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