Samoa’s ‘third gender’ delicately bills sex and faith

APIA, Samoa (Reuters) – Keyonce Lee Hang try active completing preparations for the to’ona’i, a traditional lunch offered after Sunday chapel in Samoa, and going to to the lady elderly, bed-ridden grandma.

Firmly created and putting on a floral gown and incorrect lashes – and self-named after United states vocalist Beyonce – Lee Hang can’t help but make an entry, especially when she comes for Sunday chapel within her ideal dress.

Naturally male, Lee Hang are a Samoan fa’afafine, a term that translates as “in the manner of a woman”.

Fa’afafine are a “third sex” in Polynesian traditions, in line with the Samoa Fa’afafine connection, and also started a part of area life so long as anybody can recall. The majority of communities bring fa’afafine, with approximately several thousand across Samoa’s islands.

Away from Southern Pacific, especially the Polynesian countries, truly a mainly misinterpreted neighborhood, based on Lee Hang, whom works for the government’s fisheries division.

“Western people tries to compliment you [in] a box, to get united states under gay, under trans and queer … but In my opinion fa’afafine try our cultural identification – they defines all of us,” mentioned Lee Hang.

“Despite the human body that you have, if you value they, accept they and accentuate everything posses, it’s all those things matters.”

Although most advanced fa’afafine companion with people, the personality produces no-claim about sexual orientation.

Jointly fa’afafine place it: “what we should would between the sheets has nothing regarding the social identification.”

Samoan law criminalizes intercourse between boys, and culturally, reallyn’t appropriate for a man to put on a woman’s garments; nevertheless fa’afafine people can freely go outside those borders.

Whenever a child was substantially effeminate, he’ll likely be educated the conventional jobs of Samoan lady, which regularly ways operating in the household.

This type of individuals are frequently believed to have the “fa’afafine spirit”, even though the level plus the age they present her womanliness differs.

Lee Hang’s mother, Rona Tauli Lee, mentioned Keyonce is a pleasurable child who demonstrated effeminate evidence from age three, and which used to wear the woman sister’s gowns. “Keyonce was my youngsters and that I recognize my young children because they’re,” she said.

All fa’afafine questioned by Reuters ignored well documented claims that fa’afafine could possibly be a deligated role by family with lots of sons, as an alternative for a girl.


Modern-day fa’afafine has won support with large parts of the Samoan neighborhood with their work, especially in top altruistic forces and taking on caring roles, including maintaining seniors.

Throughout the Olympic-style Pacific Games conducted in Samoa in July, groups of fa’afafine might be observed offering intimate health literature and condoms to professional athletes regarding roads of Apia, Samoa’s funds.

Miriama Seeti, a marketplace store proprietor in Apia, mentioned it absolutely was beneficial to posses neighborhood users accepting culturally female roles with a man’s muscle. This incorporated “carrying coconuts” and “cleaning every little thing in the house”, she mentioned.

But you’ll find complexity in becoming fa’afafine in a deeply spiritual nation like Samoa, in which group and chapel buildings is powerful, stated Samoa Fa’afafine connection chairman Alex Su’a.

“Most folks tend to be relied on as frontrunners of your church denominations’ choir communities, youngsters groups, even designers and planners of tasks,” said Su’a.

The relationship between fa’afafine and chapel was Plenty of Fish vs OkCupid reddit a sensitive one and can in some instances become tense, mentioned Su’a.

Reverend Vavatau Taufao stated fa’afafine happened to be welcomed to the church and that lots of led their congregations.

He said the church, however, considered fa’afafine to be male and the church didn’t endorse same-sex relationships.

Taufao, who is basic secretary with the Congregation Christian Church in Samoa, mentioned that fa’afafine always more frequently lover with girls, wore much more simple apparel, and undertook old-fashioned activities of men and women.

“Before we spotted all of our fa’afafine using the exact same garments as all of our boys – now they’ve been dressed in considerably feminine dress,” he said.

After creating lunch, which include taro, crab, chop-suey and pork, Lee Hang changes out-of a black and white clothes into a floral church clothes, with purple flower habits.

Lee Hang was operating significantly more than half-hour late for chapel, located immediately throughout the highway from house on a seaside roadway on island of Upolu.

“Don’t worry,” said Lee Hang’s fa’afafine friend, Vaito’a Toelupe, peering throughout the street where a large congregation rests, many wearing traditional white, in addition to women in caps.

“Church does not start until Keyonce arrives.”

Stating by Jonathan Barrett in SAMOA; added reporting by Jill Gralow; modifying by Michael Perry

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