Narcissism is not a dirty word

- or the spiritual aspects of transsexualism

Presented to GENDYS '96, The Fourth International Gender Dysphoria Conference, Manchester, England.

Napewastewiñ Marjorie Anne Schützer, MA. Psy.

Psychotherapist, Denmark and USA.


Wiconi inihiñciya niyake, Wiconi niyakel iyokise.
Life lived in fear, is a life half lived.

You don't have the right to do what you are doing with your life or to be what you are being, as the 'Gender Adventurer' which you are. Just ask those around you, those you come in contact with in everyday life in the society in which you live. Open your eyes and open your ears . . . look at the legal decisions which make the news around transsexualism!! Whether there comes a decision in sports or the job market . . . everywhere you look, we are judged, we are labelled, we are categorized and filed by those who do not and who can not ever understand what goes on in us. For the most part that also includes the medical branches who are working with us! But in the words of that most eminent behavioural scientist, my grandmother, Menervia Grey-Grouse, it is your 'cosmic duty', to do and to be what and who you are and to become the very best example of YOU which you can become. I don't mean a fifty percent amateur's effort. The world has enough amateurs, yea they are all working in government and running what is known fondly as the 'system'! The most important task which you have while on this planet is to be the very best 'you' which you can . . . NO MATTER WHAT it is you are called to be.

But that's true if you are a transsexual person or if you are a 'normal' person . . . (whatever that is!?) It is true if you are a TV or if you are one of those 'gender adventurers' who chooses to follow a more traditional path by being a 'non-operated' transsexual.

Unci (that's Lakota for grandmother and that's what I called her) was a young girl at the fight on the Greasy Grass in June of 1876. Like me, she was Sihasapa-Lakota, Blackfoot-Sioux. The Greasy Grass fight is known to non-Indians as "Custer's Last Stand" or the "Battle of The Little Big Horn". We Lakota have never cared for the names that the invading Europeans gave to our land. The river is in fact, called "The Greasy Grass" not the Little Big Horn! We always gave names which fit the nature of a place or the nature of a person and not to glorify some egotist who thought that he 'discovered' it! Take for example the Lakota name for us . . . "Winkte", two-souls-person. Or look, for a moment, at what we call ourselves: "Lakota" . . . that means friends or allies. The name "Sioux" means little snake or enemy. Anyway, Unci always told me, "It does not matter so much what you do in your life . . . what matters is . . . how you do it. Always strive to be the best that you can be and never, never give up the knowing that you are right in your choice when you follow your heart and what you are called to do."

In the old days, before what you call history, we had dream societies in our culture with such names as Buffalo, Elk Bear, Wolf, Thunder, Fox, Contrary and Winkte. Winkte is the society of which I am a member of today. This society best reflects that concept in Western society known as transsexualism.

For our day and age I prefer the name "Gender Adventurer" to "transsexual". This label more reflects the journey and the life style of most of us, don't you think? "Transsexual" . . . that sounds like it could be a removal company or something like that! I see this as one of our tasks, that is, to re-educate the health care industry so that they can understand that our needs are not, in the first place, sexual, and most assuredly, not "transient". Our needs are in the help with the natural conformation which we seek. The affirmation of 'that which I am'.

This is, of course, nothing which we have a choice over. That is no more of a choice than water running down hill has a choice. Oh yes, we do have a kind of a choice you must remember that one always has a choice in everything. But, in this case, the only choice we have is to NOT DO what we are doing. I don't know about you . . . but I haven't got that much courage to have chosen not to be me!! It as what it is . . . and quite simply put, our goals are the same as anyone else's, "balance, inner peace and to be directly in touch with all the power of the universe through our own being," nothing less will do for our lives. And you should never settle for anything less.

My people have always felt that the Euro-American concepts of 'reality' are all backwards. As Lakota it as my belief that this 'physical' plane in which I live is merely a reflection of what is known as the 'real' world. the spirit world, if you will. We have always believed that our lives are ruled and directed by what goes on in the spirit world. This is why it is so important to us to have direct connection with the 'real' world through Wasicunpi . . . a 'Guardian Spirit'. This is an entity which comes to us through either supplication, prayer, through fasting and meditation . . . or for some of us, through a dream. For those of us who are blessed in a special way, it comes even before that. The connection comes as an event in the womb before we are even born. It might be interesting to know that the Lakota for prayer, Wacekiya, also means "talking to relatives".

You know what prayer is don't you? That's when you talk to Wakan Tanka, to God, to the Universe . . . or whatever you are calling that which sits at the 'control panel!' And meditation, well . . . that is listening to the answers! Part of being the best that you can be then comes into the equation . . . what do you do with the answers you get?! The goal as I see it, is to come into harmony with the universe by being in harmony with these answers through your actions. Once you have achieved this oneness, then when you talk, Wakan Tanka talks; When you act . . . then Wakan Tanka acts.

