Mana Magazine, February 6, 2014
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It’s not surprising that Hawai’i Republicans dipped into some culture bashing in their most recent rhetoric.
Basically the story concerns the curriculum developed by the Hawaii Department of Education and the University of Hawai’i to combat teen pregnancy and STI transmission by giving the young people there accurate information in order to make informed choices about their sexual health. The name for the program is Pono Choices. A rough english translation of the concept Pono is “righteousness,” but with deeper culturally and spiritual connotations involving living in harmony, balance, and unity.
The core concept is that it is not who you are that puts you at risk; it is what you do.
Republicans Sam Slom and Bob McDermott slammed the program because it “robbed children of their innocence” even though they have refused to participate in an orientation session and so know little about it.
The Department of Education reviewed the program and concluded:
Our review not only affirmed that the curriculum meets department standards, but it also showed that Pono Choices is a culturally responsive curriculum that has resulted in positive outcomes for students … [such as] more youth abstaining from sex and less teen pregnancy and STI transmission.
So, like always seems to happen when these folks lose, they turned to personal attacks. Their two main targets are transgender people. Kim Coco Iwamoto is the commissioner of the Hawai’i Civil Rights Commission, a transgender woman who served two previous terms on the Hawai’i Board of Education. But the more direct target has been Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, a Native Hawaiian teacher, cultural practitioner, and community leader who is māhū, the native Hawaiian traditional transgender identity. Mrs. Wong-Kalu chairs the O’ahu Island Burial Council, among other responsibilities and often opens important Hawaiian events with Native Hawaiian chants. She is affectionately known as Kumu Hina by her students.
She appears briefly in one of the video episodes included in the program.
In an attack piece by Tito Montes of the Hawaii Republican Assembly, Mrs. Wong-Kalu is referred to as “him.” despite evidence to the contrary and having legal status as a married woman. She is referred to as a “transvestite drag queen.”
Ironically, the take-home message from the video is hardly controversial: You get HIV from not being safe. But the language from the Republican Assembly makes it clear that their real concern has nothing to do with sex education. What they hate is the very existence of LGBT people.
by Wayne Harada - Honolulu Star-Advertiser - Aug. 27, 2013:
“Kumu Hina,” a film about a transgender Native Hawaiian teacher and cultural leader, has been green-lit by national public television funders Pacific Islanders in Communications and ITVS (Independent Television Service).
Thus, the Pacific mahu, or transgender, culture commonly accepted in Hawaii and the Pacific Islands, will receive vast exposure for the first time.
The film’s key character, Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, pictured, is a graduate of Kamehameha Schools who transitioned from male to female more than 20 years ago. Now, she is a respected and beloved kumu and cultural scholar at Halau Lokahi, a Hawaiian values-based Public Charter School in Honolulu, where she employs her cultural grounding to empower students to be who they are and know that in Hawaii there is a welcoming “place in the middle” for everyone.
The film, two years in the making, is by the Emmy-winning Oahu-based producing team of Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, who decided to focus on the widespread and commonly known community of the mahu to magnify the acceptance of this culture in a world today filled with prejudice and discrimination if you’re different.
“ ‘Kumu Hina’s’ message of aloha — unconditional acceptance and respect for all — is timely and sorely needed,” said Hamer.
“Told through Hina’s very moving personal and Hawaiian perspective,” said Wilson.
At a time when there is rampant discrimination against gender noncomforming people, the filmmakers hope the documentary will ultimately reverse hate to acceptance.
“The film has great potential to inspire and help audiences see themselves, their families, schools and communities, in powerful new ways – and to ensure that no one, particularly younger people, faces harassment, discrimination or violence simply because they don’t conform to modern society’s gender norms,” said Wilson.
In the movie, Hina inspires a tomboyish young girl to fight for her place as leader of the school’s all-male hula troupe as she herself takes a chance at happiness when she marries an unpredictable young Tongan man who is having difficulty adjusting to life in modern Honolulu.
