Let’s go back again. Sorry to keep teasing you with along (though I secretly hope that makes this long story more digestible.
You should know more about my childhood before we proceed. I was a feminine boy, a repressed one at that. This was not something that was acceptable to my father. I remember my favorite movie being the Little Mermaid, loving my easy bake oven and mostly playing with dolls growing up. My dad did not like Barbie's, of course, so he got me He-man dolls, Polly Pocket was out of the question but Mighty Max was fine. Easy bake was for girls, but creepy crawlers was for boys! My dad was okay with the illusion of me being a boy and so I got the boy version of all the girl toys that I wanted. The first time I remember going to the emergency room was due to me flying around the house like a “fairy” with a wand in my mouth when I fell forcing the wand down my throat cutting it. My homo-phobic father having to drive his fairy son to the hospital due to an injury from deep throating a wand is probably one of the greatest things ever. Just imagining his embarrassment and shame delights me as an adult. Not that I want anyone to feel shame, but his shame was not real shame but judgment of a son he did not accept.
One of my favorite cartoons as a child was Sailor Moon. Only I was afraid of people knowing that I liked this show, as it was for girls. The small town I grew up in, and the father that was clearly very anti-gay never would have understood why I liked a show for girls, about girls. I didn’t even understand it then, I truly thought there was something wrong with me. So I hid the fact that I watched this show. I would only watch it when my parents were asleep (it sometime played during what eventually became “Adult Swim”) or when nobody was around.
So when I was finally able to be in an environment where I could explore things without judgment Sailor Moon was one of those things I explored. I found myself in a web forum devoted to the show and in a sub-section of that forum was something else that was new to me. Role playing.
I participated for about a year in a roleplaying game based on the show. I was still unsure of myself so of course I took on the role of Tuxedo Mask as he was the primary male character in the show (and honestly if you have not watched the show, please do yourself a favor and go watch it, it subverted gender stereotypes in amazing ways for a kids show of the period.) This is something I told almost nobody in my personal life until years later. It is hard to really describe the amount of fear I had in being myself to the people I knew in the world around me. It was easier to just pretend to be the person they wanted me to be to make them happy than it was to be myself and face judgement for it.
Two versions of Ian developed during this time. Online Ian, which I still identify as the authentic version of myself to this day, and family Ian (the Ian I was around family and in school). These two personalities diverged quickly and became completely different people. Family Ian was a good christian boy who studied the bible, did his homework, and respected his parents. Online Ian, was a devout atheist who mocked christianity, would pretend to do homework and hide report cards to make sure his parents never learned the truth and had nothing but anger for his parents who he felt had abandoned him. The online version of me was able to embrace my feminine side and did not shake with fear the prospect of socially interacting with people.
I was becoming something new, dual versions of Ian existing in the same body but being completely different people. Both family Ian and online Ian depended on each other to survive. Online Ian would never had the freedom to explore who he was without Family Ian making people believe that he was not doing such things online. Family Ian could never had been so perfect if not for the catharsis that I was getting when going online and finally getting the release of being myself. The facade would have crumbled without that release. The duality of Ian is two complex co-dependent personalities living atop one another. This would have never been possible without a place to go to be myself. This is when I fell in love with the Internet.