Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The nature and meaning of "transgender" in a virtual world.

I thought this was interesting.

Prokofy Neva, as you know, is a well-known male avatar with a female operator.

There's a protracted dramafest going on inworld and across multiple forums about the JLU group and one of the subplots is about transgendered people.

That led Neva to make this comment in his blog...
"But Kendra didn't accept me. As I've found with a number of other m2f transgendered in SL, she thought I didn't have the right to call myself transgendered in SL. She thought only RL transgendered people were authentic, and if you had an avatar of the opposite gender, this was merely a kind of role-play or "fantasy" and "didn't count". It wasn't politically correct in her very rigid canon."
That caught my eye and my interest and led me to inquire...
"Am I understanding you correctly? You do consider yourself transgender?"
Neva's reply...
"Why are middle-aged males like yourself so prurient about this issue, LeeHere? Why do you think that is? Mitch Wagner was just the same way. I'm not required to discuss my private life with strangers on the Internet. And so I don't. I have a transgendered avatar that is the opposite of my RL gender as is well known. I think that is a perfectly legitimate thing to do, and I don't think I'm required to a) discuss any aspect of my private life or b) have to be an actual case of transgender in RL in order to be "entitled" to have such an avatar or be "authentic". I find it the worst sort of fascism when people claim otherwise. Gender police -- ugh! I don't have any plans for any RL operations of any type, I really don't like surgery."
"I'm actually a middle-aged (43) female, Prokofy. I did not think I was being "prurient" about the issue and indeed I was not. You made an interesting comment and I asked about it. You opened the door and I walked through it, politely, gently and reasonably and with genuine interest. I can see that you are so often attacked that you keep yourself in a defensive posture, but I sincerely meant to engage you in a topic I thought both of us found interesting. I have never seen anyone refer to the use of an avatar with a gender opposite to their operator gender as "transgender" unless the operator identified as transgender in real life. I knew you chose an avatar opposite to your operator gender and I have seen you write about why you have made that choice, but I have never before seen you refer to that choice as "transgender." I am not questioning the legitimacy or the privacy of your choices. I read your blog post and had a "Hunh. That's interesting. I've never seen it put that way before." response. That's all. I did not assume you had plans for real life surgery or that you identified as transgender in real life, I thought perhaps you had a kind of philosophical view on the nature of transgenderism in the virual world. Seemed like, as I said, an interesting point for discussion. My apologies for inadvertently causing offense, but thank you for answering the question anyway."
I do think this is an interesting discussion for a number of reasons.

1.  The idea that an operator of an avatar with a different gender is "transgender."
2.  Neva's blog post.
3.  Neva's reaction to my question.

I find it's difficult to have calm, rational conversations with Neva.  No, I'm not jumping on the crazy-lady bandwagon.  I know that Neva purposely indulges in a kind of TalkRadio/Internet culture virtual swinging dick hyperbole that would make Limbaugh and WoW players proud, but I suspect that Neva is so often attacked that he just keeps himself in a defensive posture.  I'm not sure what the approach of a casual reader of  "Second Thoughts" should be on a hot-button topic at this point.  I think I was unexpectedly culling out a bit of that hyperbole and separating it from the herd of the total attack, so to speak, and it may not stand so well on its own legs in that particular field.

So if someone has an avatar with a different gender to the real life that "transgender"?  Is it entirely up to the operator?  Do people who are transgender in real life have cause for offense or criticism?  Is there room in a virtual world for both choices and philosophies?



Neva replied and so did I.
"LeeHere, I thought you were another variation of that Lee who hangs around Ross infohub all the time who is a middle-aged male and has his RL picture on his avatar even. You *are* being prurient. No, I don't find it interesting to discuss my life with you. I wish to refer to my avatar as transgendered. It seems accurate and perfectly legitimate. I don't believe in the Gender Police and I don't obey the Transgender Central Committee. Again, I don't have to prove any status *whatsoever* in RL to have a transgender avatar in SL, end of story, that's all he wrote.
"I'm glad we cleared up the which "Lee" I am part. As for the prurient part, I think we will just have to agree to disagree. I thought it was an interesting question, a kind of philosophical inquiry. Again, thank you for answering the question, regardless. I'm content to leave it there. Have a good day. Happy blogging."

