My Journey

My Journey

Juanita Marshall is a Canadian Certified Counsellor at Holistic Healing Counselling. They work with adults, teens and couples and have a special interest in counselling first responders and individuals looking to connect with their authentic selves. Juanita shares about their life's journey in this blog. If counselling with Juanita sounds like it would be a good fit for you, reach out to us to book an appointment.

Sometimes I feel very invisible. Often that is okay with me. Sometimes it is uncomfortable. Almost always it is something that I take for granted. I was born knowing that I am male, though my body arrived female. Until I asked my parents about this, I had assumed that penises arrived just as new teeth grow in after the baby teeth have fallen out. I was born in the 1960s when gay men were being arrested for being aberrant and the LGBTQ-inclusive culture I grew up in was very closeted about women loving other women. I saw no one like me, a boy awkwardly standing inside a girl’s body. Gradually I concluded that I was a quiet unicorn among rainbow unicorns, an outsider amongst the outsiders. Invisible.

My journey has been to work towards self-acceptance through healing and self-actualized growth. This is how I tried to make peace with my inner world where I wrestled in frustration and horror with the limitations placed upon females that are not forced upon males. Not that any males get a free pass! Western society shoves boys and men into tight boxes also. Cultural privileges between men and women still have a huge divide in some areas of life, but few of us miss out on being shaped by mainstream views on gender expectations.

It says on my Psychology Today page that I am Trans Allied. That’s because I don’t feel there is a box for how I identify as a trans male in acceptance of living inside a female body after 60+ years of navigating life. I have become accustomed to not thinking about myself as a gender. For me, being seen as a woman is a bit like knowing I have toes on my feet, something I know but don’t really think about until my toes are slammed into something hard. At that moment, I realized… right, I have toes, ouch! In moments when it feels that I am being viewed as a female, I am often suddenly jarred into knowing, right… female body... ouch!

I find it terribly sad when my gender and age become a barrier to someone who is magnificently divergent from mainstream culture and their assigned gender. Those moments when I smile joyfully at someone brave enough to simply be themselves. Trans, genderqueer, gender fluid, butch lesbian, feminine male gay; all the glorious rainbow colours that are now available to LGBTQITS+ people! I am in absolute love with how much larger our world is from where we were 60 years ago! But when my inclusive smile doesn’t seem to make sense, when my eye contact and grin don’t appear to say to the person, Hurrah for you! When their response looks like worry or fear or anger, I realize that they too are only seeing what I look like on the outside. Looks like a cisgender older straight woman…ouch.

Inside my counselling is where I have created huge gains for myself. Where I have been able to create subversive breathing space from dominant cultural beliefs about how authentic I can be and how much I have the right to be myself. Younger people have taught me that there are a wide variety of labels to choose from now. Genderqueer, gender fluid, agender, non-binary, and other words that have become a part of this evolving larger world. So exciting! My journey has been to work towards self-acceptance, inner healing, and inner empowerment so that my outsides match my insides as closely as possible. I believe this is our inherent human right, regardless of whether we stand under, besides, or outside of the LGBTQITS+ Rainbow. We each have the right to like ourselves and to grow into our best selves.

I wonder how other trans people are managing their challenges around identity and the world around them? I have noticed that trans and non-trans people seem to wrestle with similar themes, regardless of gender, orientation, sexuality, ethnicity, spiritual values, or political beliefs. Each of us is a cultural mosaic of intersecting intertwined identities; parent, child, brother, sister, partner, ex-partner, worker, boss, professional, entrepreneur and individual qualities that we feel help to define us, such as creative thinker, pragmatist, gentle soul, or survivor. Our humanness makes us connected. Being human can be extremely difficult for everyone! Yet our trans-uniqueness can also be what amplifies systemic barriers that exclude us. This can be especially painful when being left out happens within our families and surrounding community.

Being a nonvisible trans person has protections that visibly trans people are denied. As I age, I gain the advantages of standing inside a mature body that (hopefully) represents dignity and hard-earned self-respect. I can wrap the protection of the privileges gained through society’s worldviews for mature professional women. Living with an invisible truth has taught me the delicate balance and work it takes to create an authentic self that honours the body gender while also standing within one’s truer self. What life can be like for those who need and choose to enact a visible transition journey so they can be their true selves, I need to empathetically imagine. I listen from my own experience and those shared by trans-folks in my life. I simply know now that each of us has the right to like and love ourselves; to heal what hurts within, feels misaligned, and yearns for peace and joy.


If any of this resonates with you, I celebrate your uniqueness! If you are also on your journey of growth and healing and think that working with a counsellor who understands there are complexities in healing the bumps and scrapes of cultural wounds, please feel free to reach out to one of our Edmonton-based registered therapists today. 


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Welcome to Holistic Healing

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