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. One aspect often overlooked is Hawaiʻiʻs LGBTQ+ history.

In the 60ʻs and 70ʻs, many trans women and drag performers worked for The Glades, a club in Chinatown known for its elaborate shows. They were loved and adored until Hawaiʻi was forced into statehood. After this, peoples attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community began to shift. Because of this, trans women and drag queens were required to wear “I’m a Boy” buttons on the streets by law. If they were found without it, they were fined and arrested. Rampant violence and death occurred around this time, with around 30 people from the community said to be murdered.

Things were much different in Hawaiʻi prior to colonization. In Native Hawaiian culture, when one is māhū, they are valued and seen as caregivers, teachers and healers. While the term can be used in a derogatory manner today, many people within the Native Hawaiian and LGBTQ+ community in Hawaiʻi still see the power in it.

During my research and time spent with O’ahu’s current māhū and drag queen community, I’ve learned that these beautiful subcultures have only had little documentation. My main goal with this project is to change that by preserving the memories of todayʻs performers in Honoluluʻs LGBTQ+ scene through photographs and interviews.