As a Lakota person I was brought up to boast about myself and to boast about my deeds . . . but never to brag. And I was taught to understand the difference between these two and to maintain the border between them.

Today we have a new kind of society on the reservation. One which was given to us through a man who was 75 years old in 1948. His name was Wapostan Wicasa (Hat Man). This society is called Kiktayo wajin or the Way of the Modern-Day Warrior. All of us need to live our lives as warriors, especially in this world of nationalistic terrorism. To be a warrior, we must live our lives in a 'wakan' way, to live in a 'sacred' way. Prayer, walking the 'red road', is not something which one sets time aside for . . . it is a way of life, a way of being. This, simply put, is . . . to `pay attention'. Sounds easy does it not? But this simple act requires all of our being . . . all of the time.

To become Kiktayo Wajin, to become one who "pays attention", one first must integrate seven basic principles into our life. This is the foundation of 'paying attention' and requires great mental skill and constant practice.

These are:

Mind Purity

These are maps to help guide a warrior's path to become everything that they shall and I will try to lay them out for you shortly here:


A warrior with patience is prepared to wait forever, if necessary, to achieve the goal or objective.

Patience is acquired through daily practice, and it actively engages the mind and body. When a warrior finds himself in a period of time with nothing to do, he practices waiting.

In its practice stage, it means holding the mind absolutely motionless for ten or fifteen minutes, or however long the session may be, while maintaining awareness of one's environment.

Patience, similar to the art of ballet or the martial arts, is acquired through repeated practice, until one becomes a 'personal expert' on patience what it is, how it's expressed, and how it's lived.

Having patience of this kind helps a warrior cope with social stress . . . none of us are strangers to that phenomenon!


A warrior finding himself without food chooses to fast rather than to starve!

He is governed not by inner cravings or his senses, but by focused decision-making. He purposely delays self-gratification to demonstrate to himself that he is, indeed, in control, and not his less noble inner cravings.

He may acquire riches, but he is not governed by his riches, nor by the riches of others or his desire for riches. Being a 'successful' person invariably means greater mobility, however that might be expressed, in the society a warrior finds himself. The ability to deny oneself physical pleasures or cravings, or delaying them to a more suitable or appropriate time, enables one to pursue humanitarian, scientific or spiritual interests to greater depths.

Fasting reminds a warrior not to abuse those things which are wakan, which are sacred.


To walk the sacred road of a modern-day warrior, one must be able to think clearly.

He must be able to think out his position quickly and understand his motives. By thinking clearly, he attains social balance, including, when necessary, balance with other cultures and peoples.

He is able to understand the seven principles through reason and logic studies which require the ability to sustain and develop thought.

To focus the mind and understand the relationship or cause and effect requires an ability to think, and not to do so blindly.


A warrior, simply by being a warrior, always has a duty to perform. That duty is to himself, his family and to his tribe or country.

Duty also requires that he pay attention to personal hygiene, his diet and personal habits, and a duty to keep his thoughts and spoken words pure but not unseeingly.

A modern-day warrior has a duty to question whatever government he may find himself under, and keep his brethren informed; for a government, like people, must pay attention, too.

In today's terms, duty also applies to employment if necessary or if available and it includes one's personal duty to perform his level best at whatever task or objective he has agreed to undertake, and in a timely manner.


A warrior without self-discipline simply cannot be a warrior.

Paying attention requires that a warrior develop self-discipline, otherwise he cannot maintain his chosen course. It is impossible.

A person striving to be a warrior will stray many times until he comprehends the value of attaining self-discipline, which he begins by consciously paying attention.

Self-discipline gives one the option of not being controlled by emotion, or by others, without consent.


A warrior is always aware that his death is near him and that he could be gone at any time, at any moment. This awareness is necessary to help maintain focus.

A person who knows he may die soon is more likely to pay attention to his remaining moments than one who thinks he has years remaining to live.

In Lakota philosophy we believe that our death always accompanies us. It is always on our left side, just beyond our outstretched finger tips. This knowledge comforted me and sustained me for all of the 26 months I was a US Marine in Viet Nam in the 60's.

In remembering one's mortality, the motive is not fear but rather a guided urgency to accomplish as much as possible in one's lifetime.


Through diligent practice, a warrior soon comes to see things around him with great insight and clarity. His mind is completely centered in his navel. This is a critical stage of purity in a warrior's mental and spiritual development, for such a state of being has great appeal and personal satisfaction.

A warrior may become so complaisant in this state that he neglects to push onward, and thus can entrap himself. He is in danger of being seduced from his path because now he can see everything around him clearly.

Remembering not to forget the pitfalls of this state enables a warrior to keep his ultimate course.

For a warrior, diligent in paying attention, mind-purity could occur at any time, but also can take years, depending on the individual. Some can achieve it within a year after beginning rigorous practice, according to members of my clan, women seem to achieve mind-purity much easier than men.

