Ever heard of genderhacking? Go on, google it. When a man pretends to be a woman, or more rarely a woman pretends to be a man online, it’s called genderhacking. What a great word.
I just read a really interesting article on the phenomenon. It goes through some of the associated psychology, specifically the reasons why a man would pretend to be a woman online, and interestingly, some techniques for flushing out genderhacked individuals.
The usual suspects arise in the article when looking into the reasons for genderhacking. Men “exploring their feminine sides,” attention-seeking, investigation of male-female relationships, opportunism in online game situations, latent homosexuality and transsexuality all come to play.
I may not be a psychologist, and I don’t even play one on the ‘net, but I can tell you a thing or two about genderhacking.
I spent two and a half years as a female on an exceptionally busy and quite famous technology site. It started off innocently, as an off-the-cuff decision to assume a female role in hopes of more rapidly obtaining the information I was looking for. And it worked; my research was very rapidly concluded, within a matter of weeks.
The problem was that the female personality became just that, a personality. Not a persona I could slip on and off like a mask. It is tempting to say that it was addictive, being that other person, and maybe it was, but it was much more than just that. The female personality demanded attention, and attention she got.
Skeptics will choose this point to cry foul, that it was still me just pretending. The psychologists among you might be wondering about mental illness, schitzoid events. Maybe he just went mental, the lay people might say.
But no. The female personality was (and is, to me) real. It actually became easier to be her online than it was to be me. I invested her with much of my creative energy and talent, and as she grew and blossomed, as all personalities do, she demanded more and more energy of me.
It almost became frightening. It’s like this secondary personality was slowly crowding out my personality as she grew. She made friends online, became a central figure on the website, and actually became relatively well-known on related sites throughout the internet.
Meanwhile, I was getting more and more drained. I’ve only got one soul, or whatever you want to call it, and suddenly it was fueling two personalities, one of which was rapidly growing out of control. I slept less, I became lethargic, but she became more and more creative, more and more…real. My soul was wearing thin.
And then the crash came. Maybe I did it myself, maybe it just had to happen eventually. Whatever. Someone found out and challenged me privately. Told me to come out, or they would.
It was hard. I had to let her go. I had to come clean to all her friends. People she had got to know and who had got to know her. I had to tell them I had been lying to them for years, that she wasn’t real. It was hell.
I was miserable, but I did it. Better they hear it from me than from someone else. I told them. Most called me a freak, a pervert, a monstrosity, and I’ve never heard from them since. One even told me I was worse than a child molester, which I never understood, since the female personality had never been much more overtly sexual in nature than any other “real” woman online.
The female personality was exposed, and died a quick but excruciating death. With her went all the talent and creativity I had vested in her – or she had taken from me. My soul was a lot less thin, but my mind was a lot more empty.
I still miss her. She was like a best friend, and it felt like betrayal to kill her. Some of her friends have since become my friends, and some have even said they like me better than her. That’s cool. I know those people, and I value their friendships more than I can express.
I’m still upset about the others. I know I hurt them, and I accept their right to feel betrayed, but it still hurts me too. Every time she is brought up on that tech site, it starts off a flurry of questions, answers and accusations which dredge up the good times and the bad times I had with her.
“But she’s not real!” everyone exclaims.
She was, to me.