pentacles, magic

A nice cup of rabies

Rantings with occasional art.

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cross-gender online play
Sideline thought from a discussion in a locked entry in markpasc's LJ.

There are a lot of people who play across gender boundaries online. Men playing women, women playing men, either playing various romanticized versions of someone intersexed, whatever. Some do it briefly, some do it for a long, long time, and ultimately become known as their differently-gendered avatar, even after their physical gender comes out.

How many of these people do it for experimentation? How many as cynical bits of gamespersonship (like 'female' MMORPG characters who get lots of gifts)? How many do it because it's a way of dealing with gender dysphoria*?

And is there a greater incidence of gender dysphoria among people who habitually do this than among the general population of these games?

As far as I know, nobody's researched this. I just have vague little chunks of anecdotal evidence, and suspicions. Researching it would be pretty difficult, in fact, given the way people may reflexively lie about being a cross-gender character to keep up the character's credibility; being publicly known as one changes reactions.

Just one of those random thoughts.

(PS: note that this is a public entry, if you're going to use yourself as a case history in a comment, you'll be outing yourself to anyone who reads my LJ!)

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I read a very interesting book recently called "Designing Virtual Worlds", it's written by Richard Bartle and has quite a few neat things in it. Kinda a tangent to your question but he portrays online role playing games as an exploration of identity and through experimenting with free reign in an online setting you learn more about yourself and what you consider your identity. Some really cool stuff in that book, if your interested in muds/mmo's, I highly suggest you pick it up and give it a read.

Oh yes, I'm definitely familiar with the idea of online RPing as identity play! That's really what I'm talking about, here - people using the VR medium to explore themselves.

I've noticed certain trends in my characters that I haven't bothered to analyze. The fact that everything I play gravitates towards scaly, sleek, female, and casually dangerous, even if it starts out male, definitely says something about who I am. What exactly, I don't feel like thinking about too much.

I don't play any character but Revar much anymore. Over the years when I RPed more, though, my own characters seemed to evolve in two almost diametrically opposed directions.

Some of them evolved more and more towards being fluffy bouncy contrarian silly critters. Usually when they started out much more seriously. (Foxen, etc.)

Some of them evolved towards being quiet, relaxed, dignified sorts with a dry humor. (Runner, Revar, etc.) Yes, Revar is usually a relaxed sort, just easy to trigger. You'd be amazed how relaxing eviscerating an annoyance is, though. :-)

A month or so back, I dusted off the Foxen character again. It was amazing how easily I slipped back into that persona. Foxen has such a different personality from Revar, that it really messed with the heads of some aquaintances of mine, who had only seen Revar before. I find that I can't play Foxen for long periods, though, as it's just emotionally draining to be fluffy bouncy all the time.

All the characters I've played for more than a few weeks have gravitated towards the one personality or the other. Even when I played my RL self online, as me, I fell well within the quiet relaxed grouping, and probably more dignified than I really am RL.

Well the rumor about females in mmorpgs getting more free stuff is definately true. That's the product of introverts with no social life trying to compensate. There's nothing wrong with playing a cross-gender character. After all, it's a good way o blow off some steam, and do something you wouldn't normally do, although it's possible to reveal them if you're really looking hard. There's some male/female ways of responding to things that are distinctly rooted in one's gender.

There's some male/female ways of responding to things that are distinctly rooted in one's gender.

Oh? Can you give any examples, or are you referring to the more stereotypical kind of "women are more emotional and men are more violent" kinds of things? I would be interested to know if there are hard-wired gender responses to certain stimuli, very interested, yes.

Like men like to doggedly control things. Women are more detailed and in-depth, as a rule. There's cues you can look for. In Everquest we called males playing females "manginas", and females playing males as "butch"es. There was a very good article on either or this week, but it's scrolled off and i just can't find the article at the moment.

I dunno, I almost have to disagree; but I suppose being around a lot of women has helped seal the notion that Women are just as bad about being control freaks. At least, in recent times.

Of course, people could equate that to the whole notion of feminine behaviour being considered 'outdated' in this society. Who knows?

