How the internet helped me find my gender identity

idolmaster-arisa-matsuda
Idolm@ster: Arisa Matsuda
When I was about thirteen years old, the Internet and I (otherwise known as Compuserve to me) were just starting to become acquainted after obtaining a 56kbps connection where I lived at the time. Many tantrums were had due to phone calls ruining my chat room conversations, but like everyone else, I came bouncing back. Everything was in the moment, which made those the best and the worst of times for me. Though, it wasn’t long until I discovered a new form of fun and creativity: Text-roleplaying.

Up until that time, my creativity was largely expressed in my attention to excellence with school projects. My source of fun was my Sega Dreamcast. I wasn’t a big writer, but I knew that I hated math. So naturally, English was my best subject which automatically qualified me to take well to the idea of interacting within a pre-existing setting with a character I created, utilizing my imagination and vocabulary to successfully survive these chat room sessions.

Except I didn’t survive. I was frequently killed by other experienced PCs in the chat who had no patience for newcomers. I kept coming back with character after character though, but nothing seemed to be strong enough to stand against them.

Unconsciously, I arrived at a realization. I was not resonating with any of my characters in any way. They were male personas I had created, but none of them truly personified me in a way that would not only help me survive but allow me to think clearly about how to conduct myself within my character role. I wasn’t connecting properly and that was keeping me from feeling as though I belonged there.

So, I created a female character as a natural progression. Unfortunately, I have no recollection of what her characteristics were, but that is hardly relevant. What I do recall is the moment my identity and role clicked into place once I entered the chat room. Though I was still killed a few times afterward, I immediately knew how to conduct myself as a female without much thought and avoid drawing too much unwanted attention unless I desired it. The memory that came next has stayed with me since then:

This is normal. It feels…so right.

Honestly, I cannot tell you why it took me nearly thirteen years later for me to begin questioning and exploring. Maybe it was my Christian upbringing. Maybe it was that I had already resigned myself to having no other options other than the cards that were dealt to me. I surely had no knowledge of LGBTQ matters back then. All I knew was what I knew, and at the time, that was discovering a way to express myself naturally as not just a female, but an individual, while on the Internet. Even if biology said differently, it was a comfort and joy I only relinquished to those I deeply trusted.

From that day on, I was typically identified as androgynous or assumed female on the Internet. Even then, in my limited knowledge of the world and my own wants and needs for self-actualization, being called “she” was something I always innately desired, going through great pains to keep the reality of my gender a secret long before I ever understood why.

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