Monday, January 10, 2005


So there's this guy who's a guy in real life but a girl in Second Life, even though in real life he's into girls, and then there's this other guy who's also a guy into girls in real life, and he was playing a guy in Second Life for awhile, but then decided to be a girl instead, and then like two months ago, guess what: the first guy met the second guy, and they fell in love, so now they're a couple-- even though they're really two guys into girls.

In other words, you know, just another romance in Second Life.

"We haven't really been too sexual," Jade Lily clarifies for me. "We're like two people who are becoming very close. It's like I have no concept of gender in Second Life... so the only way i can think to qualify my heterosexuality is my attraction to a female figure."

So I stopped awhile to chat with Jade Lily and Torley Torgeson, the female figure in Jade's life. As it happens, I knew Torley when he was a slim young dude in flowing neon clothes who hauled his keyboard around everywhere, and though a relative newcomer, quickly charmed Second Life's citizenry with his quirky, mad creative charm. (His ongoing journal is one of the strongest Second Life blogs out there-- especially if you're a fan of giant watermelons and sleeping in dumpsters.) Shortly after taking the in-world by storm, however, Torley abandoned his keyboard attachment for the most part, and his gender. And in deference to his wishes-- and what else can you defer to, when identity is so malleable?-- I'm going to abandon the male pronoun when I mention Torley from now on, too.

"Jade's the type of person who I felt I 'knew' early on," she tells me, "even if I didn't talk that much to her to begin with. It's kinda like... you have your Pokemon cards or pieces of the puzzle and whatever, and you suspect someone else has a bunch of the missing pieces. Well, as time went on, I found this to be true."

"It's just begun," Jade tells me as we sit down in the courtyard of Jade's Second Life library, last November. "But so far, I get along great with Torley." To make things more complex (and what's a Second Life romance without complications?) we're joined at the table by someone who has a real life history with Jade.

"A girl I dated in high school came into Second Life as a guy," Jade explains. "We attempted a relationship, but it didn't really work out. We're just not compatible. That's completely unrelated."

"You see this lil' lady to my right I once dated," says Sage Maracas, a muscular man wearing dark sunglasses, "I created a male avatar better than her's. She gave me a [male avatar] skin and it's been that way ever since. Now every time I go female she gets all pissy... something about spending money on the skin, blah blah blah."

"I thought it would be interesting to have a relationship with a guy in Second Life who was actually a girl in real life," Jade explains, laughing, "and we thought we wanted a relationship at the time."

"You mean in real life?" I ask.

"Something like that," Maracas grunts.

"... [A]nd I think we wanted to salvage that," Ms. Lily continues. "It didn't really work out for either of us, I suppose."

Which brings us back to the relationship which does seem to be working out, at least for the moment, involving the two women nearby who are currently locked in a warm embrace.

"Mmm," murmurs Torley, "it's hard to let go."

I ask them what it feels like, when they see their avatars hug each other.

"It feels like I'm hugging a girl when I hug Torley," Jade answers.

"Same," says Torley.

But since Jade told me earlier that sex isn't the emphasis for the relationship, what about it exactly, I ask them, makes it a "romantic" relationship?

"If I imagine him as a female," Jade answers, "which isn't difficult to do with his new female avatar, I'd say he's an ideal partner for me, personality-wise. What makes it romantic, I think, so far, is the long conversations that we have about who we are, and where we fit in the world. How we think. We ask each other deeply personal questions. Trying to understand one another... I just treat him like a girl, and he treats me that way. And it's fun. We've agreed that it can never leave Second Life." She grins. "SL is the enchantment."

"Do you think you might be bisexual, in real life?"

"I'm not attracted to guys physically," Lily answers flatly. "But I think I could find a guy's personality attractive... I think a lot of people have homosexual tendencies. It doesn't necessarily mean they're gay
in real life. In real life, I'm clearly attracted to women. In Second Life, it gets shady. I see my avatar, Jade, and I'm compelled to play a female role.... because it's what she's supposed to do, I guess. I dunno. SL has either taught me a lot about myself, or created more questions. Maybe both."

I warn them that some might judge their relationship negatively, if I write about it, but they're undeterred. "Some people will unfortunately always judge others harshly," Torley Torgeson says. "I've been judged for many things... my techno music politics, my autism, etc. Gotta do what you really believe in."

"'Techno music politics', wha?"

"Oh you know, just like rap music has East Coast versus West Coast, it's that way in techno too... with, like, over 300 different styles, it's such a mess." (Torley's a techno musician, hence the keyboard she used to carry, when "she" was a "he".) As for his autism, it's a low grade form known as Asperger's, sometimes known as "the geek syndrome", for the way it's disproportionally afflicted children of Silicon Valley employees, and others with a high tech, mathematical bent.

