In 1994, I joined a New York City–based text-only bulletin board called Echo, which at the time was unique in having a large percentage of women as users. In 1996, with Echo founder Stacy Horn, I co-edited a special issue of the journal Women and Performance, entitled “Sexuality and Cyberspace: Performing the Digital Body.” In that journal, I co-wrote an essay with a transgendered woman named Kaley Davis, who was having more luck passing as a woman offline than online.
In everyday life, her clothing choices, hair styles, and body shape made the switch from Ken to Kaley unmistakable. Online, Kaley was—like the rest of us—nothing more than the words she typed on the screen. Because she had joined Echo as Ken, users—particularly female ones—were reluctant to accept her as the woman she now claimed to be.