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Tamihere "missed the boat" on takataapui

Tue 28 Feb 2006 In: New Zealand Daily News

John Tamihere has missed the boat if he wants to "discuss" glbt Maori identifying as "takataapui", says AIDS Foundation chair Jeremy Lambert, because the word has been in use for years. "For John to get all upset about it now perhaps shows how out of touch he is with Maori communities," he says. The former Labour MP said he was offended by a new AIDS Foundation campaign launched last Sunday which features gay Maori warriors performing a haka under the heading Toa Takataapui – Gay Warriors For Safe Sex. Tamihere feels there should have been a discussion before the gay community "commandeered" Maori culture and the word "takataapui" for their own agenda. AIDS Foundation chair Jeremy Lambert, who himself identifies as takataapui, is somewhat bemused by the comments. "It's rather strange that at this late stage John is trying to create what he calls a conversation about it, when in fact it's already been done. He's missed the boat," he says. "Gay and lesbian Maori communities exist, and John Tamihere is somewhat remarkable in the fact that he's only just found out, and we've chosen to term ourselves with a Maori word, which we've reclaimed. That happened about twenty years ago now, as far as I know." Tamihere feels the word "takataapui", which means "intimate companion of the same sex", has never had any associations with homosexuality, which he says bears "absolutely no resemblence" to how Maori have conducted themselves in the past. Lambert says attitudes like these show why the Foundation's Hau Ora Takataapui programme is so important, "simply to try and combat some of this quite ingrained heterosexism/homophobia that runs through our Maori communities. This is exactly what our workers who go into marae are facing on a regular basis." Lambert says that glbt Maori did exist in pre-colonial times, and there is literature to prove it. "But at the end of the day, isn't this just about words? What is more concerning to me is deep inset homophobia which runs through his comments. He's saying you can't be Maori and gay, let alone call yourself a Maori word. That's what runs through all of this. This is the stigma and discrimination that our team is dealing with. I think John's done us a favour in terms of showing exactly the battle that the Hau Ora Takataapui team has been going through." Despite over-representation and negative outcomes in many health statistics, Maori are not over-represented in the HIV numbers, and Lambert says this is a phenomenal complement to the work of the Hau Ora Takataapui team. "But we can't take our eye off the ball," he says. "There is prejudice in all communities, and we've just been shown that in quite a vivid way over the last couple of days."    

Credit: News Staff

First published: Tuesday, 28th February 2006 - 12:00pm

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