Trans men given a voice

By Te Ao with MOANA

Image: Taylor Taylor has started their transition from female to male.

New film Rurangi shines the light on trans men in Aotearoa

A new film called Rurangi, about a Māori trans man returning to his hometown to confront his past, is shining a light on the experience of trans men across Aotearoa and is giving others a voice.

Actor Elz Carrad who grew up in the Hokianga and plays the lead role in Rurangi, says the New Zealand film will provide comfort for trans men and women.

“It gives people hope. When you’re in that loneliness, that dark, unsupportive place, you lose hope that it can get better but it can. It’s important for positive stories to be out there,” he says.

Activist Jack Byrne has worked with the United Nations and the Human Rights Commission to advocate for trans men and women around the world. He began his own transition from female to male 18 years ago and says if more trans men shared their stories it would be easier for others.

“Society has talked about trans women for a lot longer than trans men. Trans women have been a lot more visible," Jack says. "For trans men it’s a story about invisibility, Visibility is like a rolling stone, it keeps growing. Once a few people share their stories, then others will share. People need to know it’s possible,” he says.

Jack worked on a comprehensive survey, called Counting Ourselves, focusing on the health and wellbeing of trans living in Aotearoa. He found many Māori trans men and women, relied on their culture to help them through the tough times.

“One of the wonderful things about living in Aotearoa is that there are strong histories of cultural diversity in both Māori and Pasifika communities, and most of the stories have trans women and some trans masculine. I can remember Māori participants when they did have hard experiences, they were more likely to go to whānau for support.”

Elz says that he was lucky to grow up in the Hokianga surrounded by tikanga and te reo Māori  

“The focus was on the fact it didn’t matter what you looked like. You were a person and that made you sacred.”

Rurangi is screening at selected cinemas across Aotearoa.