The Holistic Self and Gender

5 Part Gender Series - Part 5-Section2: The Holistic Self & The Gender Wheel


As we close this gender series with the second section of PART FIVE, we open our eyes to a whole new way. Firmly embedded in the truth that queer/trans/intersex people and experience are everywhere throughout nature, we move into new, truthfull ways of perceiving ourselves and the world around us. Using holistic thinking to keep the truth alive, we turn now toward the holistic self and gender, and ultimately land on The Gender Wheel.

With The Gender Wheel as a resource to navigate the world, more truth and ways to include every body open up! A tool to find yourself and understand our community in holistic ways.

As parents, educators and activists we have the power to expand beyond the gender binary, learn about and use more gender neutral pronouns and create lasting change. Now is the time for a whole, true world for us and our kids!

Step into the circle, where we ALL belong!

In the first section we explored the holistic self including exercises to call in more of your own holistic self. Now we continue on.

Here is a reminder of what the holistic self includes, as well as an image of those elements in concentric circles. Both images are the holistic self.


The Holistic Self by Maya Gonzalez


Just like a holistic perspective of gender can be seen in the world by including the truth about nature, global cultural awareness, indigenous North America and early US history;

a holistic perspective of gender can be seen by including the truth of the WHOLE SELF.

The Holistic Self and Gender by Maya Gonzalez

BODY: the body you have – intersex, trans, cis and more

SPIRIT: that inside sense of who you are of which gender is a part

MIND: how you interpret your sense of self to the world, pronouns are a way to communicate who you are within the current culture or reality

HEART: your self in relationship, including partner, family, friends and community

UNKNOWN: all that is yet to be discovered about yourself

the gender wheel : body circle - created by Maya GonzalezBody: Intersex/Trans/Cis.

By truthfully including all of the kinds of bodies present, you can take a significant step away from the false binary. In the most basic sense there are at least 3 kinds of bodies: Intersex, Transgender and Cisgender. In order to create familiar landmarks, and because they are still so widely used, I add the markers of boy and girl to these three. This expands people to a minimum of 6 kinds of body: intersex girl/boy, transgender girl/boy, cisgender girl/boy. Within these 6 body types, there are countless variations, some of which reach far beyond these limited words. Body variation is a fact in all species. It’s prevalence in relation to sexual organs, inside and outside, marks it as an important and necessary trait of biodiversity within a species.

Truth clears the path of false debris. There were never only two kinds of bodies.

the gender wheel : inside circle - created by Maya GonzalezSpirit: Life Force, Personality, including Gender.

In the last 120 years there have been numerous attempts at trying to locate, define, explain gender. But a full understanding of gender remains elusive in Western culture. Considering the binary and the systems of oppression, is there room for gender to be fully understood in this context? Or is that the point? Erasure.

Here are two points of reference. One is from 154 years ago, another from 29 years ago, both are moments of naming self in relation to queer/trans identity in relation to Western culture.

“Male Body with a Female Spirit”

The first person within Western culture to publicly define and defend what would later be called homosexuality was Karl Heinrich Ulrichs.

“Already in 1864 and 1865 Ulrichs had published a series of five booklets presenting a new scientific theory of homosexuality, the so-called third sex theory, which, by asserting that the condition is inborn and natural, formed a basis for his demand that the contemporary antihomosexual laws be abolished.” “The essential point in his theory of homosexuality is the doctrine that the male homosexual has a female psyche…” Psyche is defined as human soul, mind or spirit.

“… to the point of his theory, he recalled that as a child of three and four years he wore girls’ clothes and found it painful when he first had to put on boys’ clothes. He protested, “No, I want to be a girl.”

Karl Heinrich Ulrichs: Pioneer of the Modern Gay Movement, Peremptory Publications

Note: This was the same time that Darwin began publishing his theories about nature in 1859 through 1881.

“Two Spirits, One Heart, Five Genders” Indigenous North America

“At the point of contact, all Native American societies acknowledged three to five gender roles: Female, male, Two Spirit female, Two Spirit male and transgendered. LGBT Native Americans wanting to be identified within their respective tribes and not grouped with other races officially adopted the term “Two Spirit” from the Ojibwe language in Winnipeg, Manitoba, 1989. Each tribe has their own specific term, but there was a need for a universal term that the general population could understand.”

Two Spirits, One Heart, Five Genders, Indian Country Today

The term Two Spirit cannot be directly translated into LGBTQI definitions. As Will Roscoe notes, it includes specialized roles, gender variation, spiritual sanction as well as same-sex love. It is rooted in tribal tradition and is unavailable to people without tribal affiliations.

How do we understand gender? Instead ask, how do we understand the full breadth of nature and its mystery?