“We are so grateful to be able to support this project in hopes that it will bring understanding, acceptance, and enlightenment to all who view it,” said Leanne Ferrer, executive director of Pacific Islanders in Communications, based in Honolulu.
“Kumu Hina” will premiere in film festivals in early 2014 and be telecast on national public television in 2015.
The project’s team includes co-producer Connie M. Florez, musical score composer Makana, and writer-narraor Leonelle Akana.
Dec. 2, 2013: Today, Kumu Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu announced her bid to serve as a Trustee on the Board of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, a semi-autonomous entity of the state of Hawai’i charged with the administration of 1.8 million acres of royal land held in trust for the benefit of native Hawaiians. Created by the 1978 Hawai’i State Constitutional Convention, native Hawaiians were given the right for the first time through the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to make their own decisions as to investment of ceded lands and the collection of revenue generated by those lands to fund programs for the people. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is considered the most influential arm of the larger Hawaiian sovereignty movement that inspired its creation.
Kumu Hina’s statement:
"Aloha mai kakou to friends and family.
It is with a very humble heart and great honor to proceed forward with my desire to serve our Hawaiian community by aspiring to the Board of Trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. I believe that by serving our Hawaiian community and working towards empowering our native people that we can help to create a healthier Hawai’i for not only our Kanaka Maoli but also our Poe Malihini.
Once again I look forward to securing your confidence in me to be a leader for our Hawaiian community in a way to even more so impact us in positive and productive ways for a pono and bright Hawai’i.
Aloha nui to all of you and mahalo for supporting me.”
by Dean Hamer & Joe Wilson, Directors of KUMU HINA - Nov. 18, 2013:
Over the past few weeks the opponents of marriage equality in Hawai’i have repeatedly and vociferously claimed that they support “traditional marriage,” meaning a union of one man and one woman, and that the “gay lifestyle” is a Western import.
As State Sen. Gilbert Kahele, a native Hawaiian from Miloli’i on the Island of Hawai’i, recalled in a remarkable speech in support of the marriage equality bill that was then being discussed in a special legislative session, same-sex relationships between both men and women were not only accepted in Hawai’i but “part of the very fabric of Hawaiian history.”
Indeed, the ship journals of Captain Cook, the first European to arrive in Hawai’i, recorded that all the kings of the islands had aikāne, or same-sex partners, and that chief Kalanikoa of Kaua’i even asked if one of the European sailors would become his lover — an honor for which he offered to pay six pigs. And when the great King Kamehameha, uniter of all Hawai’i, boarded Cookʻs ship, he brought aboard his aikāne, leaving his wives at home.
The “T” in LGBT also has its place in Hawaiian history: the māhū, or those blessed with both male and female characteristics. If you visit Waikiki Beach, make sure to stop by the healing stones of Kapaemahu, four basalt boulders that carry the mana, or healing powers, brought by māhū soothsayers who traveled here from Tahiti many centuries ago.
And so it was only right and fitting that the governor’s signing ceremony for the Hawai’i marriage equality act started off with a beautiful oli (chant) by Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, or “Kumu Hina,” a native Hawaiian teacher and cultural expert who also just happens to be māhūwahine (a transgender woman).
While you might expect an ancient, traditional chant in such a setting, youʻll soon recognize that it is an original composition, making specific reference to aikāne and māhū, words that audience members recognized immediately.
That’s what is so wonderful about Hawai’i. Despite 200 years of colonization and repression, the ancient traditions and beliefs live on and are incorporated into modern institutions and everyday life.
So it will be with marriage as the state embraces the true traditional spirit of aloha — unconditional acceptance and respect for all — even as it continues to struggle with troublesome Western imports such as religion-based discrimination.
Greetings from Kumu Hina’s Hawai’i,
Just two years ago, we began the making of KUMU HINA, a film about Hina Wong-Kalu, an extraordinary Native Hawaiian teacher, or kumu, and cultural leader who happens to be mahu, the Hawaiian term for those who embrace both masculine and feminine traits.