The more one focused the mind and the longer he could do it, combined with faith, the more easily mind-purity was achieved.

Some people use this state of being to help others and moved onward in later life. But to do so, say some of my clansmen, is to violate the principle of Fasting, thus weakening the seven principles.

. . . . . .

The ultimate goal is of course, to achieve a state of being in which one has complete realization, spanning space and time, and which could occur at any point on a warrior's path, whether in this lifetime or the next.

In a much greater sense and with such far-reaching results, a warrior is produced who is a person who does not follow others without thinking. By leading others with respect and concentration and working to bring those changes that are needed for the people's welfare.

For me as Lakota, a Winkte, and also being Kiktayo Wajin, has given me the clarity of mind in my position in this Western society to be as powerful in an inward fashion, as I am. We Winkte are people in the center. We are balanced between the heavens and the earth, between the 'up' and the 'down', between the male and the female.

The night before my surgery I told my surgeon that I thought that we were much like sky-divers. He looked at me like I was a little crazy, (but he always has done that!) and he asked, "What do you mean about that?" So I said, "Just think about it. Sky-divers have this weird need to leave a perfectly good airplane even though it can land on the ground again." No problem! Us transsexuals, for the most part, are living within a correct physically functioning body . . . but yet we want to "jump out of the plane", too. However, unlike sky-divers . . . we never land on the ground again. We are forever suspended between the 'up' and the 'down'. Between the male and the female.

While we are in this interim position on the sex/gender continuum, we clearly represent the balance of culture and society. As my people see it, we even represent a kind of profound healing, a reconciliation of the most fundamental rift that divides human from human . . . that is, gender. This is the way that Western society is set up, the borders that are made for us to fit into, the male and female. These are the only possibilities as 'they' see it! It is only through the efforts of some of us 'narcissistic' individuals that the 'lights' are beginning to turn on in the courts. This is only the beginning of the necessary changes to come.

Let's stop for a moment now and look at this word, "Narcissism". Webster's Dictionary defines "narcissism" as an "erotic feeling aroused by one's own body and personality". The Oxford Dictionary offers an English definition as opposed to an American view, referring to " . . . a mental state in which there is self-worship and an excessive interest in one's own perfection . . ." Sound like anybody you know?!? While this seems, on the surface, to be a very correct use of the word, I suggest that it is all too narrow and shortsighted, especially when used in transsexual diagnosis.

There is no word in Lakota for this phenomenon. The closest that we can come is Wawipi'cila, and that only means "to think more of one's self than of anyone else".

We must remember the correlation between the 'physical' world and 'psychic' world and be aware that " . . . every action produces and equal and opposite reaction . . ." With the continued rejection and refusal of Euro-American culture to treat transsexuals with seriousness and value in the main-stream society, we will see more and more the phenomenon which is wrongly referred to as "narcissism" as a reference in transsexual diagnoses.

As an observer in Denmark, where I work and live, (I strive hard to maintain myself apart from 'becoming' a Dane) I have often seen that the underlying reason for the basic elements of social life are totally lost. Once I was told by a Danish doctor, "Marjorie, your biggest problem is that you are all 'attitude'!" "Why, yes, that's quite correct," said I, "Don't you know that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we deal with it!? That's called attitude!!

"I have, in fact, seen our medical 'gate keepers', especially in Denmark, expand the meaning of 'narcissist' to include, "someone who views themselves as the center of events". Does that sound in someway, similar to Kiktayo Najin? Yes, I think that it does! And with this new and broader meaning, I feel that it covers many people who operate in all walks of life today. Actors, journalists, news broadcasters, and the list can be added to with very little imagination.

For many of us winkte, our life in this society has been pushed into these behaviour patterns . . . which have come to be referred to so loosely as "narcissism." I for one, am not convinced that this is an altogether negative label in this sense. I would even refer to this as a survival skill.

With the latest EU court transsexual ruling to come from Luxembourg in April of this year, we are beginning to see some of the first major moves towards our acceptance, not only as valuable members of society, but an even deeper meaning can be read into this decision. The case, as you perhaps will know, had to do with the dismissal of a person who was involved with changing her sex while working for a public institution. This is strangely similar to the situation which I am involved in against the city of Copenhagen even now. The original interpretation by the national legal systems involved, in our respective cases, refused to recognize the applicability of the Equal Rights Laws to cover the issue of transsexualism. We were denied the protection against the discrimination which we have always suffered from in the legal system. In fact the foundation for this preliminary position taken, was so much legal folderol. They stated these cases were " . . . not issues of sex discrimination between the sexes, because they dealt with sex change and therefore could not claim discrimination between the sexes under the Equal Rights Laws!"

