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True LGBTQ Stories: 'Sent by the Gods': A Native Hawaiian Recalls Queer Life Before Westernization

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I'm From Driftwood is a 501(c)(3) non-profit forum for true lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer stories. Earlier this year, founder and Executive Director Nathan Manske and two companions successfully completed a four-month, 50-state Story Tour collecting LGBTQ stories from towns and cities across the country. They're pulling some of the most relevant, important and sometimes just enjoyable stories from their archives and sharing them with HuffPost Gay Voices.

NovaLei was born and raised in Hawaii and knows from old stories what being queer was like back when Hawaii was still an independent country: "The LGBT person, in ancient times, was actually revered, and thought to be blessed and sent by the gods... There was a place for them in our society." NovaLei felt that he was gay his entire life, and he was very accepted and loved by his family. He was thought to be special. For those who were born and raised in traditional Hawaiian culture, these views are still strong.

Unfortunately, as Western culture encroached on Hawaii's native culture, things started to change, and queer people were viewed differently. NovaLei recalls, "I remember going to school one day and getting beaten up and called a sissy, and a queer. At the time, I was staying with my grandfather. I remember coming home and saying I wanted to kill myself." Needless to say, his grandfather was concerned, asking why he was so upset. NovaLei explained that he didn't want to go back to school, that he wanted to kill everyone there and himself, because no one liked him, simply because he was gay. His grandfather sat there in silence for a while, and NovaLei finally asked if he was going to respond. He did when prompted, imparting wisdom upon NovaLei that would change his life: "If you never remember anything I ever tell you, I want you to remember this: that because of who you are, there will be enough people in your lifetime to love you for exactly who you are, that you'll never have to worry about the ones who don't."

From then on, whenever NovaLei faced hard situations with people criticizing him, he would remember his grandfather's words: "I would see him looking at me, and I would realize, 'OK, you may not like me, but...,' I would then start thinking, in my mind, of all the people that do."

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