Sunday, March 31, 2013

Do You Have a Double Life?

   Karl, a male relative, is thinking about transitioning.  Let's call his female identity Kay.  K. recently visited us in Toronto.  Anonymously, in the big city, he was free to be a she for a week.
   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.
   In other words, Cole lives as a boy.  He has facial hair, a deep voice, and receding hairline, but otherwise female parts.  On the other hand, Kay would prefer to be one or the other, not both.
   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?
 "It's said there are only 10 plots in all of fiction, but I believe there's only one: 'Who am I?'"
from The Amazing Spider-Man  (2012)


  1. In my secret life I go to the blog of a person I have met only twice, and respond to whatever it is she has to say. I believe that I am doing this in secret. Now, that's not as big a secret as say, once having been a member of the PC party, but it's all I intend to let out right now.

    1. Yes, only twice -- once at a dim sum and once in a basement -- and both were great. Thx.

  2. I think the closest double life I've got right now is "animal eater!"

    I'm a long time vegetable eater with a build-up of doctor recommendations to eat some more animal. I've also got two house mates who are spiritually-ideologically against eating animals. So now when I seek out animals to eat, it is always done out of the house. My little secret! Sort of...I don't hide it, I just don't broadcast it either.

    And when I visit my family, there used to be animal on everyone else's plate. Now it's on mine too. Double life vibe for sure.

    I also used to do sex work. Few knew. That also felt like a double life.

    Blog-forum worlds also feel double-life-like as well, but there's no secretive nature about it. It's just a whole other layer of reality...