The Glades Project
The Glades Project is about the third gender known in traditional Hawaiian culture as māhū and the darkest time in their history where each found refuge at the Glade Show Lounge where the art of performance unearths the deep reserves of resilience and survival that is shared with today's generation whom continue to face-debilitating obstacles.
- Connie M. Florez
- Ruth Chon
- Cindy Iodice
- Full-Length Film
- Subject Matter
- LGBTQ, Civil Rights & Social Justice
- 56 Minutes
THE GLADES PROJECT is about the third gender, known in traditional Hawaiian culture as māhū. During a dark time in their history, these effeminate males found refuge, in the Glades show lounge. Here they learned the art of performance and the importance of self-acceptance. Years later the survivors, now the kūpuna (wise elders) unearth deep reserves of resilience to help a younger generation who, though living in a freer society still face-debilitating obstacles.
THE GLADES PROJECT is a recipient of Development funding from PIC's Development Grant and Production funding from PIC's Media Fund.
Connie M. Florez - Director/Producer
Ruth Chon - Director/Producer
Cindy Iodice - Cinematographer
THE GLADES PROJECT is a video documentary about one of Hawaii's most unique peoples, the māhū. Māhū is the Hawaiian term for one who is born male, leaning feminine. Rather than transgender which implies transitioning from one gender to the other, māhū signifies a middle gender, a third category unto itself. According to the Hawaii's State Dept. of Health, māhū were once “respected as spiritual and cultural leaders [healers and priests], especially in the preservation of Hawaiian traditions such as hula chants. Post-colonial acculturation has shifted the role of māhū … from one of respect and social value to stigma and shame.” The 1960s - 70s saw the height of post-colonial stigma with the “intent to deceive law” which punished men who publicly dressed as women, with $1000 fines and a year in jail. But in accordance with Newton’s higher 3rd law, such forceful actions yielded equally significant and opposite reactions. The Glade Show Lounge opened in 1963. Its “Where Boys Will Be Girls” female impersonation act bursted forth, loud and proud with dazzling fanfare. This was the māhū’s safe space to explore and express their true selves. THE GLADES PROJECT starts off in this extraordinary place, the glamour, the showmanship, the dreams that came to life, with the people, their joys and sorrows, alienation from the outside, acceptance from within. Fortunately, time brought progress. As Hawai'i became once again more accepting of the māhū, the safe spaces shifted. The Glade Show Lounge closed in 1983. The “girls” matriculate from this school of hard knocks with a wealth of resilience to achieve their best lives. Many successfully broke through barriers of discrimination rendering their communities safer for non-binary gender expression. The documentary then picks up in the today, where the landscape is much different: more federal protections and acceptance of LGBTQ culture. Yet, troubles are still afoot. 2017 studies show that 1/2 of transgender youth in Hawai’i attempted suicide. When past star Glade’s performer, Brandy Lee learned of the statistic, she was outraged. Brandy is lauded as the best emcee the Glade Show Lounge had seen. With her fiery wit and powerful vocals, she led each performance with the showmanship of a true professional. Brandy felt that the blood, sweat, and tears sacrificed by her and her “sisters” were in vain. THE GLADES PROJECT will follow Brandy and her “sisters” on their quest to make their experiences count. They will seek out younger generation of māhū and through forums, conversations, heart to heart interactions get to the bottom of what is going on. Much like their own middle gender designation, the situations are not black and white. With the spirit of aloha that constitutes the Hawaiian heart, patience and wisdom will guide these māhū “mothers”, “daughters”, “granddaughters” to hear, see, and understand each other. Together they will create a place of belonging, a home, a new safe space to heal within. Once made whole, facing the challenges of the outside world becomes more possible.