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What Is a Cisspirit? What Is a Transspirit?

| #020 | VALUE > conventionality | 950 words |

Generally speaking, we respond to the needs in our lives in one of two ways. We either rely upon the same customary responses everyone else seems to be doing, or we follow some different path potentially more effective for us.

Let’s call the former mode cisconventionality. This represents being in “agreement with cultural conventions.” Let’s call the latter mode transconventionality. This represents “transcending or transgressing cultural conventions.”


Using the Latin prefix meaning “on the same side,” cisconventionality is about compliance with conventionality. This is where culturally approved norms are trusted guides for getting needs met. A response to a need is on the same side as the widely agreed upon way to address such a need.

For example, driving on the right side of the road is the agreed upon convention in most countries. Many conventions are arbitrary like this. The less arbitrary then the more likely we are to find cisconventionality. With few exceptions, such as astronauts, we are all cisconventional to the conventions of gravity. With rare exceptions, we are no longer cisconventional with the old norms of overt racism.

The more arbitrary the convention the more room for conflict. What works well for one person or group may not be satisfactorily effective for another. What works well in one environment may prove ineffective in another, or even when one’s environment changes faster than one’s conventions. The old conventions may be poor guides for changing needs. This often results in transconventionality.


Using the Latin prefix meaning “on the opposite side,” transconventionality is about noncompliance with conventionality. This is where culturally approved norms are experienced more as a hindrance than helpful guide. Our response to needs is on the opposite side as the generally agreed upon responses by others.

For example, using vinegar as an eco-friendly way to remove stains from clothing. The more arbitrary the convention and less it can be generalized to all needs, the more likely we may find some transconventionality. With few exceptions, like so-called Luddites, we are all transconventional to the conventions of new communications technologies. With some exceptions, development of these technologies involved innovative challenges to old norms.

As culture changes so does conventionality. Like same sex attraction and more recently transgender phenomena, what was transconventional can become increasingly cisconventional. Especially when one’s transconventionality is not a matter of simple choice.

Personal orientation

These modes can be baked into one’s constitution, into one’s personality. If we chose to be one over the other, such a decision is much like an infant “choosing” the language of one’s caregiver. Once learned as a primary orientation toward needs, it becomes challenging to learn a different mode.

Whether from upbringing or baked into our personalities from birth, it guides how we trust societal norms to remedy our needs. Some of us lean toward cisconventionality, dutifully following the rules. Others lean toward transconventionality, exploring how to bend the rules to reach our goals. It can be easy to dismiss the former as “sheeple,” and the latter as libertine.

We may be more cisconventional in one area of our lives, while more transconventional in another. For example, we may follow familiar norms for earning income, but explore innovative ways for investing some of that income. The more critical a need the more this comes to the fore.

Sometimes the established conventional norms seem absolutely essential for a working society. Shouldn’t those who break them be confronted, perhaps even punished? If we’re not following socially established norms, then what is the trusted standard?

For others, the established conventional norms do not even make sense. Why in the world would someone keep doing the same things over and over again to end up with the same unsatisfactory results? Isn’t this supposed to be the very definition of insanity?

Spiritual orientation

Cisspirit. One’s very sense of meaning in life may depend upon aligning with established society norms. For example, getting things done requires getting into the political trenches and fighting for an important cause. There is no room for sitting on the fence for the cisspirit. Life demands picking a side and committing one’s life to it.

Transspirit. One’s very sense of meaning in life may depend upon moving beyond established societal norms. For example, getting to a root problem requires getting outside of the box to find what all sides contribute to a problem’s persistence. Stretching beyond such silos provides the transspirit with much needed perspective. Life demands it for sustainable balance.

A transspirit is someone who experiences a deeper sense of connection in life. They naturally cut across arbitrary boundaries created by our social or cultural conventions. They find themselves drawn toward needed balance in all life.

Cisspirits play in important role in a healthy society. But transspirits appear to fill an integral role that cannot be readily expected form cisspirits. While it can be easy to take behavioral norms for granted, some norms can actually lead us all astray. For example, the creeping norm of steadily increasing police powers, which decrease our security in the name of security. Nature appears to have created an answer for this need for balance: the transspirit.

Do you sense you might be a transspirit? Take a short quiz to find out. Then continue following this blog. More will be discussed about this distinction between cisconventionality and transconventionality, and between what it means to be a cisspirit and a transspirit. Moreover, this blog explores the value both types bring to helping us meet all of our needs. Because everyone has value, including you.

Steph is a self-described transspirit, which is a kind of sacred misfit. By transcending conventional limits—gender norms, religious identities, political polarities, and more—Steph experiences a unique connection in life. And suspects others do as well. This blog shares that spirituality, and affirms others of a similar state of being.

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