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True Confessions: My Life as a Female Impersonator

March 15, 2004 - 8:59 p.m.

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According to someone else's diary, apparently today is True Confessions Day. I'll play along, and confess one of those things that one doesn't admit to family, friends, therapists, or even anonymous blog readers. I suppose until today.

There are several true confessions I could have made today, but I have picked one that, though embarassing to me, doesn't actually send me into guilt trips or crying fits. It's a comparatively tame true confession, though still one with which you could blackmail me later.

It all started almost fifteen years ago, back in 1989. I was in my second year of undergraduate school. Having no friends and no social life at said school, on weekends I often drove to visit friends from high school who were attending another university, including, among others, Jake and a guy we'll call Hans Gruber. Often, on the way, I would pick up either Ty or Elwood, or both.

Hans is an important character in this story, because, while we were still in high school, he's the one who introduced me to the wonders of the personal computer. Back then in the mid-80s, home computers were starting to become popular, but remained an expensive luxury for most. Oh sure, I had a Commodore 64 at one point in my life, but he had Mac. That computer was the center of his life. Hans's room at home had almost no furniture in it- not even a bed, he slept on the floor. (Hans didn't have the most loving home life, but being without a bed was more by his choice than his parents'.) However, he had two pieces of furniture- one of which was a huge white computer desk, atop which is Mac rested, as if at the center of a shrine. The other piece of furniture was his office chair, where he would sit in worship of the Mac. I won't get into too much detail as to his relationship with his Mac, but the importance was that he was ahead of the rest of us in terms of things computer-related.

Just as a visit to his house had always ended in playing on his computer, so too would a trip to his university require playing on a computer. But at the university, he found something even more wondrous than his Mac- he found a whole network of computers.

Of course, the internet as we know it didn't really exist in 1989- or more precisely, at that time is when the internet was starting to really develop into what we'd recognize now. The only inter-connectivity available to home users at that time were through computer BBSs (in which you'd dial into one guys computer, one user at a time) or primative ISPs that had no interconnectivity between each other (if you were on Prodigy, you could only communicate with people on Prodigy). And the latter services were hella expensive- not only did the services themselves cost around $5.00 an hour, but there was always long distance because there were never local dial-up numbers. Neither the BBSs nor the ISPs, back then, were connected to the internet.

Universities were connected to the internet (and back then, I don't think there was a way to be connected to the internet without a university or military account). There was no world wide web yet. To do anything on the internet using university terminals required learning the arcane system of the text-based Vax operating system.

Given this backdrop, it was truly a magical experience when, for the first time, I typed something onto that dull, monochrome terminal in Hans's university's computer lab, and got a response from someone from someone far, far away. This magical experience happened via IRC, which, at the time, was a new concept itself. In short, IRC was the precursor to today's chat rooms. IRC was much more primative- today you can get fancy graphical interfaces for it- but then it was all text-based and required a good familiarity with complex, arcane, arbitrary commands to even use.

Everyone using IRC, at the time, was a university student, using tightly-controlled university accounts. Thus, at the time, users of IRC did not have the benefit of anonymity. You could choose your own screen name, but there was a command that would show you the real name and location of the person using the screen name. And since accounts were only assigned by university computer programs to selected students, students could not falsify that information.

Of course, I couldn't use the computers at Hans's university without an account of my own. However, Hans, in addition to being just knowledgeable about computers, was also an accomplished hacker and skilled at identity theft long before the identity theft phenomenon. So Hans had account names and passwords for everyone when we came down to play on IRC.

Hans recommended that we would have the most fun with IRC if we used accounts with female names attached to them.

And Hans was right. There were very few women using IRC at that time, and when a woman was discovered, everyone on IRC wanted to talk to her. As a matter of fact, when using a male account, no one wanted to talk to me. But with a female account, I was deluged with conversation. Well, not just conversation, but many private messages inquiring about my physical appearance, what I was wearing, if I had a boyfriend, etc. Men from nearby universities wanted to know if they could drive over to meet me. Because it was so hard to falsify an account, it never occured to most men that the women with whom they thought they were chatting weren't actually women.

