(With apologies to the entire universe for that title; I couldn’t resist.)
In the next sim over from Hughes Rise (where my mainland land is), in Mooter, is the FABGlitter Women’s Club, a nice “girl AVs only” dance club up above the clouds. I go there now and then (as a girl of course) when I want to hang out with some people I know only vaguely and dance around and listen to music and not be far from home. It’s not exclusively a lesbian or otherwise queer place, or particularly revolutionary (despite the name).
The other day the FABGlitter folks sent around a notecard listing a number of women-only clubs and venues in SL, and the policy of each one (if known) about transgendered (TG) folks. And I was sort of confused as I read it, since I couldn’t really tell if by “transgendered” they meant people who are biologically male but identify as female in RL and have female AVs in SL, or if they meant it more broadly to include people who identify as male in RL but have female AVs.
One club, which said that they would allow TG people only if they had fully transitioned and identified as women rather than as TG, seemed to be using the RL definition (or at least that was my impression on reading the club’s statement). Others, which said that as long as the AV is female and the person follows the club’s other rules they don’t care about RL gender, seemed to be including also people identifying as female only in SL. It was all pretty unclear to me, but since FABGlitter itself is one of the latter, and that was the only one I was interested in going to just then, I didn’t try to dig deeper.
Then, while reading around about some of the LCO drama linked to yesterday, I came across the comment thread to a Prokofy Neva weblog entry on the subject, and at the bottom of that comment thread there was some discussion about what “transgendered” means, and who can legitimately use the word to describe themselves, and so on, and that reminded me of the question.
First off, as far as I’m concerned anyone who wants to use the word about themselves is welcome to and I won’t tell them they’re wrong. The literal meaning is simple, and anyone who has anything gender-crossing about themselves can go right ahead and use it. On the other hand, although I do often have an SL AV that’s a different sex than my RL body, I don’t (at the moment?) apply the word to myself, and I’m going to use this space to think about why.
Being transgender in any significant way in RL is a burden, and doing anything about it is an act of bravery. Anyone biologically one sex living as the other, or changing from one sex to the other in lifestyle and identification, with hormones and surgery, or in any other visible way, opens themselves up to harassment, discrimination, violence, social stigmatization, possible career disaster, etc. Even if someone is not in a situation to do anything about it, anyone who strongly feels that their true sex is different from their biological one bears a potentially huge burden, that deserves our respect. For any of these people, “transgender” feels to me like a mark of respect or honor.
I, on the other hand, am absurdly lucky. I have no strong sense of gender identity in RL or in SL. I’ve always been perfectly happy with the sex I was born with, and I can also perfectly well imagine being the other sex. I identify more strongly with my political opinions, my spiritual outlook, my nationality, my home planet than I do with one sex or the other. When I came into SL and found how easy it was to flip the bit, I immediately tried it, and discovered that it was wonderful fun. So now I play sometimes as boy Dale, sometimes as girl Dale (and for that matter sometimes as Pandaren or shiny-sphere Dale), and the most I’ve ever suffered for it is some perfectly good-natured teasing from my friends. (And I’ve probably been teased more for going barefoot than I have for gender-flipping.)
So I think it’s that I feel that calling myself TG would be claiming a degree of bravery that the world has not actually required of me. I’ve never felt the burden of being the wrong gender, and I’ve never had to have the strength to do anything about such a burden. It’d be like I dunno wearing a medal that I technically might qualify for, but didn’t really deserve. A few people in SL have thanked me for being an extremely open gender-bender, but although I love and appreciate the thanks (keep it coming, heh heh) I don’t feel like I’ve done anything very special to deserve it.
On the other hand, as I’ve said above, anyone else who has anything at all gender-bending about them is welcome to use the term; no one is required to share my squeamishness about it. And if there’s any suggestion that being transgender is somehow a bad thing, then I would wear the label proudly if it would help make such a pernicious suggestion go away…
Hm, well. Was that self-absorbed enough? :) Your comments and thoughts on the subject are eagerly solicited.