I was five and Bill and I spent a lot of time together. My mom left me with him for days and weeks. He made me m&m cookies, and bought me a Minnie Mouse doll I carried everywhere with me until it fell apart. He tucked me in cozy cotton sheets that smelled fresh. He was always clean and gave the biggest most excited hugs. My angel of that time. I thought he was my dad and my mom had to gently tell me that he was not my dad but that he loved me very much. When we moved back to Hawai’i around five years old, I cried for Bill a few times missing him warm and encouraging energy.
I was six and uncle Wayne taught me how to dance. Hula became a pace of my heart, and he was both disciplining me–to be on time, respectful, and conscientious of others, while tenderly guiding me, to be graceful, bold, and expressive. Hawaiian stories–the lives of Kings and Queens, the romance between two flowers, the synchronicities between land & sea, the connection of Fire & Water, the friendship between Wind & Earth. Hula, and uncle Wayne, taught me to be strong when I needed to be strong, and tender when I needed to be tender. I became good friends with his niece, who also danced in the halau. We slowly started to do everything together. The halau was named after her middle name–Halau O’ Ka’ula o’kalani–and she had a gold Hawaiian bracelet I always gazed at with the name engraved. We went to his house which was behind the satellite city hall where we practiced, and there he lived with a charming and jolly haole man who owned a parrot. The house was clean, and fresh, and had an open breezy feeling to it. Colorful paintings, and pretty dishes. I always made sure my feet were really clean for the carpet, or else I would get scoldings. There was a tub of water outside the house for dipping feet in after you remove your shoes. When uncle Wayne left for the Big Island, around the time I was 16, dancing in another halau did not feel the same, and today I save it for Full-moon’s alone, for close family and friends on a cool summer night, or midday of Texas spring.
As a little haole girl with black feet and a sunburnt nose, it seemed as if all the mahu’s in the community adored me, likely because of my theatrical gestures and outlandish behavior. At grocery stores, at busstops, on the street, I felt special and paid attention to when the older graceful beauties asked me to sing for them or stopped to talk to me. Not once in my mind did I spend time wondering if they were man, or woman, or what–all I knew was that I was mesmerised by them, and felt loved and safe in their presence. Fast-forward to ages 13-15, when I understood a bit more, and enough about life to know how to get into trouble. My early teen years were some of the most rough years of my life, when I chose to run away and disappear for days, and started talking back to adults who disrespected me. At this point in my life I was singing on city buses and smoking weed out of an Arizona green tea can at the busstop down the street from school, or behind the 7-11 where my mom worked before she got fired for taking employee-bathroom toilet paper home for us to use. I went to the “Christmas parties” on homestead road, and watched in awe of beautiful and strong, masculine and feminine, angelic beings moving gracefully, powerfully, and provocatively. The uncles in the audience, straight and testosterone-filled men, got goofier, and more affectionate, with every beer. “Don’t Ya Wish Your Girlfriend was HOT Like Me” belonged to that night, and that night only. At 18, in the drive thru McDonald’s where I worked for the 4th year, one of the most beautiful came through with her big shiny black truck and asked if I was still dating my long-term high school sweetheart, in which I replied no. She lit up with YOU GO GIRL’s and YOU HIT IT SIS’ and told me to get what I deserve and “date around” because life is too short and that I am BEAUTIFUL. She told ME I was beautiful.
I was 16, and at this point more calm and sure of myself when I met Jordan. We went to Gwen Stefani’s concert–the first “big” “real” concert I ever went to, and I can hear his laugh in my head. He was the first person to be openly explicit about his sex life, and fantasies, and then matters of the heart pertaining to a sometimes closed-minded Mormon community we worked in together. He showed me how to dance anywhere, and everywhere, and have fun while working at a sandwich shop. We watched heart-quenching YouTube videos on the bus and went on an 8 hour hike where he said OH HELLLL NO before we decided to turn around and go back. He would randomly call and passionately tell me how proud of me he was, and if I could please check his grammar in his essays.
I am 26 and have been spending a majority of my time with Tommy. He is one of the most passionate and dramatic people I know–an old soul, and as involved in this refreshingly angry, yet rejuvenated generation as he can be. In his own transition, as I am in mine, I know he is an intricately-placed spirit, simultaneously fierce and gentle, and much needed guardian angel in my life. I am dazzled by his ever-blossoming and transformation.
There are so many more people so dear to my heart, and some of the most big-hearted and authentic people I have had the honor of meeting, who are a part of the LGBTQ community. Before I knew it was a label, a stigma, an “other than” box created by man-kind and unrelated to truth, I just knew I loved them, and that there is something ethereal to the energy they have brought to my life. As we move forward in pursuit of equality, justice, and peace for all beings, may they thrive, be nourished, and be free to live their lives true to themselves.