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Takatāpui is a Te Reo Māori term, which is used similarly to ”rainbow person” or ”rainbow community”, in a similar way to LGBTQI+.

When speaking te reo Māori, the word for LGBTQI+ people is Takatāpui, so one would use this word to refer to both Māori and non-Māori. However, usually only Māori people would call themself Takatāpui when speaking English.

Cultural gender and sexuality concepts

Indigenous terms have no simple translation, because sex and gender are thought about and experienced differently in different cultures. At it’s core, takatāpui is a Māori concept that sits within Māori culture, with it’s own history and wairua, one very different to terms such as LGBTQI+.

Māori culture has traditionally included and celebrated people of all genders, and their relationships to people of any gender. Māori culture includes all Māori people. Despite Aotearoa becoming a Brittish colony in 1840, and the resulting laws and value systems being hostile to takatāpui, tikanga Māori continues to awhi and embrace takatāpui whānau.

There is no direct English translation for many cultural terms for gender, but these are some whakaaro or ideas for thought.

Illustration: Huriana Kopeke-Te Aho, Graphic design Ahi Wi-Hongi

Takatāpui – Māori genders and attractions

Takatāpui is sometimes used more specifically for Māori genders, such as:

Irawhiti – transgender: gender that changes, moves, or crosses over, or is associated with change.
Tāhine – mixed gender, sometimes non-binary: a blend of Tāne and wahine.
Whakawahine – trans woman: to create or be in the manner of a woman.
Whakatāne* – trans man: to create or be in the manner of a man.
Tangata ira tāne – trans man. With the spirit or gender of a man.
Tangata ira wahine – trans woman. With the spirit or gender of a woman.

Takatāpui can be used as a gender of it’s self – Māori transgender not-otherwise-specified. As of 2019, the new kupu ‘Irawhiti’ specifies transgender specifically, so we are seeing a move toward using irawhiti or irawhiti takatāpui to replace the more generic takatāpui for transgender identities.

Takatāpui is also used more specifically for Māori attractions or sexual orientations, along the lines of lesbian, bisexual, queer, gay, pansexual, etc.

Takatāpui originally meant an intimate companion of the same gender – as in the story of Tūtānekai and Tiki. Tūtānekai married Hinemoa, and his close relationship with Tiki was not necessarily a rainbow relationship, however contemporary use of Takatāpui most often refers to tāne moe tāne or wahine moe wahine; men who sleep with men and women who sleep with women.

* Note: the original use of Whakatāne was ‘in the manner of a man’, as with the naming of the town Whakatāne. The town is not named after transgender men.

Further info about Takatāpui

You can read more about takatāpui and download some great resources by clicking the button below.


He Kākano Ahau | Decolonising Gender & Sexuality In Wellington City

Takatāpui – Part of the Whānau

Tū Mai Takatāpui

Whānau rejection drives takatāpui away from culture – study

Ahakoa Te Aha Kapa Haka Group

He Takatāpui Noa Ahau

LGBTQI+ Aotearoa Then & Now Documentary [Recommended Version]