The experience was magical, capturing the ups and downs of Hina’s first-year of marriage to an unpredictable Tongan man and her inspiring mentorship of a young girl whose dream was to lead their schoolʻs all-male hula troupe.
The result is a provocative and inspiring glimpse of a Hawai’i rarely seen by outsiders, and a land in which there is unconditional acceptance and respect for all — what Kumu Hina calls “the true meaning of aloha.”
As the film’s 2014 world premiere approaches (to be announced soon), we’re also getting ready to launch a dynamic engagement campaign to share Kumu Hinaʻs message with the world!
A hint of just how powerful this experience will be occurred over the past few weeks amidst Hawai’i’s contentious debate over marriage equality.
As opponents and supporters fought tooth and nail, Kumu Hina published an Op-Ed in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that profoundly changed the discourse. Rather than make arguments from a Western mindset, she offered an historical perspective on gender and sexuality in Hawai’i that opened the door to what State Senator Gil Kahele called in an extraordinary speech on the Senate floor, “a full and honest renaissance of pre-Christian Hawai’i’s history.”
As the legislative battle continued, Kumu Hina became a prominent symbol of hope, and helped position Hawaiian culture as the guiding force for progress and unity in the islands. Upon passage of the Marriage Equality Act, Gov. Neil Abercrombie invited her to deliver the opening chant at the Signing Ceremony, where there was not a dry eye in the house.
A few highlights from these events are included here, a sign of whatʻs to come with the KUMU HINA film and campaign in the year ahead. We hope you’ll join us on the journey.
Joe Wilson & Dean Hamer
KUMU HINA Producers/Directors
by Derrick DePledge - Honolulu Star-Advertiser - Nov. 14, 2013:
Gov. Neil Abercrombie, weaving marriage equality into Hawaii’s definition of aloha and religious liberty into the nation’s rich tradition of freedom, signed a bill into law on Wednesday granting gay and lesbian couples in the islands the right to marry.
In an emotional celebration at the Hawai‘i Convention Center’s Liliu Theater, opened with a chant by Hawaiian Cultural Leader Kumu Hina Wong-Kalu, the Democratic governor made Hawaii the 15th state plus the District of Columbia to approve gay marriage.
Abercrombie described the law, which balances equal rights for gay couples with a religious exemption so clergy and churches can refuse gay weddings, the “epitome of the First Amendment in action.”
The governor had pulled the state Legislature into a rare special session to respond to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June that legally married gay couples are entitled to federal benefits. Gay couples in Hawaii have been able to enjoy all the rights and benefits of marriage under state law through civil unions, but are unable to obtain federal benefits until they can marry.
Abercrombie invoked the words that he and his wife, Nancie Caraway, found under a picture of Queen Liliuokalani at Washington Place: “If we could but see our likenesses, could we not learn to be tolerant of our differences?”
Choking back tears, the governor read a personal note from a family friend who he said had spent her life feeling marginalized and waiting for equality: “Finally — today, now — all those who have been invisible, will be visible to themselves and the whole world.”
Abercrombie said he would give the koa pen he used to sign the law to Steven Levinson, a retired associate justice of the state Supreme Court, who in 1993 wrote the Baehr v. Lewin decision that held that denying marriage licenses to gay couples was a violation of equal protection under the state Constitution.
By Gordan Y.K. Pang - Nov. 6, 2013:
The head of Hawaii’s police officers union said he is standing by his opposition to the same-sex marriage bill and other comments he made before a legislative committee Monday despite the charge by a gay Honolulu police officer who said the actions cast a shadow over the Police Department’s integrity when dealing with the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.
Tenari Ma’afala, president of the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, told a joint House committee that he does not oppose the gay lifestyle, but is against same-sex marriage. “I stand by my beliefs,” the longtime New Hope Oahu Church member said. “I’m not going to let any man, woman or child tell me how to believe, how to pray and how to live my lifestyle.”
