  2. It's funny that people would still maintain the confusion between gender (psychological orientation) and sex (biological orientation) when over the last 20 years or so we have seen and been exposed to so many facets on the spectrum of humanity in these areas.

    I know both in my own life and from historical research/immersion that there is no sharp dividing line along that spectrum. It is true that we are indoctrinated in gender roles from childhood; it is also true that these become somewhat slippery ("she wears the pants in that family")as we grow older and become exposed to the wider world.

    Most of us come to the adult realization that there are seldom black/white absolutes in this world; it is interesting that gender identity and sexuality are one of the few areas that cause so much consternation when we see that same fluidity applied to them.

    Both of the above examples point out the external nature of gender identification/indoctrination when young, which continues into adulthood. If you are depending on such physical variables and indicators to assure you of what gender orientation someone is, then you are at a grave disadvantage, as such costumery is easily changed or modified.

    Was David Bowie a woman when he wore a dress? Biologically, no; psychologically? At the least, exploring the amorphous nature of his own mind and soul.

    As you mentioned tomboys... are all tomboys lesbians then? Are all women with "masculine" attributes (power drive, mannerisms, approaches)dykes? Are all "feminine" men (painters, dancers, homemakers) gay? The questions appear ridiculous when written down starkly, yet examine your own mind and you will find these attitudes lurking in its' darkest corners.

    This continual insistence on a firm, sharp dividing line between the two halfs of the human race is our oldest and most primitive division, one which holds us back and keeps us juvenile as a race while we waste tremendous amounts of time, energy and talent in maintaining this false dichotomy of the nature of a human being.

    "There's only two kinds of people in this world... the kind that think there's only two kinds of people in this world, and the other kind."

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. removed as a double copy...:)) not for any other reason

  5. Miso, that is exactly what has surprised me with this issue.
    Surely, as we mature, sex would be seen as more of a sliding scale, and dependent on the situation.
    Instead of archetypes we have to deal with stereotypes which are almost the opposite.
    I have been amazed that the gender issue evokes such a different response from some to any other form of role play.

  6. It's not just gender. Pretending to be some things is seen as OK but pretending to be others is not? It's hardly deceiving anyone to pretend to be a dragon or a fairy or a ball of light. If pretend to be a male when I'm female, young when I'm old, black when I'm white, or disabled when I'm not, then it's seen as deception, because these things are possible in real life, and are the way we categorise and make sense of each other. We make instant decisions about people, based on visual clues, in real life and SL. Over time it's just about learning to read the visual clues, the language of avatar, isn't it? Those visual clues are not the same as in real life. It's actually harder to hide your gender than we think.

  7. True. The age thing is something I haven't touched on but is also a very clear and important identity 'marker'. Certainly one of the first pieces of 'information' one shares in RL, as is race and religious leaning.

    Default young, white, female avatar with a 'false' name is already pushing the 'game' in a role play direction from day one. Having an avatar is seen as deception too....why else would some put their RL photos on the first page of their profiles? (unless they need recognition for their looks, of course)