In argumentation, we talk about the slippery slope fallacy, or the idea that if you are at position A, and want to postpone or avoid position B at all costs, then even a tiny compromise away from A will lead to a series of other compromises until you arrive at B despite your dislike of that position. It can also be called the Domino Effect, but in either case, the metaphor is the same. It depends on physics and scientific laws in order to work, and since we all know about physical things like falling down, slipping down a slope (icy or muddy), and how dominoes fall into each other, it’s a very easy figure of speech to understand and appreciate.

Picture the person standing at the top of an icy hill (position A), not wanting to be in the frozen lake at the bottom (position B), but saying to herself, “what would it hurt if I take one step down this hill? I’ll be careful, and I’m still a very long way from that cold water.” However, having taken that first step down the slippery slope, she has to take another step and another, and before you know it, she’s in the water.

The slippery slope isn’t the same thing as a compulsion, where a person feels she must eat, or buy high heeled shoes, or wash her hands 10 times a day because a compulsion doesn’t connote a journey from one point to the next, but rather a type of stasis, or standing still. The slippery slope always suggests motion towards an inevitable end once that first step is taken or that first domino falls.

In transgender lore, we talk about the slippery slope all the time. Someone says, “I want to crossdress, but if I do, I’m afraid I’ll want to go all the way.” The metaphor is that there is a natural (like gravity) desire within a transgendered person to “go all the way,” and even the tiniest acknowledgment, the tiniest action that leads towards that ending will cause a chain of events. Wearing lingerie, then dresses, then makeup. Buying wigs, taking a femme name, going out in public. Taking hormones, having surgery, ultimately becoming a woman.

There are those who fight the slippery slope, those who dismiss the entire idea of a natural journey, those who look forward to starting the slide towards the end, those who fear it with all their souls.

Myself? I’m slipping and building speed, despite whatever tentative schedule or diary writing I did a year ago that desired anything but this. I wrote that what I wanted was just enough of a step so I didn’t feel bad any more, and maybe that would be some kind of androgyny. Having talked to Sean Drummond, my department chair, a couple of days ago, I now find it slightly more desirable to tell someone else. Having met with Allyson yesterday and talked about family lives, I now find I’m more eager to move ahead with my family. Having written these blog entries, I desire more communication with others, and I find it very difficult to restrain myself from disclosing too much on Facebook, in email, or in conversations with colleagues and friends.

I’m slipping, but unlike the metaphoric slip towards an undesirable ending point, I find I’m becoming more and more excited and optimistic about both the trip down the slippery slope and also the destination.

[See also the Tipping Point]