An experiment in gender ambiguity

The past three days or so, I have been playing with an alt, for the purpose of conducting a little experiment. I wanted to see if it would be possible to make an avatar that looks like me in RL. And I’m rather amazed to say, I actually can.

Meet Salo Tiratzo.

Salo is made off a female shape which I’ve created myself to match my RL body as close as possible (although I’ve stuck to an average-for-SL height rather than my actual RL height, becaue I’m average in RL). The skin shown here is a freebie female skin without makeup on offer from Blowpop, although I’ve also been switching into a number of other skins, mainly male ones based off the Eloh Eliot templates, which look pretty good on this avatar. The trouble with a female skin is how bad it looks naked with the breast sliders set to 10 and the big painted-on shadow that belongs to a D-cup.

I gave up trying to match the hair, because mine is so short in RL (I have it as short as it’ll go without using clippers) and hair this short just doesn’t look good in SL. So I’ve ended up with this, which is what my RL hair looks like if it wasn’t cut for 3 months. This one is a freebie from Philotic Energy (can you tell I love that store?) which I settled on because her Dark Ash colour is almost an exact match.

The glasses are a freebie from nea-Ban via Sarah Nerds, and the shirt is purchased from Bare Rose (donated from my main av, because they’re transferrable and I’ve been reliably informed that I can’t wear red with ginger hair).

For purposes of comparison, here’s me in RL:

This whole experiment has been very interesting, firstly because of how surprisingly easy it was to create this very androgynous appearance – even though Salo is wearing both a female skin and a female shape, the appearance is so far off what people expect of female that other people have assumed male. Which is what tends to happen in RL too. So even a transgendered female avatar in SL can “pass”.

Also because it raises some interesting questions about how I relate to and identify with my avatars. They’re both me, without any doubt. To begin with, I find myself wanting gender-neutral pronouns with Salo, which is odd because when I think of myself in RL there’s no ambiguity at all – I may have female bits but I am definitely male, without any shadow of doubt. So when I’m thinking about myself, I think of myself as “he”, completely. Same goes for Lewis of course.  With Salo, I want to be using both he and she, or neither, all at once. I’m tempted to use both, alternating at random, even in the same sentence.

One odd thing, is when I dream, I never have the same body in the dream that I have in RL. It’s always tall, ginger-haired and male. Someone on the SL forum mentioned the concept of “Residual self-image” and I think thats a big clue to what my residual self-image is like. A lot like Lewis, actually.  And that springboards into a whole psychological maelstrom of gender dysmorphia, body issues and related topics.  Which I could get into here but I won’t. Thats a topic probably best saved for my RL blog.

I think I will keep Salo, at least for now.

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