Let me please preface this with the fact that the opinions I express are solely my own. Additionally, I encourage you to read this in its entirety before you form your own opinions so you’ve had a chance to absorb some perspective.
But yes, we are here today to discuss the popular existence of “real life” women whose Second Life characters appear to be men. For years Second Life was notorious for the large population of “real life” males that would choose female characters and otherwise living as females in Second Life. While there was a healthy number of people who are actually transgender and actively transitioning in “real life” (thus, utilizing Second Life as a great outlet for this) there were many that would keep their “real life”gender identity a secret or simply mislead, while carrying on relations(hips) in Second Life with a partner none the wiser.
Nowadays, it’s pretty common knowledge that if someone’s “real life” gender matters to you when it comes to someone you are interested in, one of the first things you should do is have a conversation with them on voice. If someone insists they can’t speak on voice (no mic, don’t have privacy etc) then it’s a good rule of thumb to be cautious and not get too involved until they can voice-verify. They may have a “real life partner they’re not disclosing, or are not being honest about their “real life” gender identity.
But, I digress. There was always a stigma among women to prove they were women and not “a man in disguise” by men who were interested in them. Having to say “voice verified” (which isn’t really a verification process in SL, by the way) or “can voice verify” became the norm in a lot of profiles. Men started reverse searching the “real life” pictures women would share to make sure they weren’t being catfished or tricked by another man before jumping on a pose ball.
However, male avatars weren’t always held to the same level of scrutiny.
Now, there are many “real life” women who choose to exist in Second Life with male avatars or masculine female avatars and are 100% transparent about it. That’s not even an issue, and I appreciate the honesty. But there seems to be a quiet growth of women who impersonate men simply because they know it would be easier to land a date as a man rather than as a woman.
While this might seem counter-intuitive, I had been in that exact situation with someone that I had always suspected was actually female outside of Second Life. Mind you, as someone who essentially has a non-preference sexually, it didn’t really matter to me. But they didn’t realize this and carried on like they were actually male offline. They sent pictures of someone that I was easily able to see wasn’t them (thanks, Google reverse searches) and ultimately when I insisted on meeting offline so I knew I wouldn’t be wasting time, they bolted. It was almost two years later before they would admit the truth.
While this could have easily of been singular instance, it’s far from that. And while some of the “red flags” should make it obvious, some women get into relationships in SL with people that won’t verify for the same reasons some women wouldn’t verify that they were actually women.
Second Life is supposed to be a place where you can be anything you want to be, and that is what makes it beautiful. But, on the flip side, is there a code of ethics? Are we responsible for making sure that we’re honest about our “real life” selves?
I have actually heard arguments on both sides of the fence, but I boiled it down to a very simple opinion:
If you are investing offline feelings, or someone is investing the same in you, you better fess up. From personal experience it can only go so far until you have to either face it or walk away, and either can leave you by yourself if you haven’t been honest. Don’t carry on being someone or something you are not if it comes from a place of needed a void to be filled or otherwise avoiding loneliness in a manipulative way.
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