Mr. Tesauro, the Advocate-General of the EU Court, said to that, this position " . . . would be a quibbling formalistic interpretation and a betrayal of the true essence of that fundamental and inalienable value which is equality."

In September '95, in a paper which I delivered to the conference of The Harry Benjamin Association which was held in Germany, I made the connection that equal rights laws are based on human rights principles. The implication registered through this position as not being discrimination, is that these laws, these equal rights laws in not pertaining to us, thus represented a lack of a legal recognition of us as "humans"! Pretty basic stuff, huh?

In April '96 however, the EU court included us in their interpretation of the equal rights laws, by stating clearly that ". . . the right not to be discriminated against on grounds of sex is one of the fundamental human rights . . ." They go on to say, in our favour, " . . . To tolerate such discrimination would be tantamount, as regards such a person, (a transsexual) to a failure to respect the dignity and freedom to which he or she is entitled, and which the Court has a duty to safeguard." So at least our value is recognized at one level of society!!!

As an aid in this fight, our fight, against such ignorance, the EU Court further stated, "Where a person is dismissed on the grounds that he or she intends to undergo, or has undergone, gender reassignment, he or she is treated unfavourably by comparison with persons of the sex to which he or she was deemed to belong before undergoing gender reassignment." This is a very specific judgement in a very broad area for our welfare. What this means in practical terms, is that this protection is also afforded to those persons who are just beginning the process of transition. The moment of surgery is recognized by the EU Court as no longer the moment of legal change. Our protection is now guaranteed from the beginning of hormone treatment and the necessary requirement of living in the role of our chosen gender. This period can at last be seen as a "Real-Life-Test and no longer as a "Real-Life-War". Which is what so many of us have experienced it to be! We now can enjoy the protection of the law . . . like everyone else!

This can be further interpreted as not only protection against discrimination for those who have already undergone surgery.

This would also afford a protective umbrella for those who wish not to undergo surgery but still live in a gender role other than their physical sex.

This is a great move in our favour by the court. However, the rest is up to us!! The re-education of society is up to us, through the way we live our lives everyday. The way we treat those around us. The way we relate to all those whom we come in contact with. It's our 'attitude' that counts, it's the way we 'walk the red road'. We must stand fast, especially in the job market and in the education arena. We must demand our rights as equal and worthy members of society. Rights are nothing that are handed to you. It is only through demanding your rights that we can keep our democracy healthy.

So the question comes home to each of us personally. Have you got enough 'narcissism' in you today? Are you Kiktayo Wajin, are you a modern day warrior? Why not? As the sports equipment company Nike says . . . "Just do it."

I will leave you with this last:

Believe nothing because a wise man said it,

Believe nothing because the belief is generally held,

Believe nothing because it is written in ancient books,

Believe nothing because it is of "Divine origin",

Believe nothing because someone else believes it . . . but

Believe that which only you yourself judge to be true.

And always . . . always . . . do it with style.

I hope that you will take this to yourself to live by, not because I say it . . . but, because you know it to be true!


Buechel, Rev. Eugene (1983)A Dictionary Oie Wowapi Wan of Teton Sioux. Lakota-English: English-Lakota, University of South Dakota, Vermillion, South Dakota, Red Cloud Indian School, Pine Ridge, South Dakota.

Goodman, Ronald (1992) Lakota Star Knowledge: Studies in Lakota Stellar Theology, Sinte Gleska University, Rosebud Sioux Reservation, Rosebud, South Dakota.

Gregg-Bear, P.R. (1996) Kiktayo Wajin, Way of the Modern Day Warrior, Sun Timep Publishing Company, Rosebud, South Dakota.

Hornby, A.S. (1963) The Advanced Learner's Dictionary of Current English, Oxford Univ. Press, London, Great Britain.

Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, (1953) G & C Merriam Company, Springfield, Mass.

Legal Documents.

Opinion of Advocate-General Tesauro, 14 December 1995; case C-13/94, P vs. S. and Cornwall County Council, (covering EU Directive 76/207/EEC Dismissal or a transsexual)

Judgement of the Court, 30 April 1996; case C-13/94 (Equal treatment for men and women Dismissal of a transsexual)


  1. John Colhoff, Rapid City Indian Museum, S.D.
  2. Glen Douglas, Elder, Squamish Nation, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
  3. Norbert Running, Medicine Man, Rosebud Reservation, S.D.
  4. Stanley Looking Horse, Keeper of the Sacred Pipe, Mission S.D.
  5. Hakiktya Najin, my brother, Brulé Lakota Elder, Copenhagen Dk.
TOP Citation:
Schützer, M, A., Napewastewin,(1996),Narcissism is not a dirty word, - or the spiritual aspects of transsexualism GENDYS '96, The Fourth International Gender Dysphoria Conference, Manchester England. London: Gendys Conferences.
Web page copyright GENDYS Network. Text copyright of the author. Last amended 27.11.98