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Germany Taxing Street Prostitutes

Dakota Cody posted the article on gV.  I twitched.  Here's more on the story...

  • Bonn, Germany
  • Implementation of automated tax pay stations similar to parking meters
  • Prostitution is legal in Germany
  • Street prostitution in Bonn, Germany is fairly organized
  • The city built special garage structures where customers can park and have sex with prostitutes
  • Brothel, bordello and sauna prostitutes are taxed
  • Taxing street prostitutes was argued as fair and equal treatment of prostitutes
  • Street prostitutes who earn no money still have to pay the automated tax machines
  • The city of Bonn pays to have a private security company police the "performance area" and provide security for sex workers.
  • The city of Bonn, Germany was also looking for "relatively simple" ways to increase revenue to offset the city's millions in debt.
  • Prostitutes in Dortmund, Germany pay a similar tax, but they make their "tax ticket" payments at gas stations.
  • Advocates for sex workers say the tax is unfair because the prostitutes already pay income taxes.  So they are taxed twice under the new system and it is not income-based.
  • City officials say foreign-born street prostitutes who don't speak German struggle with the German income tax forms.
  • Germany has a "sickness fund" for workers who make less than €46,300. Those who make more can utilize the sickness fund or opt out and get private insurance. Sickness funds are financed through a payroll tax.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Don't You Want to Know?

That's another question I get a lot.  I was adopted as an eight-week-old baby.  People want to know about my biological parents and then they want to know why I never looked for them or information about them.  "Don't you want to know?"  "Not really, no."  "Why not?  "Well...why?"

People magazine, a celebrity gossip and entertainment news mag,  used to, when I was growing up, do a fairly regular feature article, maybe once a year or so, for no apparent reason, on adopted kids.  The articles were always blatantly biased in favor of biological families.  The adopted children interviewed were always ones in extreme circumstances, abusive relationships, various and sundry trauma.  They would describe feeling a disconnect from their adoptive parents and would go on some quest to find their "real" parents.  These articles never included interviews with the MANY adopted children who grew up in happy homes feeling a true and deep connection to their parents, or even the many children who grew up in unhappy biological-family homes and felt no connection to their biological parents.

The nuclear family is a relatively, in human history, recent societal construct, but boy we sure do romanticize it, market and protect it, don't we?

I grew up in a nuclear family, but it was one created by my parents and marriage and adoption.  I was eight weeks old when it came together.  I never knew any other family.

My mother created a warm and wonderful home.  Kids from the neighborhood wanted to come to my house after school.  She greeted me with home-baked after-school snacks and a genuine interest in my day and the most marvelous stories, some from the history of her country (England) and some just totally made up and full of fantasy.  She sat up with me when I was sick, she applauded at my school plays, she helped me make Halloween costumes, she shopped for back-to-school clothes and prom dresses with me and thought I was beautiful.  She took me to Australia when I turned 18 and to Italy when I turned 30.

My father did hokey magic tricks for me and the neighborhood kids.  He bought me a science kit and went on nature walks with me and pointed out plants and rocks and winds and the sun and stars.  He swam in the pool with me and horsed around and threw catch and later taught me to play golf.  One Halloween I was wearing a full leg cast, which had not been anticipated, as such things usually aren't, so the situation made wearing my planned Halloween costume impossible.  My parents jury-rigged a last minute costume out of stuff around the house.  I couldn't walk from house to house to trick-or-treat, so my Dad carried me, cast-and-all, to each door so I wouldn't miss out on my favorite holiday.

People would ask me if I knew where my "real" parents were.  My answer was always, "yes."

Why Marriage?

People ask me why I never got married.  My question back is often, "why should I have?"