The disability dimension
Thanks for bringing this up. I write about SL because the technology fascinates me. I think the concept is currently flawed and slightly unbalanced by the (media) focus on strange sex. (Back in your box, LaeMi, in the nicest possible way!).
However, from visiting inworld, talking to people there - and also talking to people in what I guess we would call the real world "disability community" - it is worth underlining that "men dressed up as women" is not the only, or the main, bit of pretending that goes on in there.
One of my most chastening experiences was a lengthy, interesting and serious set of conversations with an av about modern literature and the influence of certain philosophical trends. At some point I remarked on how well read the individual was and how interesting their views on the subject were. I got back a slightly grumpy remark about how it was a pity others couldn't see that.
I followed up: the individual explained they had a serious disability, disfiguring their face, making speech difficult, and marking them out as "different". They had endured a lifetime of bullying and a general consensus that they were "thick". Only behind and through a screen was it possible for people to "see" the person first - the intellect, the intelligence - and ignore the disability.
I would love to be able to say that had I met them in real life, I would have been the exception. I have this rather guilty suspicion that I might not: that I, too, might have found the disability a barrier that was too easy to regard as absolute - and therefore have missed out on the person beneath.
It may be that I am wholly wrong about virtual reality: it may yet turn out to be a blind avenue in technological development. On the other hand, I remember being pretty much the sole advocate, back in 1997, for a major insurance company with which I worked at the time, to explore the internet.
"There, there", was the approximate answer, as everyone in the marketing area dismissed the internet as sci-fi gobbledegook: a place for geeks and sex maniacs. Within a couple of years, that had changed, and I listened in bemusement as born-again netophiles berated me for not being more enthusiastic about this new technology.
I don't think el Reg has an inworld presence - but my SL av is "Desiderio Blitz": those with stories to tell or serious conversations to have, please im... I don't bite...and I won't make you sit on any poseballs you don't wish to.