Because the internet is so ubiquitous now, and anonymity is so cheap, there is no way anyone today can possibly match the thrill we had then. Stepping into IRC was like traveling to another dimension, and the anonymity made us genius-kings (queens) within the realm, with the ability to toy with, use, and discard our subjects.

I, and all of us visiting Hans, would thus have grand fun logging on to IRC as women, flirting with men for a while and then insulting them, and then discussing among ourselves what losers these horny IRC guys were. With one particular subject, we actually gave a phone number for a guy to call to talk to us. The first time he called, we played into the phone a brief excerpt from a sex phone line that Hans had taped. The second time he called, we all chanted, "Loser!" into the phone until he hung up.

We did this many, many weekends. I became a one of the quickest hunt-and-peck typists ever.

One time, when it was just me and Hans, Hans confided to me that I and the others were merely amateurs when it came to toying with IRC users. Hans, however, was a master of the game. His interest, he explained, was not mere cheap entertainment, but a sociological experiment. (Many of his illegal activities were justified on grounds of either sociological experimentation or Darwinism in action.) He then told me about the great deal of care that he had taken to develop his IRC persona (we'll call her Hannah Gruber). Hannah ignored the IRC horndogs, and instead developed online relationships with more serious-minded men. Hannah had a well-developed history. Hannah would actually write letters to the men she knew online. (Hans happens to have a neat, stylized, and very feminine penmanship.) Hannah included pictures of herself in the letters. (Hans had acquired many yearbook-rejected photos of a girl with whom we went to high school.) Unfortunately, Hannah had a stuttering problem, and was thus too embarassed to talk to anyone on the phone. She wasn't necessarily opposed to meeting in person anyone she knew from IRC- but unfortunately, all of her IRC friends lived too far away. (Hans avoided chatting with people who lived close by.)

One of Hannah's friends, who lived in Austrailia, actually sent her flowers for her birthday. He also sent her a box of candy. (I was visiting Hans the day the candy arrived for Hannah. It was delicious.) This friend had many personal problems that he talked to Hannah about. I watched over Hans's shoulder as Hannah and her friend from Austrailia had this private, personal conversations- and Hans and I of course laughed about what a loser this guy was.

Hannah's friend also offered to pay for, and send to Hannah, a plane ticket so she could visit him in Austrailia. Hans was very tempted to accept. On the one hand, the moment he arrived in Austrailia, with Hannah's friend waiting for him, his career as Hannah would be over. On the other hand, he had always wanted to see Austrailia. But by that point, Hans had reached the culmination of his grand experiment. He had uncovered ample evidence that the world was full of gullible losers. Plus, he had taken a venture in using IRC to talk to people as himself, and found that he enjoyed the real connections he made with people over his hoaxes. Thus, his interest in being Hannah waned.

Whereas Hans's interest waned, his stories piqued my interest, and I determined to re-create Hans's sociological experiment. By the time I finally got my chance, around 1991, IRC had changed. As computer science grew as a field of study, and universities gave out more and more accounts, they lost some control over who received those accounts and how they were used. At the same time, universities became more and more conscious of student privacy issues. Thus, it had become much easier to fake an account to use on IRC. A friend let me use his account- it omitted his first name, so the gender was ambiguous. By this time, I had my own personal computer, and could dial-in to the university network (still no world wide web as we know it yet).

I resolved, however, that I would rely on my writing abilities to be convincing as a woman, since the name on the account alone wasn't convincing enough. Knowing that so many other men would be pretending to be women, I would avoid tactics that would make me appear to be a man pretending to be a woman. So, I avoided a screen name that sounded feminine or sexual, and chose one that was gender-neutral. I would flat-out ignore any overtly-sexual private message from a man. I would make a point of trying to start conversatios with men rather than women (since many "fake women" seemed to initiate conversations only with other women).

My purpose was not to attain material possessions, or "reveal" anyone as a "loser." I just wanted to know how I might be treated if I were someone else.

Early on, I became dissatisfied with my hunt-and-peck typing as being just not fast enough to keep up with serious conversation, and thus I taught myself how to type.