I wish I could find that article. It went into how men's and women's brains are just wired differently. Totally different areas of the brain fire off the the same stimuli. Men, for instance, may obsess about fixing an old broken down car, while women may compulsively clean the house whether it needs cleaning or not. Men will hold onto a remote control while watching TV and flip channels constantly, while women will lay down the remote to focus on the actual program, rather than the "hunt" through channels. You can detect things like this in people you know well online, too. Typical males generally get bored, *easily*, and don't put as much stock in hurting someone's feelings. They are also far elss prone to hold grudges than women. Their opinion of someone also moves in slow increments, usually up for a while, then down, then up again later, where a female's opinion spikes and valleys, love you or hate you. And yeah I have definately met some true female control freaks. (Damn you Amber!)There's fewer of them, but those there are are vicious, and know how to use what they got to get what they want! Poor undersexxed nerds make good victims.

Of course this all bears less credibility in the *real* world. These are just my observances of online behavior, mostly in Everquest. The paradigm tends to shift considerably on mucks, though, and blurs a lot more. It's hard to tell the manginas from the vaginas.

is there a greater incidence of gender dysphoria among people who habitually do this than among the general population of these games?

Remember that most on-line social MU*s have a self selecting population of relative outsiders and social misfits. Which would tend to have a higher than normal population of gender dysphorics. Then, consider how many gender dysphorics are likely to spend a lot of time playing their physical gender when they don't have to. Not many, I'd wager.

The upshot is, the proportion of cross-playing GDs is almost guaranteed to be higher than the proportion of gender-matched GDs.

The more interesting question is, what total percentage of long-term cross-players are GD?

Me? I cross-play because I prefer the emotional gestalt of the characters. What's that make me? Hell if I know.

*nod* Good points. I'm sure there *are* some long-term cross-players who aren't GD, or who are low-level enough with the dysphoria that crossing and passing online is enough.

Now I find myself tempted to do a little casual research into the subject... post some questions on boards and such, gather a little data about long-term cross-players... but I probably won't, because I'm a lazy bitch.

I'm a long term cross-player, at least with one of my many personas... and there are few less dysphoric than myself. Thus begins your casual research with some anecdotal evidence.

Ever since I found my way on the internet when I was a pre-teen I've told people I was a guy and always RPed a male character. Since then I've had to get quite a few photos of a male friend to use as me and have had to fake a guy's voice on the phone a couple of times. Right now I've got two different online identities, but by far the more popular one is the male one.

And over the past couple of years I've been doing the lesbian thing and have thought about transgenderism. Connection? Who knows.

in a certain online community, i took on the persona of a gay male. i pulled it off fairly well and only a few folks figured out i wasn't what i was pretending to be when they checked the registration info for my domain ;/
this only lasted for less than a year, and it really didn't have much effect on me...i mean, i was being myself for the most part, but claiming to be a gay male. simply throwing in those claims made it a credible enough situation to most, i guess. i also had a photo i used for 'me' (ahahaha its the funniest picture ever), and i suppose 'mercurypale' is a rather androgynous name...

i don't think it changed me at all (i'm not particularly Girly to begin with) but it was fun :P i just wanted to see how far i could take it.
i've left that community, btw ;>

I've never RPed online or off, but virtually all the characters I use in my stories are male, with female characters usually in supporting roles only. I've never really been interested in writing about female characters. I guess I'd need to consult a shrink to find out why that is.

In my long-ago stint of on-line RPGs, I occasionally played a male. But I think it was more for art form--i.e. RP is an art, like acting, therefore if I'm good at it, I should be able to portray a male with equal versimultude. (I couldn't, actually--few of my male characters had any staying power, but I tried.)

The people I hung around with were generally not that interested in the whole weird hot-text-based-lovin' thing, (and I always found it a bit silly) so the issue of sexual identity didn't come up that much.

Then again, I've always felt that if I ever got a wild need to deal with issues of sexual identity, it would not be someplace where I spent a majority of my time typing "bash goblin."

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That's really fascinating, actually. Kind of a flip side to someone whose gender dysphoric iRL experimenting with it by cross-playing online; here's someone who's very secure in their gender experimenting with the other side and having it very definitely confirmed that they're what they were born as. It may not be something you'd have ever wondered about otherwise, but now you know you're a boy a lot more definitely.

