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    Watch This Transgender Teacher Comfort Her Gender-Nonconforming Student

    "We both are in the middle, and nobody teases us for it."

    This is Kumu Hina, a transgender hula teacher in a Hawaii public school.


    As an indigenous Hawaiian, she considers herself mahu, or "in the middle" when it comes to gender, with the qualities of both man and woman. As a child, Kumu Hina was teased in school for being too girlish, and didn't have teachers to protect her.

    This is Ho'onani, Kumu Hina's sixth-grade student who wants to stand and dance with the boys instead of the girls like she's supposed to.


    Her relationship with Kumu Hina is at the heart of a documentary directed by Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson called A Place in the Middle.

    For their end-of-year school performance, Kumu Hina gives Ho'onani the leading role in the boys' dance, because she performed the best among the students.

    "There's potential backfire from parents and families who may look at this and say I should encourage a girl to stand with the girls," Kumu Hina says.

    So she decides to check in with Ho'onani, to make sure her student would be prepared for future challenges.

    "Sometimes I'm afraid I might be setting you up for disappointment," Kumu Hina says. "I know you like to stand with all the boys." She reminds Ho'onani that not everyone will let her do that.

    Kumu Hina gives Ho'onani some advice when the student feels forced to be with the girls.

    "When you get to be my age," Kumu Hina says, "you're not gonna have to move for anybody else."


    Kumu Hina doesn't want Ho'onani to be limited the way she was. Instead, Kumu Hina supports the expression of her gender-nonconforming student.

    Ho'onani has absorbed the confidence that her teacher and her school have given her.

    "We both are in the middle," Ho'onani says, "and nobody teases us for it."


    The creators have also set up a web site that hopes to bring "an enlightened Hawaiian perspective to efforts to create welcoming and inclusive schools and communities for children of all ages." It includes the full 25-minute documentary, and other resources to help educators support gender-nonconforming students and prevent bullying.

    According to director Dean Hamer: "Our hope is to bring Kumu Hina's teaching and message of the true meaning of 'aloha' beyond Hawaii to the rest of the country and the world."

    Watch the full clip from A Place in the Middle:

    View this video on YouTube