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Kumu Hina

I put this on as background thesis writing noise and before I knew it I got sucked in to watching this documentary. I may have cried too. It tells the story of how a transgender teacher inspired a transgender student to embrace their gender non-conformism. For me as an education researcher it shows the importance of having diverse teachers in the classroom. In addition, it’s presented in a way that’s really respectful of Hawaiian culture and language.

Here’s the brief write up on the website about the program:

Kumu Hina is the story of Hina Wong- Kalu, a transgender native Hawaiian teacher and cultural icon who brings to life Hawaii’s long-held embrace of mahu — those who embody both male and female spirit, and were traditionally respected as caretakers, healers, and keepers of ancient traditions.

The film traces Hina’s evolution from a timid high school boy to her position as a married woman and cultural director of a school that specializes in Hawaiian language, history and culture, located in one of Honolulu’s grittier neighborhoods. As she contemplates who should lead the school’s all-male hula troupe in their final performance, a surprising candidate presents herself: Ho’onani, a sixth grader who is proud to be seen as a mixture of boy and girl. As Kumu Hina helps Ho’onani negotiate the mixed reactions of her classmates and her family, the power of culture to instill a sense of pride and acceptance becomes clear.

The film also delves into Hina’s pursuit of a dream of her own: a fulfilling romantic relationship. Her tumultuous marriage to a headstrong Tongan man offers insight into the universal challenge of loving somebody outside the norm and a deeper understanding of the true meaning of aloha – love, honor, and respect for all.


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