Film honors gender fluidity
March 13, 2017
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Several on-campus groups celebrated this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8 with various discussions and activities.
The Bread and Roses Center of the Department of Women’s Studies hosted a film screening of “Kuma Hina” from 5 – 7 p.m in San Diego State’s Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center.
The film was part of a transgressive sexualities event, “Native American Fluidity: from Colonial Eradication to the Two-Spirit Movement,” put on to honor transgender women on International Women’s Day.
The event was also co-sponsored by American Indian Studies and the Pride Center.
“Kuma Hina” specifically examines the life of Hina Wong-Kalu, a native Hawaiian teacher and “mahu” – one who embodies both the male and female spirit.
Wong-Kalu was born a male, but embraces the identity and spirit of a woman.
As a teacher, she said she tries to teach her students what “aloha” means in regards to how to treat others who may be different from them.
Wong-Kalu is open to her students about being transgender so that they can understand the idea of gender fluidity.
Gender fluidity is the idea that gender is not always defined as just male or female.
Especially in the Native American and Hawaiian culture, the meaning of gender is different from other cultures.
Wong-Kalu has boys and girls do activities that are stereotypically known to be done separately.
For example, boys participate in hula and yoga classes, activities that most adolescent girls participate in but few boys do.
In the Hawaiian culture, boys typically sing Hawaiian songs because the deepness of their voices is popular in Hawaiian music.
Wong-Kalu has girls participate in singing.
She says she does this because she wants her students to feel accepted and to be able to do all the things that boys and girls do.
“I think more teachers should have their students participate in different activities like she does in the film,” business junior Donny Chen, who attended the event, said. “It’s important to teach kids from a young age that it’s okay to be a girl and do ‘boy activities’ and to be a boy and do ‘girl activities.’ I think it just really helps kids to teach them at a young age that it’s okay to be who they are.”
In Hawaiian, “ku” is representative of male energy while “hina” is representative of female energy.
By having her students participate in both stereotypical male and female activities, she wants her students to be able to embrace “ku” or “hina” no matter if they are boys or girls.
German cultural anthropologist and independent scholar Sabine Lang spoke at a colloquia for the event prior to the film screening.
Her most recent publication is in the “Native American Men-Women, Lesbians, Two-Spirits” issue of the Journal of Lesbian Studies.
“The film is very relevant today in terms of gender fluidity and what the definition of gender actually is,” Lang said. “Like how, in the film, the young girl knew she was more interested in things that boys liked to do. And instead of rejecting that, she was encouraged to be who(m) she was and do what makes her happy. It’s about acceptance and getting past the traditional idea of gender.”
Through teachings like that of Hina Wong-Kalu, Native American and Hawaiian culture continues to be passed down through generations and the idea of gender fluidity is more accepted as a part of that culture.
Correction: Sabine Lang was incorrectly credited as a University of Washington professor in the original article.