A 24-year officer, Ma’afala said he will continue to uphold the law as long as he is a police officer but warned that when he retires, he may become a “lawbreaker” if the same-sex marriage bill becomes law. “From a law enforcement, law-abiding citizen, you would turn me into a lawbreaker,” he said.
"The bottom line is this: The day I retire and bills like this are introduced, I will never, ever honor such law," Ma’afala continued. "You would have to kill me to disrespect and dishonor my father in heaven. You would have to kill me to impose these types of laws upon my children, my nieces and my nephews, that’s what I’m saying."
But police Cpl. John Zeuzheim, a 13-year veteran who is openly gay and testified for the bill, said in an email sent to the news media he believes Ma’afala was out of line in making his comments and “singlehandedly destroyed any trust” between police officers and the LGBTcommunity.
Zeuzheim, in the email to HPD Chief Louis Kealoha and Ma’afala, said LGBT community members have voiced concerns to him about their distrust of police officers in their dealings with them. “Ihave tried to convince members of this community that Honolulu Police Department truly acts with Integrity, Respect and Fairness,” he wrote, citing HPD’s motto.
But Zeuzheim said the decision by Ma’afala, SHOPO’s high-profile leader the last 12 years, to testify against the bill and the comments he made undermines that trust, even if he tried to make it clear he was speaking on his own behalf, not that of the union or HPD officers.
Asked at a news media availability Tuesday afternoon to clarify his comments, Ma’afala said he would leave his youngest daughter, who is still in secondary school, home from class if the lessons of the day are to include teaching about the homosexual lifestyle.
School Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said in a news release Tuesday afternoon that “for the record, the (Department of Education) does not have marriage as a lesson in its curriculum”and that students are taught “how to treat each other with respect and aloha.”
Ma’afala said that as a retiree, he would also strongly oppose any laws that would force a church to perform gay marriages if doing so would run against its teachings.
Ma’afala went as far as to say that he may retire sooner if the same-sex bill and related bills become law.
Zeuzheim said even if Ma’afala insists he will uphold the law until he retires, “if someone is so vehemently opposed to a law that you would have to kill him before he would uphold it, that would overwhelm the weaker statement that he believes he must do his duty as an officer first.”
Zeuzheim, in his email, called on HPD to “put out a clear statement indicating Tenari’s statements do not reflect the sentiments of our department or all of its officers.”
Kealoha, in a three-paragraph statement, said HPD does not have a position on same-sex marriage and does not consider it a law enforcement issue.
HPD employees are free to express their opinions as private individuals, he said.
Asked by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser for comment, Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, a kumu hula and teacher at a Hawaiian charter school who is māhū wahine (transgender), said she agrees with Zeuzheim that Ma’afala’s comments may foster distrust in the community.
Wong-Kalu said that is especially true among those in the LGBT community who have had negative experiences with officers, adding that she felt discriminated against when she sought help from officers during an emergency years ago.
Tenari Ma’afala, head of the police officers union, has come under fire for his testimony Monday against the same-sex marriage bill at the state House.
by Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu - (KUMU HINA) - Nov. 3, 2013:
Hawai‘i: the land of aloha, land of happy people and the melting pot of the Pacific, gateway to Paradise. These are misnomers delineating the misconceptions that helped to put a romanticized Hawai‘i on to the map of foreign control and domination.
Our own native people have now embraced foreign doctrines, principle and practice that they know not of their own, and if they do, they relegate it to an inferior position to that which was introduced.
Hawai‘i has undergone massive transformation at the hands of malihini (malihini - Stranger, foreigner, newcomer, tourist, guest, company; one unfamiliar with a place or custom; new, unfamiliar, unusual, rare, introduced, of foreign origin; for the first time) and now even our own kanaka maoli are in essence malihini in our homeland, our Mainland, our ancestral inheritance.
