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The Meaning of Mahu

4.5 ·

Mahu is the Hawaiian term for people who embody both male and female spirit - or what Westerners call transgender.  This animated scene from the PBS/Independent Lens film "KUMU HINA - A Place in the Middle"- describes how early Hawaiians valued and respected māhū as healers, caretakers, and teachers of ancient tradition. When Christian missionaries arrived in the 1800s, they failed to comprehend the spiritual and cultural significance of māhū and did everything they could to abolish them. But despite 200 years of colonization and repression, Hawaiians have retained their respect for gender diversity, and people “in the middle” continue to play an important and visible role in modern Hawaiian society.  

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There is a map of gender diversity around the world at

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