How liberating would it be to not have to hide who or what you are? To have an identity that is purely you without having to censor sexuality, political views, opinions, feelings, norms, beliefs, values, or other aspects of your identity. Some online platforms require you to cater your identity to acceptable standards. Many people have to clean up their Facebook, censor what friends they accept, or alter their privacy settings. Others allow more freedom like Second Life but do not allow you to look like you and encompass many inequalities. Many platforms require you to submit a gender, but there is not “transgender” button. Obviously it may not be safe or smart to allow all of your identity to be seen on the internet, but it may not be safe or smart to subject yourself to hiding part of your identity all the time. It is possible that we could even become self-fulfilling prophecies and lose certain aspects of our identity completely. I do think that there are ways to show sexuality on online platforms more than you might be able to in face to face conversation but they are bound by the same marginalization that occur in the physical world. As a woman, I am bound to certain rules of communication. If I wanted to wear heavy makeup and walk around barely clothed in a pair of stilettos, there would certainly be social (may be even economical or other sorts) of ramifications. Providing the same kind of outward appearance on Second Life contains similar social ramifications but has created their own sort of societal rules. I’m not transgendered or homosexual but I see the marginalization that they have to deal with when I see my friends who are transgender and homosexual interact in both physical and online worlds. The issue of agency in both cases allows you to either go with or against the societal structures that determine what is hot, not, queer, normal or any other structure. As the Brookey and Cannon article states, the performance of gender constitutes our identities and can make us sexual subjects. At the same time, the performance of transgendered or non-gendered must constitute some sort of identity as well. We are very focused on sexual identity due to our societal norms, so how can we break through socially constructed norms to really be ourselves? The world may never know.
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The Gross article talks about how new media can create opportunities for new communities and mentions the “queers” were among the first to realize the potential of web technology. But as technology changes so has the gay communities online. I have seen the changes in these communities though friends that are active participants and some come in and out of fashion while others change due to different historical events. I thought that this might make growing up as a gay person easier due to the constant visibility of homosexuality. The article stresses that many of these young people still feel isolated and vulnerable. I am glad that there is a support system that many people can go to if they feel this way, and it is important to have this kind of support network for many kinds of communities. Being sexually active is part of being human, but there will always be meanings associated with certain acts of sexuality. I think consenting adults should be able to express their identities in any way they feel necessary, but that doesn’t mean it won’t gross me out. Some of these meanings run deep and as comfortable with sexuality as some people may be, I might not want to see it or be a part of it depending on context and timing. Even experiencing talk about sexuality in Second Life makes me feel like there are other better topics to talk about, but sex sells.
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