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  • Teddy O'Neill

Takatāpuitanga

A kōrero by Teddy, (he/it/ia) - Ngāpuhi


As someone who has struggled with identity and what it really means to exist as someone who is both Māori and Queer, I think it’s reasonable to say that I long for more Takatāpui stories. Of course, many people already know that when the pakiwaitara of Tũtanekai and Hinemoa is told, it is usually missed that Tūtanekai is in a Takatāpui relationship with Tiki, and it’s later implied that he joins their relationship, (yay polyamory!) However, that’s not really the kind of Takatāpui kōrero I’m meaning.


Takatāpui is a Māori identity which encompasses wairua, sexuality, gender, and the fluid nature between them. Our tupuna didn’t live in a binary society governed by labels and the cishet rules that we live by now. They simply existed as they were. I want to hear more Takatāpui stories drenched in our hītori, I want to experience Takatāpui pūrākau, where us Māori queers can get together and talk about our own, real experiences. I want to kōrero with my kaumātua about their Takatāpui experiences, I want to share my own stories with them. I want us to bask in the glow of being Takatāpui, because Takatāpuitanga is a taonga. 


I find it interesting that historically, transgender people have been seen as people who are trying to “corrupt” society by attempting to change the perceptions of gender that the West have. Take for example, how pressed people still get over bathrooms. (Fuck, where I’m from up North, we usually have a longdrop at the marae; and that’s definitely gender neutral.) For a long time, people tried to claim that trans people existed because “our brains didn’t match our bodies.” That’s been, obviously, proven false. There’s even the argument to make about gender dysphoria, and whether or not you have to have it to be transgender, and what it means to have it, blah blah blah, whatever. 


I know that I am transgender because that is what I am. There’s not much more to it. It’s in my wairua. I am not binary, I can’t exist within the Western binary society that has been created. It’s as simple as that. And after talking to some takatāpui whanau, I know that a lot of them feel the same. 


Though I’m still learning, I know that Māori words don’t have a direct translation into English. Our kupu are beyond Pākeha understandings. They are an imprint my tupuna has left, they are vast concepts and wide ideas that flow throughout time and connect us with each other. Takatāpui has meant lovers of the same sex. Now, it transcends that. When I say that I am Takatāpui, it means I am aroha, it means I am embracing the ways that my tupuna existed and I am following in their footsteps to be what I am. It means I am masculinity, I am femininity, I am both. Takatāpui is about an intersection of identities, it is about how being Māori and being Queer react to one another, and how they create a new experience of life.


Existing as Takatāpui Māori in colonised Aotearoa is an act of resistance. 


If you are Takatāpui, in whatever sense of the word, be it whakawāhine, tangata ira tāne, irawhiti, or many of the other kupu that can be used under this umbrella: arohanui e kare. If you are fa’afafine, fa’atama, two-spirit, māhū, rae rae, vaka sa lewa lewa, akava’ine or any of the other beautiful indigenous identities, the same goes for you. You’re so, so loved. 


If you are one of the people that still rags on about trans people, ko wai hoki koe? Get a grip.  


There are many ways that you can support the trans people that surround you. Respect our identities, respect that you may not be able to understand them. 


Honour our names and our pronouns, because we have had to work hard for them. Call out your mates when they start saying transphobic shit. Support gender affirming medical care fundraisers, whether that means sharing them, or donating to them yourself, if you can. Kōrero with us about inclusive tikanga and make an attempt to learn the words we use. With a right-wing government now in charge, it’s time to start engaging politically in support of Takatāpui rights. You might be able to afford to sit back and ignore them, but our community can’t. 


Trans and queer existence is something that spans generations, something that has existed forever and will exist forever in every part of the world, touching every small piece of humanity that continues to endure. That means that trans and queer resistance is something that will have to exist for a long time, too. It’s up to us now to ensure that the future is safe for our Takatāpui rangatahi and beyond. 


He Takatāpui ahau. Kia ora. 


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