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'O Au No Keia:

Voices from Hawaii's Mahu and Transgender Communities

Andrew Matzner

The first Polynesian settlers arrived in Hawaii about 1000 years ago with a culture all of their own. From the time that Captain Cook arrived in 1778, and with the increasing ease of travel bringing immigration from all over the Pacific, to Hawaii's present incarnation as the fiftieth state of America, the old ways have all but disappeared. So little was it respected that the four Warrior Stones, set up over five hundred years ago, had all but disappeared under the sand, and for some years were built over with a bowling alley. Now with the world-wide interest in past history, and with many different cultures reclaiming their heritage, the stones have been restored. A plaque records the legend that they were set up in memory of four healers from Tahiti in the early days of Hawaiian history. What it does not mention is that many of legends suggest they were mahu, or hermaphrodite: "their habits coincided with their feminine appearance although manly in stature and general bearing"

Today, although less disparaged than in many other countries, the public face of Hawaiian mahu is of transvestite prostitutes. "Historically, transgendered people have been unable to control the ways that they are represented to the general public. They have been written about, most often by psychologists, academics, magazine writers and news reporters who have had little interest in actively involving their subjects in the writing and editing processes. Often, assuming that they will be treated fairly, transgendered people speak with writers and reporters in good faith. Frequently the opposite occurs, as they discover that they have been misquoted or portrayed in a negative light."

This, then, is the personal accounts of fifteen mahu or transgender people - health-care workers, performance artists, hula dancers, sex workers, a university graduate, a minister and a retired military officer. They come from a range of backgrounds from Hawaiian families that still retain some of the old ways, to others where they were rejected, to immigrants from the American mainland. They offer an unparalleled insight into their childhoods and schooldays, and their views of their lives in Hawaii as it is today.

Published by Xlibris Corporation, 2001
Paperback, 293 pages,
ISBN 0 7388 6161 8
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