How has your look changed over the years? What does this mean for you, and what has driven the choices you’ve made in expressing yourself in Second Life?
For me this has all been about a journey through sensuality, spirituality, and self-identity.
I went looking, and found some of the first images I took of my avatar in Second Life. I’ve put one here next to an image I took over the weekend of my avatar on a new spot of land I’ve got:
I am actually still wearing one item in common in both of these… fangs. I’m probably the only neko that wears fangs, and one of the few that uses whiskers. And as far as I know… it is still the same pair of them after all these years. Just about everything else has changed though.
Originally I wanted dark skin for my avatar, like I now have. But in 2009 the shade you see on the left was the darkest tone I could find, as a newbie.
Self identity changes over time, and I find it very interesting to look back at the journey of self exploration.
I’m a very introspective person – I self analyze a lot. For me that is a big part of being alive. But its also something I’ve been tossed into by the nature of my existence as a multi-racial person born before that was common or acceptable in the USA. My parents where married the same year as the Loving v. Virginia case and my eldest sibling was born right after the decision in that case came down. There actually was a judicial action to prevent my parents from being together on the grounds of miscegenation (race mixing), and I very much owe my existence to the impact of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr‘s civil right’s movement – which had changed the minds of the right people, including those who helped my parents overcome the challenge that was actually brought by my grandparents…
So thinking on who and what I am has been critical to my sense of self from the beginning.
As is known, I am not ‘African American’, yet my avatar is African. But there is a funny footnote to this because I recently found through DNA that I am in fact part African. Yet I grew up under the perception that I was an Asian / Amazon Indian / Caucasian / Cherokee mix. In place of Cherokee, I instead have a number of things from West and North Africa, and the Caucasian turned out to be different parts of Europe than family history had said. So one side of my family has a complete falsehood for every aspect of its ancestry.
Genealogical exploration is a pretty common thing for Americans to get into. We often find surprises. So that’s not the real trigger for me in being introspective. Rather being what Americans consider mixed-race has been the trigger.
I belong to no ethnic group.
When you don’t belong to any of them, all of their various members are very keen to point this out to you on many occasions in your life. It one thing to be the ‘other’ from that other tribe… but when you are the racial equivalent of a ‘stateless‘ person – you have no place to ‘escape back to’. There is no tribe standing around waiting to help me form an identity… I had to carve it out myself through some very rough experiences – some as recent as experiences I have had in some Second Life forum communities. No matter what I state as my ethnicity, I can be called out as a Rachel Dolezal – and I’ve been getting that accusation since I was 5 years old and my mother was trying to put me in Kindergarten… Every action, every thought, every preference gets judged by hostile mono-ethnic people seeking to hold on to their territory.
I am an eternal fake, and because of this I have to get very real.
Most people take for granted the vast bulk of their identity, cultural, belief system, even appearance. I have no such luxury. A person gets very introspective very fast in this situation.
So Second Life has been a blessing for me as a place where I can literally put on a skin, and explore an identity. Through that I learn so much about myself. I find where I stand on issues, how I can shape my sense of sense, and I can stake out an identity that people cannot take away from me and tell me I don’t have a right to because I’m not enough of their kind or another kind of blood for their liking.
And it has been a long and well worthwhile ride.
I didn’t come to Second Life to explore myself. I actually came here to get some goodies for the Poser 7 Launch event, and found out to my disappointment that the goodies were just goodies for a Second Life avatar. That is why my first attempt at Second Life only lasted 2 days in 2006.
One day in 2009 I was bored, and I was browsing or reading something that mentioned Second Life. So I wondered if it would load on my then computer. I looked through my files and found my old avatar’s name, guessed the password (or the forget password stuff, I don’t remember) and logged in. I spent a few days wandering around.
The 2009 image above is actually my 2006 avatar and not Pussycat. Pussycat was born about 10 days later, because I very strongly didn’t like the avatar name I had.