Overall, however, my IRC experiment didn't meet with the same success as Hans's. No one was ever much interested in talking to me. There were more women on IRC by this time (real or not), and merely being female didn't automatically make me special. And not everyone could easily determine that I was female anyway, because I didn't offer the information unless asked or if it were relevant (part of my realism strategy). And overall, I think my online persona just had a flat personality. I was so worried about slipping up and saying something that sounded "too male," that I just didn't say much of anything of interest. And so, I gave up on IRC.

In 1992, I started going to law school, and while doing that, I moved in with a couple we'll call Billy and Mandy. I knew Billy and Mandy through playing roleplaying games with them (Dungeons and Dragons was not our game of choice- Fantasy Hero was). Billy is a prototypical gaming nerd. Roleplaying games, computer games, comic books, Monty Python skits, SCA faires- you name the nerdly activity, he knows it.

Billy discovered an online, text-based roleplaying game that he liked. Billy has taken to trying to hook me on to every one of his vices, and so he got me to try out the game. It was Gemstone, on the GEnie ISP (internet service providers were still closed systems at that time, not linked to the internet or to each other). It was very much like MUDs- create a character, hack monsters, get treasure. Of course, it was possible to talk to the other players as well, for purposes of ganging up with them, or ganging up against them.

It cost $3.00/hour to play. Soon after learning about GemStone, I would encounter the first time in my life in which I carried a monthly balance on my credit card. Billy would install a second phone line in his house so he and I could play together.

When creating my GemStone character, it just seemed natural to me to create a female character. Force of habit from using IRC. Billy initially derided me. I justified myself by explaining that, by having a female name, I would get more help from male players. Billy was satisfied with the logic.

And it was playing GemStone that I first became acquainted with cybersex. One of the characters in the game- a Lady (a title earned by powerful characters), one day was complimenting my character's physical appearance (that is, the text-description of her physical appearance). It was a good start to pleasant chatting, and she asked me if I wanted to see her house (having a house in this game was a big deal- you had to kill a lot of monsters to accumulate a lot of treasure to buy a house). Of course I wanted to, and I naively thought this was innocent behavior.

We chatted more at her house, and it was only in hindsight that I figured out that what was conversation to me was flirting with her. From IRC, I knew that online flirting was possible. It just never occurred to me that that a woman might flirt with a woman. And I had never even heard of cybersex before. But soon, she was describing taking off my character's clothes, and then describing in detail performing sexual acts on my character.

I thought it was great. It was the thrill of the first time in a whole new forum.

After she was done describing sex acts on my character, she hinted that, next time, as she described what she was doing to my character, it would be nice for me to write how my character was responding.

So even online, my sexual inexperience dominated the first time.

But the first time certainly wasn't the last. My Lady introduced me to many cyber-lesbians, for big cyber-lesbian cyber-sex parties. After breaking into the fun world of cybersex, my writing talents took over, and I became one of the most popular cyber-lesbians in GemStone.

But I always felt a special place in my heart for my Lady, and my other cybersex experiences without her felt emotionally hollow. So I pressed her on the matter, and we became cyber-girlfriends.

Over time, though, I began to get suspicious that she might be having cybersex with other women on the side. I became jealous and confronted her with my suspicions, and then she gave me the "you're-smothering-me-I-need-room" speech, and she dumped me.

Not only had I encountered my first cybersex, I had encountered my first emotional attachment to a cyber relationship.

At first, the aspect of emotional involvement with someone online didn't bother me too much from a what's-my-sexuality standpoint, because I believed my Lady was played by a real life woman. At least, I had no evidence to the contrary. However, over time, as I met more and more cyber-lesbians, it became less-and-less plausible to me to believe that while 5% of real women are gay (more or less, depending on the source), that about 75% of the women playing GemStone were gay. It became harder to ignore the fact that many, most, perhaps all of them were real life men, pretending to be women, and further pretending to be lesbian because the idea of cybersex with a real man on the other end was challenged to their real life heterosexuality.

I had no problem with the potential real-life gender of the players with whom I had cybersex. My imagination centered on virtual interaction- as long as I didn't know anything about the real person that would interfere with my imagination surrounding the virtual event, I was fine. My policy was don't ask, don't tell.

