Tena koe (Greetings to You)
My name is Peri Te Wao. I am Maori. I am a man who was born into a female body and have spent my entire life struggling
and fighting for (what biological males would most likely take for granted), everyday living. I am proud to be a part of the
Maori trans community.
Maori are whanau-orientated and this means more than just mum, dad and the kids. This incorporates all those who live
within arms reach of that whanau - no one is left out - all people can become a part of a whanau....if you want to. There
is a place for everyone and a sense of having a role to play within the whanau. Knowing you have responsibilities to your
whanau - can make Maori a tight-knit community; quick to close ranks when need be and never losing any battle no matter how
ridiculous it may actually be...all in the name of pride (mana).
But sometimes - issues may arise, that are beyond the knowledge of the whanau - for example, if I were to randomly go
up to a person and ask them about wanting to transition because I feel I am a trans man - you'd be 95% certain that they will
'freak out' because they wouldn't have a clue about what I was talking about.
The same situation applies to those in our whanau - that when one of their own is born a trans person and it comes to
a time when that individual needs to consider fulfilling their destiny - who is there for the 'trans person', and the 'whanau'?
How are they 'all' to cope with a situation that pretty much questions the culture (kawa) of the whanau.
To Maori - Whanau is Everything.
....And so is Pride!
Both of these elements (Whanau & Pride) are questioned when you have a Maori trans person in your whanau.
The simplest and most effective solution for some whanau to 'save face' - is to outcast that person, in order to keep
their pride (mana) strong and not have too many people gossip and ridicule them. Yes - all in the name of pride, some Maori
are cast out! This has great effect on those Maori trans individuals with regard to their own pride (mana), their spirit (wairua)
- the very ingredients that keep us whole.
But the talk, the gossip, the remarks never subside! So why punish the innocent for being true to themselves? Why cover-up
Today - there has been evidence that our elders are realising a true fact. That some very important members of their whanau,
potential candidates for succession, born leaders, true people - are been cast out, leaving gaps in the future of that whanau.
That tells me that however rigid rules and regulations within whanau and within society can be - that sometimes - in order
to ensure there is a continuum, a future - there needs to be less throwing away and more embracing (awhi) of our people no
So I adapted a similar concept into my everyday life. And look where I am today.
I started my journey (from a young age....say 5 years) with no confidence or self esteem throughout my chilhood, teens,
young adult to adult. Right up until that day I looked in the mirror and looked beyond the flesh - I looked within myself.
I was about 30 years of age at that time.
For the first time - I was proud of what I saw. I was very proud of who I was and even where I came from - because it
was my upbringing that gave me strength, tolerance and forgiveness to those who cast doubt on my life. I was proud to hold
my head up high and although some of the paths I chose to walk, were still unpaved - I decided I would help by laying some
foundation paving stones as I went, for others to follow and add to. I was proud to meet some meticulous specialists who were
genuine and just as passionate as I. Together we built bridges for others to walk across. I am proud to meet many different
men from many different leagues, together we have formed a nation!
So I am more about building the person from within, for that man is quite aware of the rest. Together we form a whanau.
For each man, they lead on to become...the man of their house....the rock in their relationships...the reliable son in
the family....the future loved and respected leader in their whanau.
Peri Te Wao
(These are the recollections and views derived from my personal journey. They may not reflect the same views for other
Maori or trans people for that matter. My hope is to shine some light for some people who may be inquiring or who may be looking
for answers or a to simply hear a voice).