On coming back in, I had randomly clicked something and found myself wearing a Neko avatar. It was a very crude free one – but it clicked right away.
I had found myself. Now I needed to name myself. I tried a dozen variations on neko, cat, pussy (erm…), kitty, catnip, calico, even koyangi (Korean for cat) and gato (yeah, gato made it into my mind but not as far as they keyboard because that is just way too manly), kittylicious (yeah… /fail) and yes, pussycat.
Somehow even though Pussycat was taken with a few other last names, it was not taken yet with ‘Catnap’… So off I went. I’m glad I ended up with this name… its very fitting for how my personality in SL wavers in different directions. Saying just parts of my name, or where you put the emphasis, can lead to very different meanings. Some people like to just call me ‘PC’ or ‘Cat’ because typing it all out makes them a little nervous I guess. Actually its a handy name for seeing how someone else is seeing you…
So I began in 2009 in SL looking for the sensual side of things. The image I used to start this blog was not the first one I took, the first one was a bit more… intense and unclothed. The 2016 image I used is unclothed, but is a normal pose.
I spent a few months exploring that scene. I think a lot of people who come to SL have to go through that and they either stay with it or move on. I more or less moved on. But in the journey I also realized that I really like the idea of being clothes free, minus the weird politics of naturists.
I even tried exploring the adult erotic side of Second Life. But I quickly learned this was not me. In part due to encounters with S/m people. It took me some time to be able to relate to people from the S/m community because I am very militant about Equal Rights and even a roleplayed expression of submission or dominance bothers me. That has not changed, and will not change. What changed for me over time was learning that these people truly feel their relations are equal, so I accept them for themselves while recognizing that I am on a very different path.
However a major break for me on the erotic side of Second Life was just realizing I found these little cartoons engaged in ‘the act’ to be comedy, while others were trying to truly express themselves or have an experience in those moments. I felt it would be rude of me to be laughing while the others were feeling something more.
After a time I started to try and expand my perspective. I think finding the shop Bare Rose was key here – it was and is a Cosplay place, so there were all kinds of outfits in radically different styles, and they were cheap. At the time usually 150-250L for a full outfit. So each time I bought one, I could put it on, run around, and see if it felt like I’d found a new me. After I went premium most of my weekly money went to this shop throughout much of 2009.
I went premium about a month and a half back into SL. That really changes things. Premium is a commitment. Its not just renting a spot somewhere, once you’re premium you can see the bank statement, you’ve “subscribed” to this “free to play MMO” and there’s some land out there somewhere that you now have the privilege to buy, and once you… you’ve got to make sure you got your money’s worth out of it. So once you have your own land you end up spending a lot of time on it, and that time is often alone.
Wandering through various Second Life clubs led me down the path of a spiritual awakening. Reading a random notecard left outside a Reggae Club got me curious. It was a card about Rastafarians, but it wasn’t very thorough. When you’re introspective the simple answers never work for you – so I went off to read more, and came back realizing I was always Rasta. Now Rasta is very much a leftist movement, not a liberal one. There is a marked difference that many people don’t understand. But it is also militantly non-violent, unlike your usual leftist movement – and that can lead many to mistake it for a liberal movement.
But I’m not exactly on the same page as the Rastafari in every aspect. I’m more fond of the sensual, and I take the Equal Rights and Justice angle to mean such for everyone. So as Apple Gabriel says, Give them Love.
Rasta is not a unified doctrine, unlike many organized religions. Each of us finds our path within that core concept of Equal Rights and Justice and the recognition of Yeshua Christ, Ras Tafari (Haile Selassie), and the holy land of Ethiopia – home of the oldest branch of Christianity, that predates the Catholics.
After a journey through ‘am a furry’, I moved away from nudity. This was some time after finding Rasta, but before I was openly talking Rasta everywhere I went in Second Life.
