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

  • on January 3, 2022
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Samoa’s ‘third sex’ delicately bills sex and faith

APIA, Samoa (Reuters) – Keyonce Lee Hang is busy finishing preparations when it comes to to’ona’i, a conventional lunch served after Sunday chapel in Samoa, and participating in to the lady older, bed-ridden grandma.

Highly built and dressed in a floral dress and false lashes – and self-named after US artist Beyonce – Lee Hang can’t let but making an entrances, particularly when she arrives for Sunday chapel within her most readily useful gown.

Genetically male, Lee Hang was a Samoan fa’afafine, a phrase that means “in the manner of a woman”.

Fa’afafine are a “third gender” in Polynesian heritage, based on the Samoa Fa’afafine relationship, features been a part of isle lifetime so long as everyone can remember. Most towns posses fa’afafine, with approximately several thousand across Samoa’s countries.

Outside the Southern Pacific, specially the Polynesian countries, it’s a largely misunderstood people, per Lee Hang, whom works well with the government’s fisheries office.

“Western society tries to compliment us [in] a box, to put you under homosexual, under trans and queer … but i do believe fa’afafine are the cultural personality – they defines you,” mentioned Lee Hang.

“Despite one’s body which you have, if you enjoy it, accept it and accentuate that which you has, it’s all that issues.”

Although modern fa’afafine companion with boys, the character produces no-claim about intimate orientation.

Jointly fa’afafine put it: “What we create during intercourse doesn’t have anything related to our very own cultural character.”

Samoan legislation criminalizes gender between guys, and culturally, it really isn’t acceptable for a guy to put on a woman’s clothing; but the fa’afafine neighborhood can freely get beyond those limits.

Whenever a man was significantly effeminate, he can be taught the standard jobs of Samoan female, which regularly means functioning inside the household.

These individuals are typically believed to experience the “fa’afafine spirit”, although the degree and also the years they show their own femininity varies.

Lee Hang’s mommy, Rona Tauli Lee, mentioned Keyonce was a happy youngsters which confirmed effeminate symptoms from era three, and who familiar with use this lady sister’s clothing. “Keyonce was my personal youngster and I also take my young ones since they are,” she mentioned.

All fa’afafine interviewed by Reuters dismissed well documented claims that fa’afafine could be a designated role by individuals with many sons, as a replacement for a girl.


Latest fa’afafine has claimed prefer with large components of the Samoan people because of their persistence, especially in respected charitable factors and accepting caring parts, like maintaining the elderly.

Through the Olympic-style Pacific video games held in Samoa in July, categories of fa’afafine maybe seen offering sexual health books and condoms to athletes regarding the avenue of Apia, Samoa’s investment.

Miriama Seeti, a markets shop manager in Apia, mentioned it absolutely was beneficial to have people members facing culturally elegant functions with a man’s muscle tissue. This provided “carrying coconuts” and “cleaning every little thing within the house”, she stated.

But you can find complexity in becoming fa’afafine in a seriously spiritual nation like Samoa, in which group and chapel buildings is strong, said Samoa Fa’afafine connection chairman Alex Su’a.

“Most folks tend to be used as frontrunners your chapel denominations’ choir teams, youngsters groups, even the designers and planners of strategies,” stated Su’a.

The partnership between fa’afafine as well as the chapel are a sensitive one might some times be tense, said Su’a.

Reverend Vavatau Taufao said fa’afafine happened to be welcomed into the chapel which a lot of led russian cupid to 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 associated with the Congregation Christian Church in Samoa, mentioned that fa’afafine used to more frequently lover with lady, wore much more natural clothes, and undertook traditional chores of both men and women.

“Before we spotted the fa’afafine sporting alike clothing as our boys – now these are typically putting on most feminine dress,” the guy mentioned.

After organizing lunch, which includes taro, crab, chop suey and pork, Lee Hang changes out of a monochrome dress into a flowery chapel ensemble, with purple rose habits.

Lee Hang was running a lot more than 30 minutes later part of the for chapel, operating directly across the road through the house on a coastal street throughout the area of Upolu.

“Don’t concern,” stated Lee Hang’s fa’afafine pal, Vaito’a Toelupe, peering throughout the path in which big congregation rests, the majority of wearing old-fashioned white, as well as the women in caps.

“Church does not start until Keyonce shows up.”

Reporting by Jonathan Barrett in SAMOA; extra revealing by Jill Gralow; Editing by Michael Perry

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