"Well for me," says Torley, "it comes with a lack of common sense. That's one of the big ones. I tend to miss the obvious, and I have certain compulsions and obsessions. Techno music and neon colors for example. I am NeoN... I am the OneN!" He smiles. "I have great difficulties understanding body language and expressing emotion in some areas." But being in a visual medium like this has been a boon for him. "In the past," he says, "I have been adverse to text-only chat for the reason that it is just words alone, and hard to place them in context. It is a very difficult thing for me to make heads and tails out of that. So I use a lot of emoticons. However, within Second Life, it's multimedia, so it's so wonderful we can show ourselves through NOT ONLY text, but avatars... gestures, animations... I found out about SL so relatively late in the game, but I am thankful to be here."

"But Torley has made friends with all of the veterans," Jade points out. "Everyone loves Torley."

Torley Torgeson seems to blush. "Awww... see, now how that happened... that's somewhat of a mystery... awwws, Jadey."

"Let's get a picture of Einstein eating Hamlet," Jade suggests, so we do. Einstein is the giant dragon sitting atop Jade Lily's as-yet unstocked library. ("It'll have resident-produced, Second Life-related articles," she explains. "We have a publishing process and everything. It's pretty involved.") So I squeeze myself in the dragon's teeth, while the two women stand below me hugging on top of an open book, waiting to be read.


This was all in November, just before the holidays kicked in. So as I prepared to finally write this, I wanted to check back in with the pair. Had they gone back to their male forms, or broke off their relationship in the intervening months? And did they ever want to meet each other in real life? Last I heard, Jade Lily was still offline, but a couple weeks ago, Torley sent me her own update by e-mail:

"Jadey's away right now but she'll be back in a few days," he writes. "I shall let her know [you want to talk with her]! I miss her oodles already... Just a few hours ago, she came on Second Life from a friend's place but I didn't want to see her in-world because I believe 'absence makes the heart grow fonder'. As much as I have Jade Withdrawal Syndrome, I'm waiting to see her again when the time is right, knowing it will make both of us stronger together...

"It's 3:45 AM approx as I write this, and I am zonked delirious outta my mind. But no better time to do it, 'cuz the thoughts are gonna flow like a ribbon... Jadey's far better at talking about us that I am, I feel, but here goes, in my own words... Jadey and I are like opposites in some ways, similar or identical in others. I guess that's kinda obvious but I like to say, in Matrix-y terms, that she balances my equations. She's the order, I'm the chaos. I'm like the crazy explorer nomad type who came into this world to wreak havoc of a friendly type, and she's been structured and disciplined with her SL Public Library project over many months. We both have an intense creative focus and love-- literally and figuratively-- sharing ideas with each other...

"So many of our thoughtlines are similar-- it's difficult to put into words, but when you think of life as a travelling train with various stations along the way, like points on the timeline, Jadey and I are often finishing off each other's sentences or saying the same things in chat. Here's something that may seem small to others but meant a tremendous amount to me. For years, I've said 'ipsum dolor' when referring to dummy filler text. Now, most people in my experience don't seem to know what that's about. They either go 'What?' or don't say anything at all. But just a few days ago, when I started mentioning it in regards to what the Library terminal would be filled with on a temp basis, Jade said the first part of it, 'lorem ipsum', and I was like WOWWW. It's like she grabs one end, I grab the other, and we meet in the middle...

"I am sooo in love with Jade... Simply put, I am happy when I am with her. I have searched my feelings-- and I have a history of finding it hard to let emotion go -- and I have found this to be true, over and over again... Like I like to say:

"she calms my storms
and keeps me warm
i will not fade
her name is Jade.

"... Second Life also needs a better way to hold hands and walk. Hmmm. But even with our technological limitations, we become more human through the astounding self-expressivity here. At least, that's what I'm convinced of. Jade's a good person with a good heart, and that's something that really attracted me to her. She likes to help out, and ohhh myyy I'm just getting some crazy humanist visions of the future right now...

But, I e-mail back, does she want to eventualy meet Jade in real life?

"The answer to this is: ABSOLUTELY, YES! I do because like I said many times over, she's such an exceptional person. Simple as that. The future is a big place so we're just taking it one day at a time, but always open to possibilities. There are certain things that can be faked online, but personality shines through. And she shines so brightly.

"I think I would be very nervous yet very excited to meet him in real life--very human, in other words. Our love is like a superset on top of our offline reality. Second Life is a medium to facilitate and channel it through, to do these things that aren't easily done otherwise (like flying unassisted). It's about exploration of self and others. This is exactly what we're doing. We have become more human through technology, and dropped old social stigmas and unlearned baggage from our pasts.

"At the least, I draw the logical yet emotional conclusion that we'd be best buddies, yet the love constantly grows. 'Straight' guys playing as 'lesbian' girls. Who not only do this, but do so knowingly with trust and communication, and in the hopes of making each others's lives better, and the lives of those around us too. Or something. Confusing? Yes. As you can see, the labels are really at their shatterpoint...

