While recently writing about my online and social media lives, it occurred to me that I should bring up, in a separate post, another risk one encounters when venturing into the World Wide Whatever: Deception. Or, I’ll go ahead and say it, downright intentional fakery.
In the earlier of those two posts, I discussed my need to add a digital image of myself to my online accounts. Before buying a digital camera, I resorted to using an anonymous-looking cartoon avatar for my representation on Yahoo! The day I uploaded the very first digital image of myself en femme is an important day for me, as it confirmed to the world that, yes, Allison M. was and is a real, living, breathing human being. Sadly, the online crossdressing world is full of people who willfully misrepresent themselves. I’m not talking about people who fill their Flickr accounts with photos of beautiful women (trans or otherwise) and specifically say that they the types of women they admire and would love to emulate. No, I’m talking about people who’d post a photo of Cindy Crawford online and say they look exactly like her. Or someone who’d Photoshop their own face on the body of Cindy Crawford and claim it’s them. Or someone who’d not only do all of that or something similar but also fictionalize a backstory… all for the sake of deceiving others in the online world.
At this point, I’m going to tell you something I’m embarrassed to admit: Very, very early in my online life as Allison, I visited the personal web site of a supposedly actual transgender woman, complete with a perfectly and intricately constructed “back story.” In fact, I even sent her an e-mail complimenting her on her site and her story. To my astonishment, she e-mailed me back with a thank you note. It was only three or four years later that her website was exposed as an out-and-out hoax, thanks to a thorough investigation and the use of “computer forensics.” It has gone down in history as one of the more infamous yet elaborate fake transgender stories in the history of the internet (search “fake transsexuals” online and her story will likely be at the top of the results list).
Sadly, “her” story of fakery was far from the only story of someone posing as trans and misleading others. This link is only one of several on the internet that summarize the exposing of trans deceptions, from those who are nothing more than “wannabes” to others whose elaborate back stories were uncovered piece by piece. And those are only the documented stories of deceptions being exposed. For sure, there are personal stories of those being misled; I shudder to think that some of those stories may have ended unpleasantly.
Thankfully, most of those accounts of fakery have come from the early days of the internet, when folks weren’t as hep to the online world as we are today. Even here in 2017, I fear that there are still those who think the internet is the perfect avenue for them to put on a “mask” and pass themselves as “real.” But, then, this is 2017, and I’d like to think that we are now generally more adept at snuffing out an online fake. Well, that’s not so much a “thought” as it is a “hope.” I hope that we as a society are more adept at portraying ourselves online and in social media with accuracy and honesty, lest we get so easily exposed as fake. Conversely, if someone claims that we are not being honest, I hope we are adept at standing up for ourselves and telling the world that, yes, we’re real people and not a Cindy Crawford clone.
Oh, and if you’re wondering if I have ever passed myself off as someone else, the answer is… never. I have always represented myself with honesty. Every photo of myself that I’ve posted online is that of myself, not of someone else. Thankfully, I have so far never been challenged by anyone claiming I’m a fake… although if I ever am challenged, I’ll stand ready to defend myself as the real deal.
This need to accurately represent ourselves is so important for us in the crossdressing community as well as the broader transgender community. There are active efforts to shun us, mock us, misrepresent us, and downright discriminate against us. Showing our community in an accurate and positive light, not in the inaccurate and demeaning light our detractors oh so easily and actively use, is needed now more than ever, at a time when those pulling the levers of power in our country (state, local, and now federal levels) will use those levers to shut out the trans community to the extent that we must climb back into the shadows.
So, whether you’re a trans member of the military admirably serving your country… or a trans person using your abilities to be an active, positive (and actively positive) member of the broader LGBT community… or even a crossdresser with an online life (or at least a blog or social media account)… or at the very least someone who is a friend, colleague, neighbor, or relative of a trans person… don’t stop showing the world who you are, and do so in an accurate, positive fashion. Don’t stoop to showing fake images of yourselves to the world, for you can be easily exposed if you do. Showing only a clearly fake facade will play into the hands of those who are truly evil — that would be those who’ll stop at nothing to deny the trans community our rights… and our existence.