(Re)discovering the Physical Body Online: Strategies and Challenges to Approach Non-Cisgender Identity in Social Virtual Reality
The contemporary understanding of gender continues to highlight the complexity and variety of gender identities beyond a binary dichotomy regarding one’s biological sex assigned at birth. The emergence and popularity of various online social spaces also makes the digital presentation of gender even more sophisticated. In this paper, we use non-cisgender as an umbrella term to describe diverse gender identities that do not match people’s sex assigned at birth, including Transgender, Genderfuid, and Non-binary.We especially explore non-cisgender individuals’ identity practices and their challenges in novel social Virtual Reality (VR) spaces where they can present, express, and experiment their identity in ways that traditional online social spaces cannot provide. We provide one of the first empirical evidence of how social VR platforms may introduce new and novel phenomena and practices of approaching diverse gender identities online. We also contribute to re-conceptualizing technology-supported identity practices by highlighting the role of (re)discovering the physical body online and informing the design of the emerging metaverse for supporting diverse gender identities in the future.