The term māhū (intersex, queer, trans, two-spirit) evolved out of traditional and contemporary Hawaiian ideas about gender, sexuality, and the body. Like intersex, queer, and trans, māhū describes a wide range of physical traits, cosmologies, social expressions, and sexualities that challenge and affirm culturally specific expectations that differ from Western culture. This entry discusses the intersections of māhū identification, colonialism, cultural imperialism, Hawaiian sociality, decolonization, and social harmony to contextualize trans indigeneity in Hawaii and the Pacific.

Colonialism and Heteronormativity

In the 1970s, cisgender Hawaiian scholar Mary Kawena Puku’i, one of the foremost experts on traditional Hawaiian culture and knowledge, described māhū as “homosexuals” and “hermaphrodites” while explaining the coexistence of kāne (men), wāhine (women), and māhū (intersex, queer, trans, two-spirit) in ancient Hawaii. However, her description ...

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