Second Life is a gender video game
What if you could reimagine your body from scratch. No preconcieved notions or material reality, just a blank canvas and all the paint in the world. What would you build? This is a paralyzing question.
Second Life doesn't ask this question. Instead, strangers will sell you parts that are occasionally compatible, and sometimes give you free parts, and with these you assemble some facsimile of yourself. This raises a similar question, but one easier to answer. How do you build yourself in this world, given the limited options and your limited wallet?
This is gender! You're doing gender! Gender's always gonna have material influences, because we live in a material world. I dunno if there is a pure, immaterial gender, but I do know that we can see gender through these material lenses. That's... kinda the goal here. I'm gonna show you how I made myself in Second Life.
Oh but one last thing before we start: gender is tied closely to sexuality. I don't think I can talk earnestly about what I've done without talking about sex. It won't be all about sex, of course. I value writing something complete over writing something that it is ok for minors to read. The following will involve sexually explicit material, and is unsuited for minors. Please do not continue if you are a minor or if you don't wanna read about sex or specifically sex about me . I might be able to make a version of this page where I cut out all that stuff, but that's not here!
31 Jan 2020
So, this is how I started. How a lot of people started. This is the default guy of SL, with some free clothes I found in the creatively named "Freebie Galaxy". A shirt with a marmot on it, some tan cargo shorts that don't fit (you can see my knees clipping through), a headband with wireframe cat ears, and some blue high boots. This is the first photo I ever saved, and even then I was exploring what I could wear in this freer world.
8 Feb 2020
From a now defunct place called Pixel Hills, I got this little kobold character for free (I later found out the model was taken from an artist known as uwusoft). This was my first foray into androgyny, and it's androgyny through looking like a child, which is fairly basic. This kind of avatar is banned in adult areas in SL, for good reason. I wasn't really looking for sex in the beginning anyway, I was just hanging out with my friends and exploring what I liked and what I disliked. These kinds of bodies are fun but very limiting for mechanical reasons. To make clothes in SL you have to tailor them to a body, and people only tailor clothes to popular bodies, which means you have to buy a popular body in order to really have an outfit you like. Accessories, on the other hand, can easily be resized for any body, which is why the kobold, which I named "dewsprite", wore nothing but random free jewelry I found, and boots. Much later I added many fedoras stacked on top of each other to dewsprite, for fun.
When configuring the kobold, I took a surprising amount of joy in setting the gender in the kobold's config to "female", even though it had no effect on the appearance of the kobold or anything else.
In this period I experimented with the mechanics of SL avatars, which is not worth dedicating a large paragraph to, but I made an avatar that's a single rubber duck, and an avatar that's an entire pond, complete with ducks. After that I was switching through a bunch of different avatars. I won't provide much commentary on them, because I'm not sure I have a lot to say. Maybe I'll return to this later if I have an epiphany. It's mostly just me wrestling with androgyny.
Because of internalized transphobia, among other complicated feelings, when I went to adult areas I stuck to wearing the default male avatar with revealing clothes like this. Surprisingly or not, I was still able to find people who were willing to have sex with me. I wouldn't disparage anyone for wanting to dress like this, but now that I recognize that it's not what I want, I cringe at these memories. I don't have many pictures of this era, and I'm not gonna dig up the files to take more.
These two, the horse and the dragon princess, I worked on at around the same time. The goal was to make something that didn't suit me, and I succeeded! These avatars didn't suit me at all, although I do headcanon the horse as a gay man.
This one's really cute but very difficult to add anything to.
One time someone propositioned me while this was my avatar. They might have hoped that I could involve the tentacles somehow? Unfortunately the tentacles did not have this feature.
Alright here's where it gets real.
26 Jul 2020
So, a friend gave me some more serious money, so that I could get myself what I described earlier as "a popular body". This is kemono, and it really opened up my options. The body was androgynous, and it was sexy! I fell in love immediately, and I set up these green and pink avatars. I imagined the green one for parties, and the pink one for more public venues. I, uh, didn't end up using the pink one much, and I used the green one for months and months and months.
I added fangs and horns,
I got a spaceship,
I got purple nails and eyes, and generally I had a lot of fun. Sometimes I had a penis, sometimes I didn't. When I eventually put a top on, I made sure it was one that other people could click to take off (although that sort of thing didn't really happen). This was a breakthrough moment for my gender introspection, because I discovered that I could be androgynous and hot and that I really enjoyed being like that! At the time I thought I would enjoy it, but it feels nice to prove yourself right. I think I may have used this body for most of the time I spent on SL.
13 Sep 2020
A cat head, a pair of wings, covered in black scales that glow red in the light. This is the most technically advanced avatar I've made. And with the hair, and the skirt, and the glasses... she's SO feminine. The body type is the same but the vibe is completely different. The idea I had was that I could switch back and forth between this one and the previous one, based on how I was feeling about my gender, based on which one I felt more comfortable in. This was how I understood my gender at the time, but I was wrong. I'm always comfortable walking around with a feminine body, as far as I can tell. What ended up happening was that I would be the wyvern whenever I wanted to be showered with compliments over my really cool avatar, and I would be the green cat whenever I wanted to have sex. Why don't I want to have sex as this badass catbird? I dunno. I've still got some stuff to figure out.
15 Dec 2020
So alright thus far you might think that the talking about sex is pretty gratuitous and tertiary to the point, but at around this point, because of interpersonal reasons, I end up spending a lot less time on Second Life just hanging out, which means a greater proportion of the time I spend is looking for sexual encounters. I have an understanding that my identity is pretty flexible, and so I end up trying to find the intersection between who I want to be and what sorts of things appeal to other people (sexually). I had an epiphany that my previous avatars were generally threatening, right? One of them is pointy and sharp and the other one is scaly and forbidding. Tangentially, I remembered that fairly often, I'd meet people who'd tell me when I solicit their attention that they would have sex with me, if only I'd switch to a different body that they found appealing. So I had to become a sex object, a harmless toy for fucking. This is, in retrospect, a deeply shameful effort, but I think it was important to my self-discovery.
And so I built a dullahan maid doll.