18 Nov 2014

Tough time still for some takatāpui

8:22 pm on 18 November 2014

A lack of acceptance from whānau is driving some queer Māori, or takatāpui, away from their culture, according to researcher Elizabeth Kerekere.

Elizabeth Kere

Elizabeth Kerekere worked with takatāpui through kapa haka and tikanga Māori. Photo: Eastern Institute of Technology

Takatāpui describes an intimate partner of the same sex, and encompasses all tāngata whenua who do not conform to traditional sex and gender roles.

Ms Kerekere chairs the Tiwhanawhana Trust, which works with takatāpui through kapa haka and tikanga Māori.

As part of her PHD research at Victoria University, she looked at what being takatāpui meant in contemporary culture.

Many iwi welcomed queer whānau with open arms but others were not so quick to accept, she said.

"Ranging from telling them: 'You're only young, you don't know what you're talking about', to 'Get out of my house - you're not my daughter anymore, you're not my son'."

Ms Kerekere believed that rejection was leading some Māori to disengage from tikanga.

"If it's not comfortable going home, you don't go back to your marae. A place like Tiwhanawhana is a place where you can come and just have that Māori support."

Ngahuia Te Awekotuku

Ngahuia Te Awekotuku Photo: Government House

Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, a founding member of Aotearoa's gay liberation movement and an academic at Waikato University, said takatāpui had always been a part of Māori society, as seen in historic artwork and literature.

With homosexual reform, civil unions and gay marriage, queer people were making strides for equality but takatāpui still had it tough, she said.

"For the working class, for the poor, for Māori, we are still vulnerable to Christian condemnation, we are still vulnerable to community hatred. We live in a different world."

In April last year, Parliament passed the Marriage Amendment Bill legalising same-sex marriage by 77 votes to 44.

Labour MP Louisa Wall sponsored the bill and said the law change has encouraged whanau to accept takatāpui.

"The bill has made it a lot easier for families to be really honest and up-front about members of their families and communities who are non-heterosexual."

More than 200 takatāpui people and their whānau attended a hui in the Waikato region this month. Chairperson David Kukutai Jones said these meetings helped to give takatāpui visibility at a time when some people still considered them a product of Pākehā arrival in Aotearoa.

"Religion and authority and legislation, and all that sort of stuff, as well as those local colonising impacts on Māori-Takatāpui have been sort of wiped out."

Mr Kukutai Jones and other takatāpui advocates hoped that sense of community and ongoing education would bring down the disproportionately high Māori suicide rate.

Coronial figures show the rate is 40 percent higher than that of non-Māori. The data suggests 18 tāngata whenua compared to 13 non-Māori per 100,000 people.

Labour's Louisa Wall (at podium) with supporting MPs after the vote on Wednesday.

Louisa Wall (at podium) with supporting MPs after the Marriage Amendment Bill was passed in April last year. Photo: RNZ

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