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Gender Identity and Sexual Identity in the Pacific and Hawai'i: Introduction

Information about gender identity and sexual identity in the Pacific island region, including Hawai'i. Provides suggested resources and search strategies.


Photo of 'Taualuga: The Last Dance.'

Taualuga: The Last Dance. Shigeyuki Kihara in solo performance at the 4th Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia, 2003. Photo by Lukas Davidson.


This guide was originally created by Eleanor Kleiber (UHM Pacific specialist librarian) and D. Kealiʻi MacKenzie, during his internship with the UHM Hawaiian and Pacific Collection in 2012.


There are diverse and constantly shifting expressions of gender identity and sexual identity in the Pacific island region.  Identity expressions that would be defined as homosexual or transgendered using western vocabulary often fulfilled important and well-established cultural or ritual functions within various parts of the Pacific. Contact with Europeans and the subsequent colonization of the region often resulted in rejection or suppression of these identities. More recently these identities are being reclaimed and redefined, responding to both traditional and external influences and expectations. 

Much of what exists on these topics has been written by historians, anthropologists, and ethnographers not from the region. While these observations are invaluable, we are lucky to be in a time when Queer Pacific People have begun to tell their own stories and histories. 

This library guide serves as a launching point for researchers, artists, writers, scholars, and students interested in gender identity and sexual identity in the Pacific island region. Of particular interest are some of the terms for alternative genders and sexual expression. The Hawaiian and Pacific collections provide access to books, magazines, journals, newspapers, music, film, as well as rare and archival materials. The librarians in the Hawaiian and Pacific collections can offer search strategies as well as connect you to other resources for research purposes.

Pacific gender/sexual identity organizations

U.T.O.P.I.A. United Territories Of Pacific Islanders' Alliance (United States)

U.T.O.P.I.A. originated in San Francisco, California in March 1998. The organization was formed to provide support to the Polynesian Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, andTransgender community. Originally, the group identified themselves as GPAC (Gay Polynesians Alliance/California). In February 1999, the name was changed to UTOPIA. The new name was better suited to represent the diversity of the club. UTOPIA has been a support organization for GLBT Polynesians and friends consisting of members from Samoa, Tonga, Hawaiʻi, Tahiti and Fiji. UTOPIA hopes to strengthen its alliance by recruiting members from all of Polynesia and South Pacific.


This is a list of terms from the Pacific region. These terms do not always have direct equivalencies with English terms. The usage of  these terms are evolving and their meaning may differ depending on the person. Linked to Homosaurus term when available.