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“You’re not coming out – you’ve been there all along and just no one’s looked”: Māori LGBT+ youth and identity exploration

This research is a Masters-level project on Māori LGBT-plus (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and other) youths’ experience of exploring their gender and sexual identities, highlighting how whānau (loosely, ‘extended family’) can provide mana (authority, power) such that youth can exercise mana rangatiratanga (a Maniapoto description of ‘autonomy, self-determination’) regarding their identities. This is a novel, exploratory study. Adapted elements from a Mana Wāhine (Māori feminist) perspective of Kaupapa Māori theory comprised the theoretical framework for this project. These elements were Mana rangatiratanga (adapted from Tino rangatiratanga), Te reo Māori me ōna tikanga (Māori language and its culture), and Whanaungatanga (relationships). The three elements were adapted to fit a Ngāti Maniapoto worldview. Qualitative research methods were used for this study. There were five participants aged between 17 and 24 years, who were Māori and had diverse gender or sexual identities. Semi-structured, face-to-face interviews were conducted with participants, which allowed them to share their experiences of exploring their gender and sexual identities and of whānau support. Interviews were analysed using a process of inductive thematic analysis, which identified and analysed patterns across the dataset. Eight themes were derived from participants’ experiences. These themes were Ko Tūhura, which described the process of discovery that participants have experienced; Ko Matatapu, which described participants’ experience of authenticity and concealment of their gender and sexual identities; Ko Tautoko, which described how whānau have empowered participants to explore their identities, and how participants have been denied empowerment; Ko Mata-ngaro, which described participants’ early lack of exposure to diverse identities, and their having their identities unseen by others; Ko te Ahunga-ki-te-aunoa, which described how diverse identities have been accepted within participants’ whānau; Ko Tauawhi, which described how participants have been embraced for their diverse identities; Ko Mata-pū-take, which describes participants’ experience of finding somewhere to belong; and Ko Kiritau, which describes participants’ becoming settled in their expression of their gender and sexual identities. The findings of the thesis describe roles that whānau play in participants’ exploration of their gender and sexual identities and some of the effects that colonisation has had within participants’ whānau regarding their gender and sexual identities. Nonetheless, participants actively resisted these aspects of colonisations and found ways to give voice to their gender and sexual identities. Given that participants shared that there was a dearth of information regarding gender and sexual identities available to them within their whānau and school environments, organisations within psychology and related fields may work to proactively provide all young Māori people and their whānau with information regarding diverse gender and sexual identities. Moreover, to address the dearth of resources designed for Māori LGBT-plus youth, New Zealand-based researchers may collate information specifically regarding Māori LGBT-plus youth experience of identity exploration and Māori knowledges regarding gender and sexual identities. This information may be collated in community-based resources that are designed specifically for members of this group and their whānau, and professionals who work for them.
Type of thesis
Laurence, R. (2020). ‘You’re not coming out – you’ve been there all along and just no one’s looked’: Māori LGBT+ youth and identity exploration (Thesis, Master of Social Sciences (MSocSc)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/13966
The University of Waikato
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