When I listened to a group of Yale students speak about gender with Katie Couric in her documentary, “The Gender Revolution,” it struck me that two different meanings of the trans- prefix are getting confounded. This prefix can mean “across” or “beyond.” In the case of transgender individuals, some have assumed a gender role that differs from the one they were assigned at birth. So they have crossed gender lines in finding their personal identity. Others are gender neutral, meaning that they do not want to be restricted to any gender role. These individuals are seeking to go beyond gender categories altogether.
In order to distinguish between the two, I’ve decided to use trans for “across” and TRANS for “beyond.” Now that the terminology is clear, here is my point: Free spirits are TRANS! These individuals are transcending the old categories and definitions. It is not just about gender, but also religion, politics, nationality, career, residence, and race. For free spirits, what matters is the experience of genuineness—of being fully alive!—which cannot be confined or contained. In Deep Creativity, I say that creativity is not just about thinking outside the box but living outside it. Not by coincidence, this is also how free spirits have chosen to live: as much outside the box as possible.
And what is “the box”? It is any limitation on our identity and thinking imposed by ourselves, other people, or some combination of the two. There are those who seek simplicity and certainty in making sense of their world. They are, in the language of psychology, ambiguity intolerant. For these individuals, there is a certain level of comfort in knowing if someone is male or female, Catholic or Protestant, Democrat or Republican.
But for free spirits, these categories can seem limiting. Increasing numbers of people are rejecting the conventional boxes. They are doing this in many ways: by choosing to be “spiritual but not religious;” registering as independent or third-party voters; being citizens of the world rather than pledging their allegiance to a single country; embracing entrepreneurship over conventional jobs; living “cage-free” as opposed to renting or owning a home; identifying themselves and their families as multiracial; and embracing gender neutrality.
The trend is so widespread that it constitutes a free-spirit movement. The result is a growing population that is TRANS-religious, TRANS-political, TRANS-national, TRANS-racial, and TRANS-gendered, among other things. This is an exciting time to be alive because the old categories are falling away, which means that people can define themselves in entirely new ways—or not at all!
If you are reading this far, you are probably part of this trend. So, how are you rejecting the conventional definitions and categories? In what ways are you TRANS? And where do you see this trend leading?