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Raven O, a Nightlife Fixture for Four Decades, Takes a Final Bow

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For a stage artist who has made gender fluidity a cornerstone of his career, Raven O isn’t especially picky about pronouns. “When people ask,” he explained recently, “I say he or she, or both.” (“They” is out: “That just doesn’t make any sense to me.”) Acquaintances often use the first, but while growing up in Oahu, Hawaii, he was frequently assumed to be female: “People would say to my mother, ‘What a beautiful girl.’” The truth was more complicated, he discovered. “In Hawaiian culture, there is the mahu — the two-spirit personality,” he said. “They’re the healers and teachers and spiritual guides, revered, but colonialism and white supremacy turned it into something bad.

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