To most, Hawaiʻi is seen only as a paradisal fantasy. This romanticization overshadows the realities of Hawaiʻi, causing media and entertainment to paint kamaʻaina (local residents) and Native Hawaiians inaccurately. Because of this, Hawaiʻiʻs history and local culture are unbeknown to those outside of the islands.
In the 60’s and 70’s, many drag performers worked for The Glades, a club in Chinatown known for its elaborate drag shows. During this era, performers were required to wear “I’m a Boy” buttons on the streets by law. The buttons originally served as a way to prevent arrests but resulted in rampant violence and death. Around 30 women were said to be murdered at this time.
Things were much different in ancient Hawaiʻi prior to colonization. To Native Hawaiians, when one was māhū, they were valued and seen as caregivers, teachers and healers. While the term can be used in a derogatory manner today, many people within Hawaiʻiʻs LGBTQ+ community still see the power in it.
During my research and time spent with O’ahu’s current drag queen community, I’ve learned that this beautiful subculture has only had little documentation. The strong māhū individuals and drag performers of the past have faded into memories, many of their stories left untold. My main goal with Femasculine is to change that by exploring the depths of who drag performers in Honolulu are today.