Furry is interesting to me, in that I see the spiritual nature of an anthropomorphic self. A sort of ‘totem animal spirit’ if you will. In that regard I enjoy furry avatars a lot. But I’m not a part of furry culture at all. It baffles me, and I humor it. No opinions either negative or positive though.
Furries are very often gender ambiguous though (hermaphrodite avatars), and that is something I don’t relate well to at all. It is a common theme in Second Life, and I am accustomed to accepting it, but I don’t relate to it. I’m a leftist, but I’m not exactly a liberal.
I tried using Second Life to explore Rasta. I made a club, I wandered through events and other clubs, I made groups, and so on. Nothing really ever clicked here. There are a lot of people wandering around in SL with Rasta themes lightly in their look or venue – but they’re closer to what Rasta calls a Rentafari. A Rentafari is a male prostitute with dreadlocks who services white tourist women…
So yeah, that is an insult. What I found in SL was a bunch of people who equated Rasta with a black version of Cheech and Chong, for white people. Go to Reggae clubs, and they are usually run by white women, or Rentafari men.
So I kinda pulled back a bit from Second Life as my journey through Rasta kicked off.
Some might see me as appropriating by having a black avatar, or even in that my religion is Rastafari. But you should look to a person’s intentions, words, and deeds before going down that path. Snoop Lion is a black man who has been rightfully called out as appropriating Black Culture, while Jah Sun is a white man who is very real in where he stands.
When I go down a path, I go deep. As an introspective person I can’t just grab the surface of something. The Rentafari experience will not do for me because I see it as fake and that spoils it. I may love running around as a naked avatar, but I also have a very deep sense of the spiritual – and using religion to sell sex rubs me wrong. Even if I at the same time embrace the sensual in the spiritual.
Its a bit like the difference between Leftist and Liberal (think Malcolm X vs. Martin Luther King Jr). You might not see it, but its there, and pretty concrete. The sensual and spiritual go together naturally, but to use one to sell the other is a perversion of both.
So when I came back around to being active with Second Life, I started toning myself down a bit. That’s more or less where my break with nudity first occurred. In part also driven by the virulent racism I encountered on the SLU forums. I decided to stop engaging in some circles, and to alter my image a bit.
That’s about when I started calling my supposed shop in SL ‘Zion Kitty’, as a way to announce that I was looking at things spiritually now.
Not too long after I even put up a Rasta ‘Church’ build based on a temple in Ethiopia. Churches as a building / location is not a Rasta thing, and that is why I eventually took that place down. People should gather anywhere to be spiritual, and without leaders. Pastors, Rabbis, Imams, and Priests are all mankind’s method of stealing spirituality from one in order to give political power to another.
That is something I’ve always known, and had to remind myself of.
Second Life has been a very useful tool for me in exploring identities, and in finding my spiritual self. It has also re-affirmed for me the notion that the spiritual is not in conflict with the sensual unless one is used to sell the other.
And that is a bit of why I have returned to being openly nude in Second Life. I see nothing wrong with this and my spiritual side. And whereas I have a lifetime of people challenging me for my mere existence in my real life, in my SL I can stand up and say that and hold to it. It is me, it is how I genuinely intuit my reality.
As I recently noted in my post about Nudity in Second Life:
For me, nudity, even public nudity, is a spiritual thing. I suspect that confuses a lot of people. We are born nude, we are created nude, we return to a natural state when this life ends.
. . .
For me, the nude form is a spiritual form. Yes it is also a sensual, in fact erotic form. And these are all by intent, by design. By Jah will. We are made to love each other, to strive for community, caring, and an appreciation of the beauty of life and the beauty within each other and ourselves.
And while that is not necessarily something I learned in Second Life, it is something I hold firm to. And it is something that Second Life is perfectly suited for letting me express.
Fake non-person with no ‘branded identity’ who belongs to none of your ethnicities that I am, I come here to get real.
This is a part of my journey.
So where are you headed?