Identify as Takatāpui? Know someone else who does? Never heard of the phrase in your life? Wherever you’re at, that’s the focus of this article.

According to Elizabeth Kerekere’s resource Takatāpui, Part of the Whanau, (which is where the majority of this information is coming from) Takatāpui is “a traditional term meaning ‘intimate companion of the same sex.’” It has “been reclaimed to embrace all Māori who identify with diverse genders and sexualities, such as whakawāhine, tangata ira tāne, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer.”

This term includes all Māori who have different gender identities and sexualities. This is important as many Takatāpui struggle to figure out how their role as a member of the rainbow community lines up with their identity as being Māori. It deconstructs the idea that they have to choose between the two different identities, of being queer and being Māori, and allows them to be both.

So how does being a member of the rainbow community tie in with being Māori? While a lot of Pakeha may have a westernised view on sexuality and gender diversity, many Māori have different ways of looking at things and how they view the range of identities. Māori source their identity through whakapapa; generations of their ancestors. For this reason, many Takatāpui look for their ancestors who were Takatāpui, in a way of connecting to the past, which allows them to challenge the prejudice they face in the present.

For example, many Takatāpui believe that Tipua, supernatural creatures who were able to change gender or form, can be seen in Takatāpui today who aren’t cisgender. (That means not identifying with the gender they were assigned at birth.)

As Māori, Takatāpui believe their mana (power or influence) comes from Atua, the gods, and that they are born with the mana from their whakapapa, as well as gaining mana throughout life as a result of achievements and actions. Takatāpui combine their respective mana to uplift the mana of the Takatāpui community, and together fight against discrimination and prejudice, as well as promoting knowledge for the wellbeing of the community.

It is important to acknowledge that before the British colonisation of New Zealand, Māori did not punish anyone who was involved in same sex relations or who appeared to be non-conforming. This is known from court proceedings, diary records and colonial records from the 1700s onwards.

The attitudes brought by the British would forever change how New Zealanders viewed sexuality. This can be seen in the attitudes many New Zealanders hold today, not to mention the fact that male homosexuality was a criminal offence in New Zealand until 1986. (Female homosexuality, whilst heavily frowned upon, has never been illegal.)

So while not every whanau is accepting of Takatāpui, likely due to the influence of the British justice system and perspective still making an impact in our present society, Takatāpui are fighting to change this with education and support.

That being said, if you know someone who identifies as Takatāpui, it’s important to do all you can to help. If you’ve been entrusted with this information and the person isn’t “out” to everyone, please respect their wishes. It can be incredibly damaging to the person if you don’t. 

If you yourself identify as Takatāpui, be proud. You have two special identities and should understand that you don’t have to pick one over the other. You should also know that being a member of the rainbow community doesn’t make you any less of a person. While it may be difficult coming out to a less than supportive whanau, a good place to start is picking one person you trust and talking to them about what they could do to make you feel more comfortable.

For more information, take a look at this PDF resource or check out the video below:

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