Elan Morgan is a writer and web designer who works from Elan.Works, a designer and editor at GenderAvenger, and a speaker who has spoken across North America. They believe in and work to grow both personal and professional quality, genuine community, and meaningful content online.

Ignored, Welcomed, And Blocked: My Introduction To The World Of Online Forums

I had a very odd experience this week. I was up early a few mornings ago (I am up early every morning lately, unable to sleep past 5:30 am), and I decided to doodle around on the internet.

StatCounter seemed like a good place to start, because I had not checked my stats in a while. I was checking through the list of referring links and came across a link to a site I had not seen before. When I tried to access the page containing the link, I was told that I could not access the page in question unless I registered with the forum it was on, so I registered. I have never taken part in a forum, so I was curious about what a link to me was doing there.

I am not used to the world of internet forums. That is one of the areas of the internet that I have not ventured into aside from a few curious lurkings. The discussions I encountered were usually horribly pedestrian with a leaning toward ripping apart someone else with an internet presence if not each other. I would not have read much on the forum that linked to me if I had not seen the link to my website in a comment near the beginning of the thread.

They were talking about me!

This happened once before. A link from a forum about cross dressing sent me some visitors, but when I tried to register, I was never sent my confirmation e-mail. I tried to register several times and was never given access. I thought it was a seriously rude thing to do to discuss me behind my back and then block me from the site while they had full access to mine, but in the end, who cares. If that is their behaviour, I am likely better off not knowing what they're going on about.

On this latest site, though, my registration was accepted. I wasn't even sure that I wanted to log in, because I had checked out the main website and realized that this was a forum for a wide array of genders, sexualities, and expressions of gender/sexuality. I have no issue with this, because I am one of the wide array, but I was nervous to read what was being written about me.

I am still coming to terms with my sex/gender, and I feel particularly vulnerable even thinking about the subject, let alone discussing it or having other people discuss it with regard to me. I have a huge need for acceptance coupled with an inability to offer up an explanation of what I am, and it leaves me feeling anxious, as though I could be challenged, attacked, cornered at any time. I'm still finding my feet.

I eventually found the page where I was being discussed, gave it a quick read, and then logged out of the site. I couldn't bring myself to post a reply, because I had too many emotions coursing through me. The fourth comment in the discussion opened up with a she-says-she's-this-thing-but-she's-not comment, and my chest siezed up.

I wrote an entry a couple of months ago about my sex/gender situation. My divulgence was a result of a new course of honesty and acceptance I had decided take, and I was completely unsure of how to go about it. In the end, I picked a label and dove in. I felt I needed some kind of handle to hang on to. I wanted what I was doing to feel concrete after three decades of murky water.

Because of my sense of vulnerability about the subject, I immediately felt unfairly judged and attacked. Here was someone who was making a decision about my orientation based on a weblog that contains very little information about that area of my life. I have not written about my first feelings of depression at three that arose when I realized I was biologically female. I have not written about how I bristled as a little kid when people thought I was one gender or the other, how I cried at Christmas every year when I was given the wrong toys and the wrong clothes, how horribly wrong it felt to get my first period, or how I dreamt I had absorbed my male twin in the womb.

After working through my emotions about this person's comment on the forum, I went back and re-read the thread. There was some thoughtful commentary there, and after my second read-through, I realized that I was not being roundly attacked. I decided to look at that person's comment as a knee-jerk reaction to her own issues with sex/gender and not as an honest appraisal of my situation.

I decided that I was rational enough to post a comment, because having this discussion go on without me was maddening. Also, they were kind enough to notice my presence and invite me in. I wrote:

I was surprised to find myself being discussed this morning. I wasn't sure whether I should feel attacked or not, but I have chosen not to feel that way. That one entry I wrote on my site that was linked to earlier in this thread was the first I have ever written about this issue. I only recently, within the last six months, have I allowed myself to take a look at who I am and how it has charted my life. Labels are uncomfortable and full of too many corners for me, but I initially wanted something to define myself, and the best one I came across at that time was gender dysphoria. My discomfort lies with both social gender roles and with the body I was born into, and I have found no ground yet for how I want to deal with those things or what label fits or even if I would accept one. This is why I have not dealt with this very much on my weblog, although when I've mentioned it, I get a lot of positive response from readers. The subject is watery for me.

As soon as I posted that, I felt remarkably better. It stopped me from feeling as though I was being used as a faceless plaything in a discussion group (which was only my emotional reaction to it at the time, because it turns out that they were really nice). I read through a few other threads and was impressed at the level of the discussions and the thoughtful commentary from the people posting. Now I keep going back, reading about people's experiences and thoughts and emotions, fascinated by how much I respond to what I read. The discussions are giving me concrete ways of thinking about this person that I am and my life up until this point.

So, when a third referring link from yet another forum showed up in my stats today, I felt a little more courage and tried to load the page. Again, I was asked to register, but when I tried to, I got a message that said my IP address was blocked from their site. Nice. The first forum talked about me and ignored my attempts to register, and now there was this third one that was talking about me and had blocked me from registering.

Hey, I know what we can do. You guys all have different IP addresses than me. If you are moved to do so, you could register on the site and do a little recon mission for me. Yes? If you choose to take this mission, click on the following link (it's the one that shows up in my referrer's list): Club Lint.

If one of you manages to get me the goods, I will be eternally grateful. I might even e-mail you my recipe for killer curried zucchini soup.

I must be extra fascinating lately to have all these discussions going on about me. I wish I felt fascinating. I spent part of the day straightening the living room and part of it lying in the bath and part of it in hypochondriac anxiety about my lymphnodes. It's Friday night, and I'm about to clean out the kitty litter before I go to bed early. It's a rockstar life, people.



"Gossips" by George Bernard Shaw