When I was on the street I stayed in Downtown Honolulu, on Kukui Street. Men knew that was the place to go to find women and mahus who did sex work for cheaper rates than Waikiki women. Mahus aren’t simply men dressed as women. (I will find out if the term mahu has been replaced. I mean no offense.) They self identify as women and everyone else uses “she” and “her” when referring to them.
MAINLAND UNITED STATES “TRANSVESTITES”
Transvestites on the mainland, from what I understand, crossdress secret part of their lives. They are usually heterosexual and the crossdressing is a secret and separate part of their lives. On the mainland, public transvestites are exclusively sex workers in some capacity. They often dress in very sexually provocative ways, which makes sense to me bc heterosexual men would like women who put their sexuality out there for all to view. Yes, I know, a big generalization. Transgender people want to become the other gender, in fact they believe their brain is actually wired to be a gender their body doesn’t manifest. They don’t necessarily want to be in the sex trade and don’t push their sexuality on the public. They just want to be like everyone else in their chosen gender.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN HAWAII
In my humble opinion, mahus totally want to stand out. They are very aggressively hypersexual, almost charicatures of women. This aggression strikes me as very masculine. It would not be unusual to see one on Kukui Street wearing a bikini with a blond wig, a fake feather boa around her neck and a parasol (a mini umbrella) in hand. Publicly, over the top. At any time of day or night. They hang out downtown in small groups when they’re not working. Like every other working girl, they put like 30 feet of distance between themselves and the next female so cars can pull over for the specifically desired girl. They may or may not be pursuing sex reassignment surgery and they date men, either as tricks but also in real relationships. I’ve never heard a man who’s girlfriend was a mahu call himself gay or call the significant other anything other than “my girlfriend.” That’s not to say all mahus are sex workers. I have seen bus drivers, cashier’s, bank tellers. But from what I have seen, a mahu isn’t a man trying to pass as a woman. Mahus are in their own category. And it’s a public life choice, not a secret.
POSSIBLE EXPLANATIONS FOR HAWAII’S OPEN ACCEPTANCE
Now that I think of it, I don’t see a lot of white mahus. They’re predominantly Samoan but they can be any race. There’s a story, maybe urban legend, that in Samoan families, if the last born is a boy he is raised as a girl, dressed as a girl and assigned traditionally female housekeeping tasks. Someone once said that when Hawaiians went to war against each other, before whites came, warriors killed all the males in a conquered village but not mahus. I have no idea if this is true but I do know it’s far more accepted in Hawaii, even in high schools and middle schools where mainland kids suffer if classmates think they are gay.
TABOOS AND MAHUS
It’s not taboo to be a mahu but it is taboo for a straight guy to admit interest in mahus. From what I observed on Downtown Honolulu streets, there are many straight men with secret desires they want to secretly indulge. These men come downtown and say:
I like dick but I’m not gay.
I know what was said because men often said it to me, a woman through and through. Interestingly, my commitment to physical fitness put me right in the middle of men seeking men.
NEXT: HOW THE ACCEPTANCE OF MAHUS IN HAWAIIAN STREET SEX WORK IMPACTED ME (A WOMAN).