The Paradox Disorder

Subject: The Paradox Disorder
From: TheCallan (
Date: Tue 21 Apr 1998 - 16:27:02 BST

There is a therapist, an MSW in Albany NY, who claims that all transgendered
people have a thought disorder. She feels that they are dissociative because
they have to be dissociative in order to live with themselves in a society
where they face such stigma, where their very understanding of self as
crossing masculine and feminine is a paradox that is rejected, where the truth
of their hearts is seen to be an impossble conflict with the truth of their
body and their history?

This thought disorder comes out in many forms. It might mean simply
disconnecting one behavior from the result of that behavior, or might even go
up to a full dissociation, creating two personas who are blind to each other.
In any case, it means that we learn to dissociate parts of ourselves, to not
connect the dots, because the line that conncets the dots goes though the hash
of social stigma. We disorder our thoughts to avoid having to face the
paradoxes and conflicts that we would have to address if they were in order.

The rehetoric of transgender is certainly grounded in the words of
dissociation. "Even though I choose to wear a dress and take a woman's name,
I am not effeminate!" "Even though I was born with a penis and raised as a
man, I was never masculine!" These are dissociative in themselves, certainly,
but even more, I have known people who have transitioned and made both these
statements just a few years apart.

This therapist is clear that she doesn't think that this dissociative behavior
is part of the nature of transgender, but rather a response to the requirment
to be closeted, to keep part of ourselves hidden, to make a disconnect in our
personalities we can slide the closet door though. She also doesn't think
that it is exclusive to transgendered people, but rather that the whole demand
to have a public face that is disconncted from our the reality of our hearts
is a problem for many people in culture, and leads to a lot of the loss of
hope, addiction and other self-destructive behavior that people do to both
stuff the pain of this hole in our soul, try to call for help, and try to
destroy the problem.

Hoewever prevalent this dissociatve thought disorder is though, it doesn't
seem to be the basis to build a stable and healthy life.

I saw the comments on the Danish Pedophile Organzation's web site on, and the replies were simple. "We don't need this
here." "Go away." The choice was not to address the challenge, the conflict,
but rather to erase the problem, make it dissappear so nobody had to face it.
Of course, that's the same solution that heterosexism uses to deal with queer
& transgressive issues -- if we just erase them, make them go away, then they
dont exist. Mentally erase those dots, and the world gets simpler -- but the
underlying problems get much more complex.

I remember a leader in the transcommunity who said to me "I had to erase my
penis from my mind in order to survive, so getting it cut off was almost
unnoticeable." This notion of erasure speaks directly to the dissociation
that so many transpeople have learned as a survival skill. The problem is,
though, if we become to dissociative to survive we can never reach the level
of integration neccessary to thrive in the world.

Zig Ziglar said that success takes "intelligent ignorance." To me, that means
we can't just become dissociative, not seeing the connections between our
words, our actions and our responsibilities, but rather must see those
connections, understand the rules and then conciously choose what fears, risks
and challenges to ignore so we can focus on the work that is at the top of the
priority list. Michael wonders why some of us choose not to enagae, but if we
waste our limited resources on every one who snipes at us, we won't have the
wherewithal to achieve what we consider are important goals.

It's such a tempting idea to just erase all the conflicts and paradoxes that
we face in the world, to want to make those connections that baffle and vex us
to go away, to use the darkness of dissociation to make problems appear to go
away, but I don't believe that is a strategy that allows for growth. "Just Do
It," was a good slogan, but the athelets who wore Nikes knew that if they
didn't learn and face challenges, doing it better everytime, then "Just Doing
It" was simply repeating failures. "One definition of insanity is doing the
same thing over and over and expecting different results" -- and that is a
hallmark of a dissociative person, who can not or will not associate their
results with their own actions.

I am reading Erica Jong's novel "Inventing Memory." (Harper 1997, just out in
paper) I was touched by this passage in a letter from a mother to her

"The demands of life and the demands of life _are_ difficult to reconcile.
There is no way to _pretend_ that they are not. When I was with you, I wanted
to be with my book. When I was with my book, I wanted to be with you. I now
know that _many_ of us feel this way. We bear the contradiction inside of us,
and I believe that we are heroines for it.

"Why am I telling you this? Because I want you _not_ to emulate me, not to
put away your dreams. Tolerate the contradiction inside of you. It will make
your work richer, even while it takes away your time to do it! But whatever
you do, don't give up your work. Regret solves nothing.

"If you are ever in a bad moment in your life, and your feel you cannot go on.
remember that you are the daughter of a woman who was the daughter of a woman
who believed that strength came from accepting the contradictions of life
rather than pretending that life had _no_ contradictions.

"This is profoundly Jewish. It is also profoundly womanly. As a people, Jews
had to accept the vinegar with the honey, and we got good at it. All our
humor is about that, our art, our music, our literature. And women know that
life is not perfectable. Only art is. And life is _always_ more important
than art. But art is what remains."

How do we learn, when we hit a paradox, to tolerate it and not to run from it
or erase it, becoming dissociatve in the process?

It seems to me to be a key challenge in finding a way to build powerful trans



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