Toward a Holistic Perspective of the Self


How do you come to know your whole self when judgment, conformity and performance are culturally embedded and valued? How do you find truth about yourself when rational, empirical, logical thinking are your primary options for thought within a Western frame of reference? How can you understand your own unique dance when linear, rigid, externally approved formation is generally required for physical survival?

We live in a box within a box within a box.

Now imagine,

what can you hold onto as you learn your way through Western thinking back to your fully fabulous queer/trans/intersex self?

I’ve learned that honing a holistic perspective means beginning as large as possible, with the intent of full inclusion. And then slowly and thoughtfully, you create the path inward, imagining as whole of a perspective at each step as possible.

To this end, I teach what I’ve learned about myself.


The Holistic Self by Maya Gonzalez
CALLING IN the WHOLE self helps make sense out of our experiences. Many of us have had to separate or silence parts of our true self because of Western, patriarchal thought and society. In fact, a split between body and spirit, body and mind, even body and heart are as imperative as a split between humans and nature, males and females, queer/trans/intersex people and cis, straight people.

To become more aware of what the whole self is consider the following questions and perspectives. The more whole, the more present and embodied queer/trans/intersex people are in the world, the more true our world will be.

How to make it real? You can gauge the personal impact our Western culture has had on you by asking how free do you feel to be your true self? In your heart of hearts, are there places that you suppress and silence yourself to feel/be safe and supported in the world? Never judge. Just see. And feel.

Body: the physical body.

How comfortable are you with your body in public? In private? Is your comfort level related to safety? In what way?
Do you judge your body and by what standards? Do you judge other people’s bodies?
Have you experienced trauma? Health issues? How has it impacted your body?
When do you feel your most strong? Your most gorgeous? Your most free and like yourself?

Spirit: the power and mystery of nature that animates the physical body, perpetuates and connects all life on Earth. Spirit brings the body alive!

Power. Have you ever been struck by the beauty or sheer force of nature? When was the last time you were in a powerful storm and felt the winds whip your hair? Or been to the river to feel the eternal flow on your feet? Or the sea to see infinity? Or simply witnessed a child grow?

Mystery. Everyone has moments that transcend daily experience but are a normal part of human experience: birth, death, heightened creative expression, dreams, intuitions, visits from loved ones who have crossed over, near death experiences and more. What experiences have humbled you and left you speechless?

This power and mystery resides within us and makes us who we are.

Mind: the thinking, believing, communicating aspect of the self. The mind interprets reality and interacts with the world.

Western culture prefers and perpetuates a kind of thinking called binary opposition and it starts as soon as we’re born. This affects how we think, what we believe and even how we talk. It is inherently stressful because it doesn’t reflect real life or support figuring things out. It’s polarizing. On purpose.
How often do you see things as black and white? Right or wrong? Good or bad?
Do you have time to fully understand your self, your life, what’s going on in the world, etc…? Or do you need quick reads, easy answers and step by step directions because you’re already dealing with so much in your life?
Does your thinking affect how you feel? Or does how you feel affect your thinking?

Heart: the feeling, loving, connecting aspect of the self. The pull between parent and child; between partners, extended family- chosen or natal; the feeling for friends and coworkers, pets, mamiearth and all of humanity.

Can you express love freely in your life? Hold hands, kiss, embrace romantically in public, in front of family? Do you have to explain your love or attractions to anyone in your life? Or to any institutions in your life? Especially ones connected to your child or family? Church? University? Work? School?

What about other feelings? Do you feel free to have anger, sorrow, fear, or joy flow through your body and heart? What feelings do you have the majority of the time? What feelings set the overall tone of your life?

Unknown: the part of the self that we do not currently know or understand, but may sense and experience in different ways.

It is nearly impossible to fully determine what parts of the self have been suppressed that flourished pre-patriarchy. Some past and current accounts suggest that dreams, intuition, precognition, astral dream travel, energetic healing, and more, were/are practiced and used as personal and community support systems.

What mystery lies within you? What powers? Are you intuitive? Creative? Do your dreams teach you? Have you ever had a turn in your health and healed unexpectedly? Have your prayers ever been answered? How could your great unknown support you even now?

