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March 31, 2014 | by  | in Ngāi Tauira Opinion | [ssba]

Ngai Tauira

In a famous Māori love tale that features my ancestors, Hinemoa and Tutānekai, a romantic relationship between two men is slotted into the plot seamlessly. With no shame and no fuss, the mention of Tutānekai’s love for his “hoa takatāpui” implies that being gay in pre-colonial Aotearoa was very much accepted. Carvings would often feature men having sex with each other, and while attitudes towards lesbian, trans* and intersex individuals are not exactly clear, Māori views of sex overall were so relaxed that it can be presumed they weren’t too controversial either.

Today, the term ‘takatāpui’ is claimed by those expressing their pride as both Māori and queer. Nevertheless, this comes after a dramatic change in Māori attitudes towards LGBTI. Missionary and settler influences created a new climate that now sees queer Māori having a difficult time, struggling to be recognised in a world that often sees their sexuality and culture as undesirable.

This is where recognising intersectionality becomes so important. When an individual is burdened by multiple marginalising traits (non-white, gay, disabled, female, etc.), they often experience a unique form of discrimination. Perhaps the most prominent is the complete absence of their experiences in conversation.

This is this case for many Māori takatāpui. In countless conversations, we not only assume that everyone is straight, but also that they’re white. What about my friend, Liv? She’s gay, brown, a wizard at guitar, and perhaps the kindest person in the world. What’s more, she’s got a pretty awesome story to tell.

At a whānau hui last week, Liv’s aunties were discussing their family tree. Modern problems came up, such as whether unmarried or divorced partners, and adopted children should be included – all very controversial stuff in Māoridom because whakapapa are so central to our identities. And just like how Tutānekai’s relationship with Tiki was so effortlessly mentioned, so was the prospect of same-sex partners being included in the family tree. “It just wasn’t a big deal, really,” said Liv, “someone brought it up. We decided the same rules applied to partners of the opposite sex and then we moved on. That was the cool thing, it was just part of the wider conversation.”

And by no means does Liv represent all queer Māori experiences. That’s my point. In a heavily fragmented society – where belonging to groups is central to keeping us sane – our identities are becoming more complex. Hell, you could be a third-generation deaf Japanese student, who supports ACT and goes to church on Sundays. All of these things inform the way you see the world and affect the way in which this world sees you.

So, how on Earth can we ensure that everyone has as much of a chance of succeeding in this world as a middle-aged, middle-class, straight, non-disabled white male? It all comes down to recognition. Because being left out of the conversation can be the most hurtful thing you could do to someone who’s making this world just a little more colourful.



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  1. Ngata Epapara says:

    Awesome story my talented niece. Mauriora koe tou pakiwaitara ataahua.

    Keep up the good work niece.

    You do yourself and your mum proud :)

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