For our first meal out, I invited my close friend Cole to join us. Cole transitioned from Nicola several years ago. Cole is a generation younger than Karl and less binary in his view of gender. I call him post-gender. He calls himself liminal - and his liminal state might be a permanent one.
Cole defines liminal this way:
- Betwixt and between; in both places, but in neither at the same time.
- Occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.
For Kay, the decision and the process have been difficult and often heartbreaking. She can have a great day in her female identity and feel truly and finally herself, until a waiter says, "Here's your cheque, sir." She is afraid to reveal herself to neighbours, and appearing as a woman at work is not yet an option. Some close family have been hostile and rejecting.
Meanwhile, Kay will feel as though she has a double life until she makes a decision. She seems to be moving towards living the rest of her life as a woman, but it is hard to say when she will take the next steps and what they will be.
A passage from Ann Tyler's book, Earthly Possessions, sums up the dilemma as I see it. The narrator is describing her child, Catherine:
When she was two, she invented a playmate named Selinda. I knew that was normal, and didn't worry about it. I apologized when I stepped on Selinda's toes, and set a place for her at every meal. But after a while, Catherine moved to Selinda's place and left her own place empty. She said she had a friend named Catherine that none of us could see. Eventually she stopped talking about Catherine. We seemed to be left with Selinda. We have had Selinda with us ever since.This fictional child's truest, most expressive self could be found in Selinda. It is difficult to sustain relationships with others in which we cannot be our most honest self. We create alternate identities, but sooner or later need to "move over" and live full-time as the person we truly feel ourselves to be.
Do you have a double life or a secret life? Is it secret only from those you love the most?
from The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)