But then I became obsessed with the "realism" of my virtual female persona. Certainly, I wanted to maintain the illusion of my feminine identity, so I wouldn't spoil the virtual interaction for my partner. However, being a cyber-lesbian threatened the credulity of my feminine persona, since being a cyber-lesbian was a common tactic of men pretending to be women. Thus, I resolved that to maintain the illusion of femininity, my character would have to have sex with male characters.

And so I began a new career as a seducer of men. And was even better at that. My popularity soared.

By the mid-90s, the internet really began to take off, and networks like GEnie became obsolete, replaced by ISPs that would truly connect one to the internet. It was at about this time that Hoover, with whom I was going to law school at the time, discovered MUDs, and he introduced me to them. MUDs were less elaborate versions of GemStone. But, unlike GemStone, MUDs were free. I shifted to MUDs, and without the limitation of expense, I had even more time to search for cybersex.

I moved away from the more game-oriented MUDs (MUD stands for Multi-User Dungeon) to the more roleplaying-oriented MUSHes (MUSH is Multi-User Shared Hallucination). While loosely based on roleplaying games, MUSHes are really more like interactive soap operas. This was the perfect environment to hone my feminine personae.

I've done a great deal of research to help me be a better woman. I have Gray's Anatomy to help me not mess up female anatomy. I use an online model database to help me match dress sizes and shoe sizes to the physical descrptions I give my female characters. I have the MacMilan Visual Dictionary to help me put names to types of clothing. I have websites marked for makeup and perfume advice.

And I continue to have cybersex, in the guise of a female character, to this day. It is definitely a leading hobby.

It's all mainly about the sex. But I still take great care to craft and portray my female characters. They are varied in perrsonality, but as a general rule, smart and independent have to be thrown into the mix, and I refuse to ever be "cute." As a woman, I'm harassed by men a lot. I've come to understand that "Want to go somewhere private to talk?" is an implicit invitation to sex; I'm immediately suspicious of any man who starts a conversation with me by complimenting me on how I look. On the other hand, I put a great deal of time into my appearance (text descriptions), and expect the men I know to notice different clothes or hair or makeup. I've discovered that men seem to take dressing provocatively is a sign of being easy (so I've taken to often dressing conservatively, to avoid unwanted advances- although when I've targeted a man that I want, then I pull out the sexy clothes). I play hard-to-get as a rule, because aggressive women get bad reputations. I've had to ask "Why don't we talk like we used to?" and "Why don't we go out anymore?" with alarming fequency; I demand cuddling before and after sex; and nothing irritates me more than a man who goes to sleep (disconnects) after orgasm. I encounter many men, and almost all of them are no good, and I can tell just by looking at them (reading their text descriptions) before they even say a word. I've discovered the truth in the saying that "All the good ones are either married or gay." I have a tendency to pursue married men hard.

Every now and then I try playing a male character, but I just can't get into it. It doesn't feel comfortable to me. I don't know how to be a man online.

As a rule, I don't do anything to imply that any online interaction is anything more than play. Unlike Hans's Hannah, I'm not out to toy with anyone's real life emotions. I can plausibly assert safety concerns for giving out real information. When necessary, I recommend to someone that if he wants a real life relationship, the appropriate forum would be a personal ad rather than a roleplaying MUSH.

So what's the attraction of cybersex? I don't know. It is much better than pornography, because (a) it's interactive, and (b) character and setting give the sex much more context. It's much more involving and immersive than watching a porno movie. The downside to cybersex is waiting to find a decent man to have it with.

This hobby of my could raise the question of whether I really want to be a woman. Maybe. However, having discussed this with one of the few online friends that I did get to know really- a woman who enjoys pretending to be gay men online, in fact- dissauded me from considered a sex change operation, on the very practical basis if I'm not a good-looking man, I'm not going to make a good-looking woman.

Obviously, cybersex is no replacement for real sex. But I don't do it instead of real sex; I do it to fill that time in between. I wouldn't be having cybersex if instead I could be having real sex. (Offers?)

(My online female characters have in fact done pity sex before. That's a point for further research and development.)

There do exist pictures of me wearing women's lingerie, but we'll leave that to the next True Confessions Day.

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