The following is written from my viewpoint before I started using female pronouns and my daughter’s new name. I respect that she has always been my daughter and honor her female “ness” completely!

Minecraft—it hit like a storm in our house. Izzy couldn’t get enough. In addition to the regular Minecraft game, through hosted servers, he could play games with kids from around the world. He was so miserable in school that year, I let him log on as soon as he came home for a few hours. He became good friends with girls from France, Bolivia, Japan, the UK and many other countries. He wanted a headset with a microphone which I bought for him—a cute mint green one with cherry blossoms on the headphone part. He could then audibly talk with his fiends through applications such as Skype and Discord.

I kept as close a tab on him as I could without snooping—too much. I noticed his avatar was female. His account had a nondescript handle that didn’t identify his gender. Through asking a ton of questions, I found out he was presenting himself as a teenage female and most of his friends were teenage girls. There were a few boys I noticed; but, they all interacted as a group. I felt comfortable that he was building relationships that were innocent and healthy for him. I worried that he wasn’t being honest with the people he was meeting, but I was beginning to understand that he needed this outlet not to be dishonest, but to be his true self for a little while. It was a coping mechanism and it was a wonderful, lifesaving outlet for him.

I was folding clothes and watching reruns of Downton Abbey on PBS one Sunday. Silly high-pitched laughter reached my ears. It was too soon for my oldest to be up. I realized this sweet sound was coming from Izzy’s room. He was cutting up and having a ball. I nonchalantly took a stack of towels and quietly walked toward his room which was right beside our hall linen closet to investigate this new phenomenon. Gain freshness filled my senses as I opened the linen closet door to deposit my freshly folded towels, unnoticed I hoped. I paused and listened. “You check the chests. I got a—oh no, run!” Crazy, squealing laughter erupted. “Go, go… GO!” I smiled to myself as I snuck away delighted that he had found a way to interact and have fun with friends!

He asked for a computer game called The Sims. I had never heard of it. I Googled it and found out that players could create a cool avatar including face shape, hair, makeup, clothes, body build and personality characteristics. It looked cool. Players could choose from a multitude of jobs in different career tracks: photographer, scientist, animal caretaker and musician plus tons more. Players could also make other life decisions from choosing where to live, what kind of house to buy to what to eat and do after dark.

Players could also design their own house. Izzy and I had found out from playing other games that we both liked to design and decorate houses as well as the whole town. It looked like a great game. Although a little expensive, I bought it for him to try. He immediately created a female avatar with beautiful long hair, a cute skirt, top and accessories. I could tell he took great care in making her look like what he actually looked like, plus what he wanted to look like in real life. This wasn’t the first time.

We often played games on the Nintendo Wii going back to when Izzy was 3 or 4 years old. To play Nintendo Wii games, you need a customizable avatar called a Mii. He always made himself female with long hair, his signature freckles and smirky smile. He also would never use his real name, but preferred feminine names. After the Wii came out, Nintendo added Miis to the new Nintendo 3DS. Once again, he created a female avatar. Whenever he had a character choice in games between male and female, he always chose female.

With The Sims game, he was able to go further than ever before in customizing a true to life avatar. He could choose body build including weight and muscle sliders that allowed him to determine fat, muscles and breast size. Game play included life choices on dating, getting married, making “whohoo,” and having a baby. He played countless hours on The Sims building a life and decorating his house. His house was gorgeous, and he displayed a talent for decorating and choosing complementary colors. I loved seeing all the new additions. For his female avatar, he created a male partner. They lived together with friends, got married and had a baby.

He played in this fantasy world where he was free. I took notice! Was this just a fantasy or was this the secret desires of her heart? I thought of “her” for the first time. A mother knows deep down. I knew the later was most likely true.

Featured Image, The Sims 4The Sims 4 is the fourth major title in life simulation video game series The Sims, developed by Maxis and The Sims Studio and published by Electronic Arts.

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