Takatāpui unit to help LGBTIQ+ youth launched in Tauranga

8:05 pm on 13 December 2022
Rainbow wristbands in wrists of asian boy couple with blurred background, concept for celebration of lgbtq+ community in pride month or in June around the world.

Concert Kete honours Pride Month Photo: 123RF

A takatāpui unit has been set up beside a Tauranga marae to help rangatahi have "brave conversations" with their whānau.

Ngāi Te Rangi is launching the dedicated unit at Mt Maunganui by Whareroa Marae, which it says will include both external and internal supervisors.

Whakamarurangi Samuels said he recently came out after attending university in Otago, where he felt safe to be himself.

"I met a lot of people who were coming out during their time in Dunedin, it was interesting - and then coming back here, I have noticed that that's not the same."

He said he didn't feel comfortable in Tauranga because of how he saw the LGBTIQ+ community was perceived.

"From what I'd seen growing up, especially within te ao Māori, the poi boys, the little boys who were mean at the poi were always the butt of the jokes. The same without trans, lesbian, gay uncles and aunties.

"I've had many mates who have struggled with coming out, it was the fear of rejection. I think that's for most takatāpui people, and especially for tangata Māori with whanaungatanga being such a big part of our culture.

"The idea of losing that family unit because of who you love, it's scary."

He said he was pleasantly surprised when Ngāi Te Rangi chief executive Paora Stanley approached him with the idea of a takatāpui unit to tautoko Māori in the rainbow community.

He's currently approaching other takatāpui to get their feedback and advice on how they'd like the unit to be run and what services would best help them.

"There's no platform for our takatāpui whanau to voice their opinions to get their stories out," Samuels said. "And from there not being a platform, there's also not a platform for our closeted takatāpui whanau to hear these stories to feel empowered, to feel encouraged."

Stanley said Ngāi Te Rangi plans to spend $100,000 on the new unit, although it's only in its initial stages, with a soft launch this week.

"What I do know, from the outside looking in, is that a lot of gay men - in particular gay boys - kill themselves because they can't have those brave conversations. And so what we're doing first, giving people a strategy about how to have those brave conversations,."

Samuels said if one member of the community is lost, it has a ripple effect throughout their whanau.

"With people who feel rejected from their whanau, not only does it distance them from their family but also from their iwi and hapū, so if we as a rūnanga are able to embrace, save our takatāpui whanau, not only are we saving their lives but we're saving the families.

"And on top of that, we're saving te ao Māori."

Stanley said the unit has full backing from the iwi's public health, social work and leadership team.

"We need to grow up, we need to stop trying to hide that takatāpui people exist, we need to grow up as a tribe. It doesn't mean to be an asshole in terms of other human beings."

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