"Happiness for me, doesn't have to make sense: but I do have to feel happy. And I do.

"Hope this answers that."

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Thank you graciously, Hamlet. *uberhugz*

Your journalistic integrity and welcome bias have shown through like starlight again. :)

And oh, Ham, the book has many more pages, and we'll continue to write them... so this is only the temporal epilogue, I assure you. Second Life continues!

To my sweetie, Jadey*... HAPPY 2ND-MONTH ANNIVERSARY. I LOVE YOU!!! <3> ^_^

*who I have a good feeling has something particularly profound to Comment after this, right in time . . .

Posted by: Torley at Jan 11, 2005 2:39:57 AM

I'm going to say this annonymously so I don't hurt anyones feelings. I think there is a bit of manipulation going on through all this, I remember when Torley first came to SL and started making friends. HE was an outgoing cat with a cool sense of humor. Then a little while later he ends up starting a blog (which is nifty) and then turns into a "woman"... (I thought this was some sort of roleplaying thing at first"
Thats when I started to wonder about the whole thing. Now 2 men are in love with each others womens avatars I mean it's just strange. Ok there not gay or atleast don't admit it openly but that is just going to seem strange to most people. If it were 2 men avatars married or in love it would be gay but since it's 2 females played by males then what is it? One openly admits to liking females but will fall in love with a mans mind...
So I'm just gonna call it what it is. A gay male relationship online.

Posted by: protected at Jan 11, 2005 4:05:40 PM

Ah heya "anonymous", I'd actually prefer if you stated who you are, especially if you know me. And if you know me, then you know how much emphasis I put on honor and respect, and that respect extends to appreciating my friends's opinions -- even if I don't agree with them. So please, feel free to let us (this being Jadey and myself) know who you are! You are most welcome to. :)

I am not sure how carefully you read what was written -- if you know me, you also likely know I do not relate to the polar terms you are stating. And I hope you've read all of my blog entries on the subject too. ^_^ As I said myself in the article, "As you can see, the labels are really at their shatterpoint..." Humans are a spectrum. The beauty's in that spectrum. I know I'm eccentric for a human being. And even among autistics, I am unusual. (Please keep in mind how differently autistic people view the world.) And among relationships, even in Second Life, this is a highly unique one. I treat each person as a unique individual. It would be an insult to my gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, pansexual, trisexual, asexual, etc. friends to lump all of their relationships into generic boxes. And in the end, who really understands the relationship? ONLY those involved.

Also, consider the ages-old redundant question, "Is Second Life a game?" It's loaded and there's no final answer, but there is a book being written as the pages are turned. A continuing dialog which I hope will lead to a happier future for those of us who are actively participating in it. A similar thing here. The future's an uncertain place but I know I've had enough pain + suffering in the past. Some say that I am over-happy and too giddy, but you know what? I'm actually *undercompensating*. Here is my opportunity to rejoice and be thankful, which I am so very grateful for, and so... I let the joy flow.

Beyond words, I have my feelings (which don't come easily). And one simple, beautiful equation, which is expressed as:

Torley + Jadey = LOVE <3>

If you or if anyone else has questions, feel free to ask us directly. Perhaps I'll even blog about it and see how deep the rabbit hole goes. Cheerio! :D

Posted by: Torley at Jan 11, 2005 4:52:50 PM

I realize that when some people read this, they will have questions about our reasons for sharing ourselves with Hamlet and allowing him to write about our relationship. To those people, I say this:

Torley and I have been exploring new ways of expressing ourselves. We both believe that, in spite of our sexual orientation, who we are in Second Life is very much an extension of our personalities offline. Just as there are many schools of thought, there are also many ways of conveying our ideas and emotions. Many of those means of expression are not accepted in males by society, but we are fully capable of exercising them. And, we enjoy it.

We want everyone to know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. We do not believe that there is anything strange about exploring alternative means of expression. It is rewarding to be aware of every facet of your personality, and to be comfortable and secure in who you are.

Torley and I share these beliefs and many others. It is our like ways of thinking, regarding even the most controversial of topics, and also our complementing personalities, that continue to bring us closer together. Gender and sexual preferences have nothing to do with that, and we're both here to tell you, without a doubt:

It's okay. :)

Posted by: Jade Lily at Jan 11, 2005 7:58:37 PM

Hammie, this is your greatest story ever.

Posted by: Peter Ludlow at Jan 11, 2005 8:46:35 PM

I don't play Second Life, but happened to drop by the blog and felt compelled to comment on this.

This was an absolutely excellent article and in many ways a very satisfying and encouraging one as well.

For a long time now I have dreamt of a world where gender and sexual orientation would no longer apply. A world where we would no longer fall in love with women or men, but with individuals, their minds. Where we could see beyond the outer shell and love the inside.