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The Myers-Briggs is kinda designed to be hard to cheat on - it asks the same several questions over and over again in different ways. If you want to fake it out, you have to really think about it.

I thought the name was familiar, but it's the kind of handle that's easy to duplicate. I'm only on Hideaway in brief bursts most of the time because the person who dragged me there isn't awake too much. *grin*

Personal experiences;

Some of the women I met who played males online did so because nobody would hit on 'em. I used to feel online that female characters/women can show feelings more, or will get more sympathy, but that such may be less heartfelt. There also seems to be this weird sisterhood thing going on among guys playing women - maybe that's just sort of outing yourself as another someone who wants to be viewed as more intuitive and feeling, rather than anything at all attached to gender.

I get this feeling that changes in gender definitions in society will drive changes in gender definitions online, not the other way 'round. Partly because technical sophistication that carries people online is usually to be found in more tolerant areas; there won't be so much of a drive for young men trying to figure out their bisexuality, to have to hide under female masks.

(posting anon for slight privicy)

I got burned by this. I once, knowingly, fell in love with someone who was in the midst of gender dysphoria, and had an online gender not matching their 'real' one.

It went great until 'she' decided that 'she' could never cope with being a 'her' in real life. And so, couldnt cope with having a boyfriend either because that would not be the aceptable gender norm.

I've RPed both males and females online, but I can't say which I enjoy more...since both genders appeal to me. My female characters tend to be more whimsical. I'm just a mixture of both genders, I s'pose. It's never been a big deal to me, since I'm not looking for any type of romantic "relationship," much less a long-distance one via the 'net.

I've played "genderless" characters and objects too, and it's interesting how people still insist on trying to identify you as male or female.

I've got a genderless character on one muck, but (she)'s on the feminine side of androgyny. I like being able to use pronouns.

Well, it's not like I really keep it a big secret anyway...

Well. Mu* has been a strange and wonderful place for me. My personal self has, and still has been, a guy for a long time. A introverted freaky kinda guy that still loves My Little Ponies, but a guy, none the less. Anycase, I had started Mudding as a Male on the muck, right up to the point that I entered the Adult maze, and started to fool around in the caves. Then a program changed my sex to Female, and someone pointed it out to me.

The first reaction I had, was huh? and looked myself. So, deciding that it could be fun to play the sister of the same charecter, I made a desc and ran with it. This proceeded untill I decided, after a really sick person wanted me to type out a TS scene with myself (I will not tell you how icky it is to write about forced sex with a brother and sister is...), I decided that it was time to choose. As I liked the attention that I got as a female more then a male, I ended up sticking with female.

This ahs led to many sticky situations, and explinations that I WAS male, was bi, and didn't care too much out of charecter, and I am sure I've broken at least one heart along the way. Which really sucks, actually. Cause I just never really wanted to hurt too many people along the way.

For me, mainly, it's still a stress relief. Checked out the GD thing... decided that, yeah could be wonderful, but it's just too unrealistic, moved on to other things. Mainly at this point, it's come down to I feel that Kensan is female, and resent when older freinds who know me ask me to play the male role, as I just don't feel it's part of my Alter Persona anymore.

I don't think this really is clearing anything up for anyone, really. It's just a statement of where I am now, I suppose.

I've gender-bent repeatedly, both online and in tabletop roleplay. In tabletop RP, it *is* a problem, because the other players have to adapt to the difference between your personal gender and your character's.

I have noticed that I've developed different gender archetypes for my online characters, though. My female characters tend to all follow my standard tabletop persona: intensely practical second banana. My male characters get a bit more exercise, although I have a tendency to play them as Goofy, Likeable Guys Of Alternative Sexuality.

In terms of other people's cross-gender stuff... because of the MU*s I've been involved with, I notice that the online environment is a magnificent area for people with Dissociative Identity to explore their other selves, and this sometimes includes allowing "insiders" of other genders to have online characters, etc. It is, by all reports, a great way for the insiders to have virtual bodies and distinguish themselves from the physical body they inhabit.

I'm of the belief that roleplaying is as much self-therapy as an art form, most of the time. But I'm an elitist git about RP anyway. :)

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