The po‘e haole (haole - White person, American, Englishman, Caucasian; American, English; formerly, any foreigner; foreign, introduced, of foreign origin, as plants, pigs, chickens; entirely white. ʻĀina haole, foreign land. ʻŌlelo haole, European language, especially English. Hoʻo haole To act like a white person, to ape the white people, or assume airs of superiority [often said disparagingly, especially of half-whites]. Hoʻohaole ʻia, Americanized, Europeanized; to have become like a white person or have adopted the ways of a white man) are not always the enemy. Both Kanaka Maoli and Haole lahui are of good and bad stocks of people.
Now in these modern times we the people of Hawai‘i are continuously subject to a disparagingly overwhelming amount of contradictions that inundates our homes, communities, place of business/employ, news and social media that inflicts our minds and hearts with hurt and confusion.
Pehea la e pono ai, how will all of this be reconciled and peace restored to paradise?
Our own system of Mō’ī, of ali’i nui and ali’i ʻaimoku, our concept of ali’i pi’o (product of a brother and sister of one set of parents and the highest ranking of chiefly status), ali’i naha (product of brothers and sisters that descended from either a different mother or a different father) and ali’i wohi (product of cousins of the same lineage) are now all relics of the past.
Kanaka maoli who have come out in support of traditional marriage as between one man and one woman are actually capitalizing on their cultural and ethnic heritage to promote the malihini religion and philosophy. These contradictions and inconsistencies grow even further as we see that in a democratic political system that to a certain degree now tries to avoid prosecution for favoring one religion over another is attacked, bombarded and plagued by zealots of Christian faith while in essence utilizing the very same political system that enables them to be free in their Christian practice and beliefs. This has no regard for a world of many nations, many faiths and beliefs, and many differing philosophies.
In a democratic context the ideal is that all benefit from the freedoms that enable one simultaneously protecting and benefitting another and vice versa.
How can those of us here in Hawai‘i, those of us who are māhū (the physical hermaphrodite, as well as the homosexual; also the male whom assimilates his manner and dress to that of a woman and likewise if a womanʻs perspective recorded history and its definitions then the woman whom assimilates her manner to that of a man; ex: Kauholanuiamāhū most prominent in historical reference as well as Kapaemāhū, Kahaloa, Kapuni, and Kinohi the famed healers acknowledged as māhū from the ancestral lands of Kahiki), those whom are in Noho Aikāne households (aikāne - An intimate friend of the same sex; a friend or companion of the same sex; To cohabit, as male with male, or female with female of whom there are countless examples such as Hi’iakaikapoliopele, Pā’ūopalai, Wahine’ōma’o, ‘Umialiloa, Kamehameha, Kamehameha II (Liholiho) and many others) how can we denounce the heritage of the stock of whom we descend while simultaneously trampling upon the legacy of a once highly civilized and intelligent people?
Hawaiian culture was not only advanced in thinking and philosphy, but highly sophisticated, replete with the technological advance to cultivate and maintain one of the largest land bases in the Pacific ocean with some of the highest crop yields, fish farming and subsequent healthy populations of people.
Hawai’i and its land tenure system, its religion and spiritual implementation, philosophical practices of its people, its political system of checks and balances provided for a society of sophistication and advance.
Upon the coming of foreigners, these same malihini now superimpose upon us the very ills of their own ethnic profiles and histories. Malihini claimed our people practiced infanticide yet cannot cite clear historical reference that this was acceptable and common, furthermore if something was so prevalent this should be indicated by a term for this specific practice.
The same methodology refuting the societal acceptance of māhū, aikāne and other currently deplorable concepts is made by foreigners against our native culture despite clear evidence from history and tradition prior to the imposition of Christian disciplines that degrades said concepts as despicable while it is clear fact that Māhū is a known and understood concept extending beyond Hawai‘i to include what we now know as Tahiti and the rest of the Society Islands, Nukuhiva and the rest of the Marquesas group to name a few.
