A liminal phase

There are different expectations on people viewed as men and people viewed as women. If it was not so, I would have no reason to go trough with this name-changing and transitioning-thing. Right now, when I’m by most people (at best) is perceived as something androgynous in between, I can see it even more clearly than I did before. Sometimes, I feel like a veil has fallen from my eyes. It can be tiresome to constantly see things in a slightly new way, constantly gathering up new information.

My old professor from when I was reading archaeology, he would have said that I’m in a liminal phase. Liminal stems from “limes”, a Latin word for “road”, “threshold” or “boarder line”. (It is also my name backwards, only with a confused genitive-s on the wrong place.)

In anthropology liminality  is the quality of ambiguity that occurs in the middle stage of rituals, when the participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the ritual is complete.

For someone in a liminal phase, the rules of the ordinary world don’t quite apply, it is a another dimension of reality. Liminality is associated with suffering or trials but you also have the privilege to look at things from a very special position. You can learn things to take with you to the next stage of transitioning.

If anyone is familiar with old Nordic mythology, you may have heard what Odin is said to have done to learn the runes? To gain such wisdom he had to hang himself upside down upon the stem of the world tree Yggdrasil. According to the myth, he hung there all alone, fasting for nine days and nine nights. He “made of himself a sacrifice to himself” before he fell screaming from the tree, having had the secret of the runes revealed to him in a flash of insight.

Hanging restrained upside down, alone and suffering for nine days and nights. Watching the world as it looks upside down, not being able to fully participate in it. That is what it is like to be in a liminal phase. Things looks so different from where you are and you can feel like a stranger to the rest of the world.

Christ on the cross is also very much a symbol of a liminal phase. All the ingredients are there – a sacrifice, passing time, waiting, suffering, questioning (“God, why have you forsaken me?“). And in the end relief (yes, in this case death). And then something completely different that can seem like magic or be about entering a new phase, resurrection.

When you were born, you went through a liminal phase. It was the first thing you did, and the last thing you do will be to. If you ever have been madly in love or been pregnant or have gone through puberty – then you have gone through a liminal phase again. It is not necessary magical, it is a natural part of life.

Different rules apply for those in a liminal phase, you have time and opportunity to view things in a different perspective. The road that you are on, the limes, will take you to a new place in life, maybe a new identity, maybe wiser than before. And life will never be the same again.

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One thought on “A liminal phase

  1. Emil, I usually think about transitioning as a liminal phase as well (I mean, the words are synonymous and my major is anthropology, so how could I not think along these lines, right?). It’s interesting how people in liminal phases are often seen as dangerous or disturbing, and surrounded by tons of taboos. That is often explained with them not being in a specific social category. I kind of identify with this myself, and sometimes it’s weirdly comforting. Like when I get looks out on the street, I feel like I need to apologize for being a dude with tits, and when I get frustrated with why that would bother anyone, I can comfort myself with the concept of liminality. Still sucks though, lol.

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