New Transgender Advocacy Group: Te Rākei Whakaehu


Te Rākei Whakaehu is a newly-established transgender advocacy network based in the Waikato rohe.

How we came into being

Te Rākei Whakaehu’s Manawaroa Te Wao, and friends at King Tuheitia’s 9th Koroneihana, Turangawaewae Marae, Ngāruawāhia

Te Rākei Whakaehu’s Manawaroa Te Wao, and friends at King Tuheitia’s 9th Koroneihana, Turangawaewae Marae, Ngāruawāhia

We formed in response to kōrero at the 2014 Hui Takataapui, held at Te Papa-o-Rotu marae in Whatawhata where it became glaringly apparent that positive life-pathways for trans people, in particular trans people who are also Māori, have remained hidden; over the past three decades, structural and social norms have been slow to affirm our presence. Rigid ideas about sexuality and gender have relegated us to the peripheries of all margins, to the extent that we are almost invisible, to others and often even ourselves. Exculsion limits our ability to stand and be proud in our bodies, and as a result of entrenched stigmas we suffer myriad discriminations and micro-aggressions. And yet, we are here and we are beautiful.

The meaning of our name

Te Rākei Whakaehu metaphorically translates as ‘the adornment of diversity – thoughts, actions and dreams’, and in this regard, we are assertive about the use of Kaupapa Māori knowledge to collectively assist each other. We have four foundational objectives which intend to network and connect those who identify as trans and Māori; to advocate on behalf of trans and Māori people to achieve positive lived realities; to educate ourselves, our families, communities and healthcare professionals about ways to repectfully value us, and; to develop a research capacity that can serve our needs, so that we are no longer invisible nor silenced.

Who’s on board

trw-performanceOur board members are Manawaroa Te Wao, Grace Falwasser, Timoti Daymond, Nanu Turner-Sarah and Tawhanga Nopera. Manawaroa our Kuia is a stalwart of her marae, Te Papa-o-Rotu. She was central to organising and hosting the 2014 Hui Takataapui and recently organised drag performances at the Koroneihana at Turangawaewae marae. Our Secretary Grace, although quite young, has been an active trans advocate for some time; supporting transgender sex industry workers throughout the motu. Timoti is our Treasurer and with a business degree from the University of Waikato, is an entrepreneur focused on providing development solutions for small businesses. Nanu our Co-Secretary is a performer and Whakarewarewa guide at Te Puia. Over the past decade, Nanu has been a vibrant advocate for queer rangatahi in the Rotorua region. Also from Rotorua is our Chairperson Tawhanga, a digital and perfomance artist and academic. Tawhanga is passionate about raranga and uses it as a theoretical framework to empower.

Our workplan

Our Trust has been grateful for support from the Ministry of Health and Ara Taiohi. In particular, Te Rākei Whakaehu are extremely appreciative of the assistance given by Te Whāriki Takapou (formerly Te Puāwai Tapu), whom without, we would not have been able to even begin our mahi. Our priorities for the coming year are to build our network and create a website which will operate as a one-stop-shop for trans people seeking support and information. Until then, we look forward to our upcoming presentation at the New Zealand Sexual Health Society conference in Taupo. We hope to see you there.