Signs You’re Not Cis-Gender: #822
Sign #822: You use gender neutral names online or assume a persona more aligned with your identity online, regardless of expression or presentation in “real life”.
This one might seem pretty basic, but I’ve found it to be really true. The anonymity of the Internet has provided plenty of people a platform to explore themselves. In the old days, when chat rooms were the new, big thing, you could easily sign into a chat room and be whomever you wanted to be. In my case, this meant two things. One: I would sign into gay chat rooms and pretend to be Batman. Come on! How could I resist?! The responses were delightfully funny, from “Hey, Batman. I’m Robin. *winks*” to people trying to crack the façade with questions like “Where are you from?” only to be shut down by me with the simple and obvious answer of “Gotham City”.
All joking aside, though, the second and more important thing was that I would often make sure I appeared more in line with my identity on the Internet. In chat rooms, I was almost exclusively presented male. I’d usually not disclose my sex when people would ask “A/S/L?” (age, sex, location). I’d “impersonate” a male, from conversations where I would role-play Lord of the Rings-like Elves under the name Menelorn to chatting with people during an online game. If the illusion was ever broken, people would express their shock over me being female. It kind of made me feel good to know I came across as male until I would TELL them otherwise. On the flipside, if I ever exposed myself as “female”, I was instantly treated differently. That part I absolutely hated.
In real life, I might have been tied to my physical form, stuck in a body that presented so very female that there was no way I could ever pass as male. (That’s still very true. I’m short, have a large bust, and a very feminine facial structure.) But online, I could explore myself, be me in the truest sense, no attention given to my body at all, just how I acted and what I would say. It was liberating and addictive. I’m surprised I didn’t lose myself more in online gaming or chat rooms during my time questioning my identity. In the end, I found a lot of pleasure in role-playing with the woman who has ended up being my actual co-author. We were both in the Tolkien fandom, so we connected and bonded over putting Elves in gay relationships. I played men in those situations, and when I would introduce myself online, I would use a gender neutral version of my name. I’ve always been Kris online, not Kristina or Kristi. If people didn’t know me already, I always called myself by the neutral name. When I moved to the San Francisco area to go to massage therapy school mid-college, the people who met me there and got to know me all called me Kris. Being away from my hometown allowed me the freedom to go by the neutral name. It was one little step that made me indescribably happy. I was a step closer to being me, not the person I’d been presenting to everyone in my everyday life.
The Internet can be a really powerful thing, and it certainly played a role in my journey of self-discovery and gender identity. I’m glad it gave me the opportunity to express myself as neutral and/or male. It has made me more confident presenting myself as a genderqueer boi over time. So, just another sign that happened rather early on, though it was dependent on my access to the Internet growing up, which was limited in ways kids nowadays definitely don’t have to worry about.
Have any of you readers taken on different personalities online? Have they impacted your own identity? I’d love to hear if anyone else experimented with their identity and/or presentation by taking advantage of the anonymity of the Internet. 🙂 Comment below!