I had a long and detailed and linked post on this topic, but Typepad ate it, and now I don't really feel like reconstructing it. Like baseball, sex, and child-rearing, I think this topic is more interesting to do, rather than to watch or talk about it, as so many do. I rarely comment on the whole transgender thing -- I couldn't improve much on statements such as what I made here and you don't have to look hard to find proof of the kind of harassment I've noting than here.
Let me explain how the rules for transgender work in Second Life, in case you are one of those misled. Here's how you can ensure that your transgendered adventure in the virtual world has no "down side" or "repercussions":
1. Go from male to female -- there is simply more tolerance for that direction than visa-versa, particularly because we still, when all is said and done, live in a man's world -- there is nothing that threatens a man more (particularly certain gay men, I've found) than a woman going to the male shape -- it's profoundly unsettling and you maximize your acceptance by going from male to female -- that's just how the world is.
2. Work for IBM or some other big corporation that has a leadership role and stake in SL, and head up the Architectural Working Group (the project to move SL to open source architecture) or have some huge successful content creation business or be a Linden.
3. Be married in real life, and let everyone know that you are a good little heterosexual in real life -- for extra credit, write that you are "happily married" on your profile.
4.Have an SL partner who is female, just to make sure that "the community" realizes your transgender thing is just, well, whatever, an affectation, and experimentation, but not some kind of guise for you to act out your latent homosexuality or anything else that might be construed as "weird".
5. Be identified with the left, so that Daily Kos has the comfort level to feature you.
Ok, here's the rules for how NOT to have a successful transgendered experience:
1. Go from female to male -- as explained, there is far less tolerance and comfort level for this direction.
2. Don't work for anything special, but merely be an ordinary person with no special clout anywhere. Be among the most vocal oppositionists in SL, taking a dissident view (actually reflective of the mainstream) against the liberal metaverati.
3. Be single in RL and not have any visible partner that can be pointed to to satisfy everyone's curiosity and reassure them you are "normal".
4. Not have any visible SL partner so that people can't see what you are "really" about in SL.
5. Not be identified with the left and its popular issues.
You would think transgendering had become institutionalized and accepted now, to hear Daily Kos tell it, and to hear Kit Merriman warble on about it -- being sure to use the pronoun "she" when talking about the "wonderful Zha Ewry".
People proffer and withdraw their acceptance of your transgender status depending on your status on these other 4 issues I've noted, about your RL/SL relationship status and inclination and your political views and power level. These things matter to ensure that you are protected or not protected, sadly but truly.
Whenever I log on to Metanomics or LL Traffic Futures or any place where people are debating the issues of the hour, I am sure to be harassed by at least one person not only deliberately calling me "she" as an insult, but going further to speculate on my sexual and relationship status, whether I am a witch to my kids, or whether I'm even a mean mother-in-law or psychotic or possessing of too many cats. A day doesn't go by that I don't get some nasty comment -- usually it's a deliberate "she" said to inflict damage, a use of my RL name, or less common, but vulgar stuff, like the time Toast Bard suggested I sew a corpse's penis on to myself in real life, or the anonymous grieftards who IM me asking me to have sex with various genders blah blah.
Nobody goes around in groups saying "he" to Zha or asking if he beats his kids or has too many dogs or if he's really light in the loafers -- because that's how the world is. Kit calls him "she" -- so do many others, as they do for Torley and other leading lights who are "shes".
So what's my point about all this? Sour grapes? No, merely to give a report -- we aren't there yet. There isn't that tolerance for the "T" that so many imagine when they rattle off "GLBT" especially this time of year with all the gay parades etc. It's just not there. Such "tolerance" or "mainstreaming" is there is proffered on suffrance, and directly contingent to those other relationship and power factors I've indicated.
If you have an unpopular point of view, trust me, you will be hounded and witch-hunted and exposed and people will constantly pull down your pants in the school yard.
If you are viewed as establishment and powerful and influential, if you decide to fly around in a fairy outfit, nobody is going to laugh. They're going to ask themselves whether they need to go fae, too, to be cool.
I've often marveled at these two features of the vicious gang that is the SL "community":
o tolerance of your status as transgender will directly hinge on whether your speech and are ideas are liked or not -- the minute there is a disagreement, out comes the ridicule and harassment and exposure -- your gender construct is viewed as "community-based" and the "community" (ugh) can withhold or proffer it as it sees fit
o if you are not transgendered in RL, and disliked, those who are "the real transgendered" in RL and who view themselves as gender police will vilify you -- how dare you not understand their suffering, etc.
I don't really buy the implications of the "rezbianism" theory advanced by Kit -- but it's useful to explain things for some people, I suppose.
I think transgendering in Second Life is like reaching in and picking out a coat in the closet because it feels right and it just fits -- you don't think about it, you just put it on. It's not an adventure or an exploration blah blah blah -- it's an intuitive and inherent pick *because you can*.
Some people will make this choice *because they can* regardless of whether anybody beats them up for it, literally or figuratively -- it's that important to them to go on making. And not only important, just...inalterable. Not something you can change anyway.
Other people will wait until they've secured enough of these credentials indicated above to be able to be "out" with their choices, or are just lucky enough to have all that shoring them up. Let's not pretend that we're all "fae" and it's all wonderful, however, and that there aren't people viciously beating the crap out of people they hate, abusing them mercilessly.