There are disconnects between all of these aspects of self in Western culture. Research in multiple disciplines show the importance of reestablishing these connections, for example body/mind medicine, social/emotional learning in schools and more. Expanding and calling in the whole self makes a huge difference in our ability to heal ourselves inside and out and negotiate the world. It locates agency and authority about who we are within ourselves, but there’s more.

The self, however whole, does not exist in isolation. The self is not WHOLE until seen in CONTEXT.


The Holistic Self in CONTEXT by Maya Gonzalez

Similar to the holistic self, consider the following questions and perspectives. The more queer/trans/intersex people know our own history within each of our own racial/ethnic communities, the more our purpose and meaning will be understood.

Family: of origin. Siblings? Birth order? Adopted? Fostered?
Adult family? Single? Partnered? Kids? LGBTQIA2S+ family? Chosen family? Role/s?

Community: Who did you grow up around and who do you live around now? Who do you interact with on a regular basis?

Society: What position or role do you fulfill in our current society? (You can include outsider. I am.) What stereotypes and stories are attached to your position in society?

History: Where do you and your family/ies fit into US and indigenous American history? Global history? What stereotypes and stories are attached to your position in history?

Ancestry: What larger sweeps of history have your racial and/or ethnic ancestors been a part of? Do you know your ancestry? What stereotypes and stories are attached to your ancestry?

Unknown: There’s always room for more. I will never claim to know everything. Myself and nearly everyone I know, including my natal family, have had experiences that can only be explained by the likes of quantum physics. What experiences have you or your family/community had that cannot be explained within current systems?

Western culture often wants us to compartmentalize, simplify, reduce, assimilate, sublimate our true selves only to be rewarded with living in survival mode.

When we can see our WHOLE SELVES in WHOLE CONTEXT we begin to see our real selves more, as well as our position in the larger dance of life, and the world. This can help bring compassion to our survival skills and those of others. Western culture often wants us to compartmentalize, simplify, reduce, assimilate, sublimate our true selves only to be rewarded with living in survival mode. For many of us we fit into Western culture just enough and perpetuate the patriarchy just enough from the inside out so that we do not cease to exist. We get by. But the more we know our whole selves and our position in context, the more we can see the falsehoods and the impact Western culture has on us personally and create internal changes that make us stronger and stronger.

Seeing the HOLISTIC SELF makes you strong because it naturally helps you see through Western culture and the patriarchy. Through your own experience and understanding of yourself, you begin to transform Western culture and the patriarchy from a concept, a theory, something far away–into a personal story within the context of the larger sweep of history and consciousness. You step into history. Which means it is yours to change.

As Gloria Anzaldúa says, “We change ourselves, we change the world.”

Once you see, you can’t unsee. Once you know, you can’t unknow. There is a world of truth and beauty that includes queer/trans/intersex people and experience and always has. We have been invisiblized. We have gone underground. We have coded ourselves into history. We have hidden ourselves even from ourselves at times.

There is no place on mamiearth that does not have queer/trans/intersex expression in nature, including people. We are. We always have been. We always will be.

But always, we have persisted.

There is no place on mamiearth that does not have queer/trans/intersex expression in nature, including people. We are. We always have been. We always will be. That is truth. Our presence is a constant reminder that we as humans are a part of the power, mystery and diversity of nature.

The patriarchy and Western culture took a very long time to develop to this point. In some ways it seems that we are at a pinnacle moment. A heightened expression of the binary. But simultaneously, there is an awakening in the makes, gaining momentum. Lines are being cast, webs are being woven, bridges are forming between what is natural and true, between ancestors and spirit. We are becoming WHOLE again.

I ended this series at 1899 for US history because I wanted to court that moment when it seems gender and sexuality were still very fluid, before they tipped over into a more highly Westernized frame. I wanted to feel that moment before the binary became so deeply entrenched. When third, fourth, fifth genders were still singing through the edges of Western culture across the globe. Before colonization had obliterated or sent everything far underground.

The Bugis of Indonesia still sing today. They continue to believe that all 5 genders must be held in unity. Only if everything and everyone is connected can the whole world remain balanced and safe.