Despite the fact that these are two very different times and experiences, Karl Heinrich Ulrichs in Germany and the Two Spirit people of North America, both used spirit and included more than 2 genders to express who they are.

Some people in Western culture ask if gender is necessary and can it be eliminated? But what we call gender is part of nature. Elimination rings of erasure. Nature is a vast dance that holds grand diversity, meaning and mystery beyond human comprehension.

How do we understand gender? Instead ask, how do we understand the full breadth of nature and its mystery?

Nature holds the energy that infuses matter with life. It is the power of growth and healing. It bursts forth and rises up and never ends. It is the mystery of death, birth and eternity, even infinity. Poetry, song and art have been the traditional tools to express the power of nature for time immemorial. It holds the mystery of love, attraction, family, community.

Only so much can be contained, dissected, examined before even nature flattens out and perishes under Western culture’s restrictive systems and binary gaze. Nature cannot ultimately be controlled, much like love. It is larger than us. We are a part of its great and powerful dance and what we call gender is integral.

What I know from my own experience is that gender is how spirit moves through matter, much like the life force or how a person’s unique personality animates their form. Gender enlivens the body, the same way spirit brings the body to life. It is as unique as someone’s personality, it is the dance of nature, it is mystery and love. Gender is not isolated. It is an expression that permeates every aspect of self, BODY, MIND, SPIRIT, HEART. Gender is self as spirit alive and part of the natural world. It moves through the whole self animating, dancing, reaching out to connect.

the gender wheel : pronoun circle - created by Maya GonzalezMind: Pronouns – They, She, He, Me, We, Ze, Free.

Within the context of patriarchal oppression it is challenging to think or speak of gender without flattening it out, stripping the spirit, the mystery and profundity of the deeper value. Ideas of gender expand and deepen when seen within the context of the whole self. The real truth of gender is meant to begin within, where you can just BE, without the need to define and box yourself in. Alone, in your own mind, gender can be pronoun-free and perfectly nonbinary as “I, me, myself.”sample spread from They She He Me: Free to Be! by Maya & Matthew

Pronouns then become the way of extending your gender out into the world, beyond yourself. Again, the power is yours, sourced within your own knowing, your own BEing. Your knowing includes yourself and the world you’re navigating because pronouns can be used to bring your true self into greater focus, or maintain fluidity. They can also be used to maintain safety and privacy.

Pronouns are power.

the gender wheel : relationship circle - created by Maya GonzalezHeart: Relationship – Partner, Family, Community/Queer, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Heterosexual, Pansexual, Asexual.

Love is one of the foundations of life. It is vital. And in most ways, it is a mystery much like gender, best navigated by poetry, song and art. Expressions of mystery, emotion and depth.

Love is necessary and valuable. Can you explain why you love who you love? More importantly, why should you have to? Who can separate their heart, their love from their true self? In fact, who we love often makes sense out of who we are and vice versa.

Here again, LGBTQI2S+ people are so prevalent in nature, that our numbers signify we are not random aberrations, but instead our presence serves an important and necessary purpose within our species.

Unknown: room to expand and grow into our larger SELF.

It is nearly impossible to know what we don’t know or have forgotten, but leaving room to grow is a way to invite those parts of our self back into awareness.

But in order to fully understand queer/trans/intersex experience and presence, it is necessary to step outside of Western culture to explore systems and perspectives that center nature, indigenous thought, our whole selves, and our whole lives.

The separations that have developed between identities and experience of LGBTQIA+ people in Western culture over the last 120 years have been useful in acknowledging difference, unique contribution and the vast diversity in our community.

But in order to fully understand queer/trans/intersex experience and presence, it is necessary to step outside of Western culture to explore systems and perspectives that center nature, indigenous thought, our whole selves, and our whole lives. Doing this often shows more connections and interweaving between us as queer/trans/intersex people than Western culture has room for. More often than not, it is in having this larger perspective including knowing the past that we can more fully know ourselves in the present.

Look again at this image to see gender in relation to the Holistic Self.

The Holistic Self and Gender by Maya Gonzalez

Ironically, although I knew it was there, I only recently drew the singular Self in relation to gender. I did it in response to a parent activist I met whose work I wanted to support with an image. It wasn’t until I did this that I understood that my notions of gender have always been in relation to my whole community, every body together, connected, similar to a communal system. Perhaps because I am a queer femme or because I am Xicanx that I’ve always focused on the dance. It was through the dance of gender between people that I better understood my own gender and those fabulous queer/trans/intersex people in my community with whom I wanted to dance.
Gender is rooted in love, community, connection, relationship - Maya Gonzalez - The Gender Wheel
In my world, gender is rooted in love, community, connection, relationship. It is when we see ourselves together that we understand ourselves and each other more.