Celebrating Our Multicultural Community: Being Takatāpui

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Ramon Te Wake writes on some of the challenges of being Takatāpui as well as what makes being queer and Maori fabulous!

Aotearoa is a country with many significant firsts to its long white cloud. Georgina Bayer was the world’s first transsexual mayor and Member of Parliament. In 2008, the Human Rights Commission published ‘The Transgender Inquiry’ – a world’s first by a human rights institution and in 2013 we were the first country in Oceania to allow same sex couples to marry.

We also get to assert our Māoritanga by expressing our GLBTIQ diversity through the word Takatāpui. One of the most important parts of my existence is being able to identify as Takatāpui. It’s an identity that speaks to my truth both culturally and as a trans woman. It means whānau, sisterhood and community, it means that I belong to something much bigger than me. But having a sense of identity is one thing – being able to assert it in a world that is set up to deny you from the get go is where the struggle gets real.

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The fact is, Takatapui (and GLBTIQ people of colour) experience huge levels of discrimination on a daily basis on many different levels and in many different ways. As a result of being a minority within a minority we face layers of organized racism, transphobia and homophobia. Where preconceived stereotypes and prejudices are embedded in a system that’s geared to say no, you are wrong. You don’t matter and if we put you over here, in this box, we don’t have to worry about dealing with you. Now sshhhh, don’t talk. Um, have you met us? One of the many things we do amazingly well is use our waha! And if our history is any indication to go by – you may hit us hurt us try to ignore us but you will never keep us down or keep us quiet.

In 2004 I was lucky enough to be one of the presenters and directors on Takatapui, the world’s first indigenous queer series. Over the shows life span we covered varying and complex issues that impacted our community on a daily basis. Discrimination (health care services, education, employment, gender recognition) Identity, youth suicide, stigma around HIV and AIDS, prejudice and harassment from police, coming out and being safe, street kawa and sex work. Takatapui and marae protocol – trans woman and karanga and hate crimes.

I remember in 2007 we won the Media Peace Award for a story we did on Hate Crimes – The Stanley Waipouri murder. It was a proud moment for the team. But we soon sobered up and the reality kicked in. Wait what, did we really just win an award about one of our Takatapui brothers who was bashed to death for being gay? It’s unfathomable but the truth is, it’s more widespread than people might realize. Fast-forward to 2015 to a heading of an overseas report that reads – Antigay Violence Down, Transphobic Hate Crimes Up. It’s a cruel representation given the recent global burst of trans visibility but we can’t be complacent. No one can – the danger is real and clearly, more work needs to be done.

We may carry the weight of generations of violence, prejudice and indifference on our collective shoulders. But we also have the power to use that history to activate our own inner activism by stepping forward into the open and into ourselves. By using our voice to share our stories and to bring more awareness to the daily struggles that face Takatāpui. In other words, use your waha loud and proud!

 Article | Ramon Te Wake

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Ramon Te Wake
Ramon Te Wake is a screen director, producer, freelance writer and singer songwriter. Her resume is vast, diverse and always colourful! She is currently working on the TV series 2KAHA where she directs the 'on the rise' segment which features young Maori who are "currently taking it to the world stage", as well as working with her close friend Mika Haka on the 2016 Aroha festival.