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An akava'ine or 'akava'ine is a Cook Islands Māori word used to describe transgender or transsexual women in the Cook Islands.

It can also refer to women who have an inflated opinion of themselves, draw attention to themselves in ways that disrupt groupness, don't heed others advice, or who act in a self-serving or self-promoting way.[1]


The term 'akava'ine is a prefix of "aka" (to be or to behave like) and "va'ine" (woman).[2]

Antonym: 'akatāne[3] - Act like a man, have manly qualities; be a tomboy.[2]

Other terms[edit]

Sometimes the word laelae is also used, typically when implying criticism or ridicule of feminine behaviour displayed by a man, for example being described as effeminate or homosexual.[1] Laelae is the colloquial Cook Islands term; the word tutuva'ine (meaning "like a woman") is used less frequently[1] Homosexuality is illegal for males in the Cook Islands.[4]


Culturally, 'akava'ines have been around for centuries. And they've always been part of the family, part of the village, and part of the tribe. But when the missionaries came, things changed quite dramatically for everyone in the Pacific Islands, and the Cook Islands were no exception. In the 1800s they started bringing in homophobic and transphobic attitudes.[5]

Some 'akava'ine take part in the making of tivaevae (quilts), an activity traditionally done by the women of the community.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Kalissa Alexeyeff (2009). Dancing from the Heart: Movement, Gender, and Cook Islands Globalization. University of Hawaii Press. p. 104. ISBN 978-0-8248-3244-5. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Jasper Buse; Raututi Taringa (1995). Cook Islands Maori Dictionary. p. 51. ISBN 978-0-7286-0230-4. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  3. ^ Kalissa Alexeyeff (2009). Dancing from the Heart: Movement, Gender, and Cook Islands Globalization. University of Hawaii Press. p. 105. ISBN 978-0-8248-3244-5. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  4. ^ International Lesbian and Gay Association (2006). "LGBT World legal wrap up survey". p. 4. 
  5. ^ Matt Akersten (12 August 2008). "Supporting our sisters in the Pacific". 
  6. ^ Walter E. Little; Patricia Ann McAnany (16 October 2011). Textile Economies: Power and Value from the Local to the Transnational. Rowman Altamira. p. 72. ISBN 978-0-7591-2061-7. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 


  • Alexeyeff, Kalissa (2009). Dancing from the heart: movement, gender, and Cook Islands globalization. University of Hawaii Press
  • Buse, Jasper; Taringa, Raututi (1995). Cook Islands Maori dictionary, edited by Bruce Biggs & Rangi Moeka'a, published by The Ministry of Education, Government of the Cook Islands

External links[edit]