Irawhiti – Unframed Print


The contemporary te reo Māori word for transgender people is ‘irawhiti’. This is an umbrella word and can be used by transgender women, transgender men: including those with binary and non-binary genders and some intersex people. Those who were born with the wairua (spirit) of a gender different to the one they were assigned at birth may call themselves ‘irawhiti’ (with a gender that changes or is associated with change), ‘whakawāhine’ (creating or becoming a woman), ‘tangata ira tāne’(a person with the spirit or gender of a man), or one of a number of other terms. ‘Ira kore’ is the term used by those who don’t identify with any gender.

Our tūpuna who had fluid genders or sexuality have traditionally been an accepted part of Māori and Pasifika societies long before Pākehā (Europeans) came to Aotearoa. We know this from mōteatea, waiata, karakia and whakairo (traditional chants, songs, incantations and carvings). In modern times, trans people in some Pacific countries have been able to change their gender on legal documents and access gender-affirming healthcare, but in some countries acceptance does not extend to legal protections.

Printed digital art by artist Neisha Wilson-Hita

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