I am unable to do this myself. I am female and I do not find other females physically attractive. I don't even want to kiss another woman. Eww ;) It still does not stop me from wishing for the world (and myself) to be different though, to be more open and acceptable.

An article like this gives me hope, hope that such an ideal world will be possible someday. Humankind will evolve. We should start off by tossing away all of the restricting labels and titles (hetero, bi, trans etc), which only place people in certain boxes and try to limit what is acceptable behaviour for that box.

Best of luck, Torley and Jade!

Posted by: Argonathia at Jan 12, 2005 8:48:44 AM

Having had the privilege to call both Jade and Torley my friends, I wanted to express my wholehearted wonder and joy at the happiness they have made together! These are two of the brightest stars I have ever met.

In life we get conditioned to think of sexual attraction as a prerequisite to love. But all too often in my experience, our bodies actually become an impediment to the true affinity and understanding we are capable of. This is the dichotomy of which Jade speaks, where one is drawn to the spirit but not the body, or vice versa.

Well, in this place, two wonderful beings have found a way to transcend that and come to love each other, mind to mind, spirit to spirit. It's remarkable, it's ineffable, but most of all it simply is. And it's pure magic.

hugs and yayzeramas!!

Posted by: Ananda at Jan 12, 2005 10:36:44 AM

An awesome article. Thanks to Torley and Jade for sharing their story. Labels are definitely shattering. Awesome. :o)

Posted by: Lash at Jan 12, 2005 11:36:10 AM

A simply amazing article, and I think it is beautiful that a meeting of the minds (and souls) takes place like this, and people find things in common to fall into love and be happy and best of luck to you both.

Posted by: Muse at Jan 12, 2005 1:24:03 PM

If anyone deserves a NWN profile, it's Torley. Never a dull moment with this AV :D
Thanks, Hamlet!

p.s. Jade is cool too!

Posted by: Olympia Rebus at Jan 12, 2005 7:44:49 PM

Clearly this is a love that trancends borders and sterotypes and compartments and definitions. The labels are at a shatterpoint indeed!

I wish the two of you the best. You are two of my favorite people. :)

Hamlet, this was a great article. :)

Posted by: Nephilaine at Jan 13, 2005 9:11:25 AM

As both Jade and Torley know, I'm incredibly excited they have *both* met someone who they can relate to and who makes them feel special. I was very intrigued at the setup, especially considering they are both straight, but it got me thinking that what we're really seeing is love stripped of any and all label and socially defined barriers. In a sense, exactly the way love should be.

Kudos you two!

Posted by: juro kothari at Jan 14, 2005 12:41:04 PM

THat is the maddest thing Ive ever read, fasinating read but strange, strange strange..
My head hurts and my eyes are watering :¬)

Posted by: Richie Waves at Jul 20, 2005 1:56:28 AM

Well, I am getting 'caught up' with all of the fascinating goings on in this virtual world, so this is a few months late. I find this fascinating, and encouraging; for anyone to find something so special in life is a precious thing. Most of us have RL lives, and I've been wondering about just how far one should go with an offline one.
This article just confirmed to me that, no matter who you are, if you find a connection, it is good:) No matter what the circumstances. Kudos Jade and Torley.

Posted by: Ronnie Revere at Aug 31, 2005 10:48:08 PM

"The Heart has it reasons that Reason knows not of.." has special meaning in SL, for myself and my partner Dejah and apparently also for Torley and Jade. I'm so happy for the two of them and wish them only good things together. In a RL world that has precious little love in it and many barriers - its a thing of beauty that SL can bring so many people together under such unique circumstances. *Huggs*


Posted by: CJ Farina at Nov 2, 2005 2:51:38 AM

What a beautiful story. I don't think most people will *get* how this transcends the human conditon and connects on a more spiritual level. It's not about sexuality, it's not about gender identity, it's about two people who found the greatest treasure fathomable- and they are enjoying it.

Congratulations to you both. :)

And boy am I ever behind in my reading Hamelt...

Posted by: Phaylen Fairchild at Apr 1, 2006 8:36:39 PM

In reference to the 'A gay male relationship online' from one of the early comments. A question for the commenter and for anyone in general I guess. What would we call it if a robot and another robot fell in love in SL? If no gender information was ever exchanged, would this still be a homosexual relationship (homo meaning same, and lack of gender being used by both avs). Another very interesting question to note here would be about 'furries'. If an avatar falls in love with a fox furry, is he considered a practicer of beastiality? I would doubt anyone would go so har as to categorize this type of thing, so why bother trying to place Torley and Jade or anyone else, RL or SL, into a category.

People are people. People love people, and if we hope to ever make progess as a human civilization, we will eventually need to be able to ignore these types of categorizations and just let people be themselves, no matter who or what that is.

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