The concepts that are articulated here do have their places or cognates in other Polynesian island groups yet the legacy of this widespread and great history and culture is spat upon by its own peoples.
The great historical names of Kanaloa/Tanaloa/Ta’aroa/Tangaloa/Tana’oa as well as Kū/Tū, Kāne/Tāne, and Lono along with Maui and Hina are all a part of the rich heritage and history of our people of the Moana Nui that malihini call the Pacific.
Nobody can dispute that all societies have elements of their communal fabric that are both favorable and not. Nobody can dispute that societies of the world require male and female unions to procreate. Nobody can dispute that Hawai‘i is now a place called home by many, both native and non-native.
Why, though, is it so difficult for our own native sons and daughters to reconcile the very elements of our culture, history and philosophy when they take such great pride in proclaiming their beliefs based not upon the integrity of their own culture, but on the conglomerated diaspora and inconsistencies contradictory to the very aloha they profess to uphold and honor?
I take great offense to those who use Aloha in vain, in the same way some Christians are offended by those who would use Godʻs name in vain.
by Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu - Oct. 30, 2013:
The debate over marriage equality in Hawaii has created much tension and division in our communities. It is time for Hawaiians who have been silent for so long on this issue to raise our voices against the parasitic capitalization of our culture, history, language and philosophy by those who continue to compromise, convolute and decimate us even beyond what has already been accomplished at the hands of the colonizers.
Kanaka Maoli have been conditioned for so long to think and act like foreigners that we have allowed the meaning and intent of our words, traditions and philosophies to be replaced by neo-Christian beliefs and used to further a Western political agenda on our islands.
This has become evident over the past weeks as many of my fellow Kanaka Maoli wave signs on the streets or speak on TV to insist on “traditional marriage” as a way to protect “ohana values.” In truth, pre-contact Hawaiians would have scoffed at the simplistic view of marriage as “the union of one man and one woman,” and their family arrangements often included and even depended upon relatives in same-sex relationships.
In pre-contact times, ohana was far more extensive than the Western nuclear family. They included kupuna and their siblings and cousins, makua and their siblings and cousins, children and grandchildren and all other cousins and distant and hanai relations. Our people lived in a format employing kauhale, where multigenerational and latitudinal families gathered together. Western missionaries thought us barbaric and labeled us heathens, but our extended families took care of the whole ohana.
Our people also embraced mahu (those who embody both kane and wahine ability, insight, feeling and spirit all rolled up into one body), aikane (those involved with intimate relations of the same sex), punalua (those men and women who had multiple partners of the opposite sex), and, of course, poolua children (a child with more than one father figure and the ability to claim more than one genealogy). Such people and relationships were not just “tolerated,” as in the current neo-Christian dogma, they were an intrinsic part of the social fabric.
In these challenging times, convoluted views of our native culture are being appropriated for other purposes. Hawaiians need to be consistent. Choose your water source and stay there. If you would like to drink the holy water from the Christian chalice, then that is your choice. If you would like to drink from the punawai of the wai a kane, then that, too, is yours to pursue. The problem occurs when Hawaiians want to have it both ways, drawing water from the wai a kane to further the goals of Christianity, enabling its proselytizers to continue perpetuating the wrongs of the past.
Wake up, kanaka maoli! If you support the Westernized Christian view of marriage, then so be it — but please don’t pretend that your choice has anything to do with Hawaiian thought or values. You have joined the ranks of the ones without a culture, without a language and without a soul, those our ancestors called haole. You require your soul’s mana to come from a completely outside source and have no wherewithal to find that source of life within. You would relegate our people to nothing but mere shells along the seashore, damaged by those who trample upon their fragile beauty because they want to walk in paradise.
I speak on behalf of mahu and those in aikane relationships who are too afraid, too shy or unable to articulate their profound connection to the true native concept of Hawaii — an inclusive society that unconditionally accepts, respects and loves all people, and that values the full and wondrous diversity of our relationships and families.