Melenie Mahinamalamalama Eleneke, transgender rights activist, hulaÂ dancer and devoted auntie and sister, died peacefully of naturalÂ causes in her sleep the morning of Sept. 9 at her home inÂ Daly City, Calif., according to her friend Ricky Everett. She was 53.
“Auntie Mele” was born Christmas Day 1959 in Honolulu,Â becoming the youngest of Jarett Kalani Eleneke and AleneÂ Ku’ukama’aloha Parker Eleneke-Pa’s five children, including sistersÂ Char Thompson, Shalei Eleneke and brothers Wayne, Paul and CharlesÂ Eleneke.
One year prior to her 1977 graduation from Kailua High School inÂ Honolulu, Eleneke transitioned to become the woman known andÂ loved by a vast network of family, friends and colleagues. She was a lifelongÂ spiritual healer, hula dancer and social justice advocate.
Eleneke was a long-serving community leader with theÂ Transgender, Gender Variant & Intersex Justice Project in SanÂ Francisco, most notably for her trip to Geneva in February 2008 whereÂ she addressed the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of RacialÂ Discrimination, holding the United States accountable for its lack ofÂ economic opportunity for transgender women of color.
In addition to her parents and siblings, Eleneke is survived byÂ Patrice Evans, nephew Tamalani Auva’a, her dogs Jimmy andÂ Kukunaokala, and her devoted sisters, nieces and nephews from theÂ House of Valenciaga.
A memorial service was held last week in California and another is planned in her native Hawaii.