Fa'afafine: An antinomy of gender roles not understood outside of Samoa

Shared by Trans Health Australia on planetransgender's facebook page a revealing look at what it means to be a Fa'afafine in Samoa.

There are up to 3000 Fa'afafine – men raised as girls – currently living in Samoa. The Feed's Patrick Abboud investigates this complex and often misunderstood cultural phenomenon.

While it is not widely known in Australia, there is a third gender of people who make up an important and accepted part of Samoan culture.

Samoan Fa'afafine – or “Fafa” – are men who are raised as females and identify with that gender.

They mostly have relationships with heterosexual men and are generally not gay.

In Samoa, gender identity is largely based on a person’s role in the family and if one family has numerous sons and no daughters, it's not uncommon to raise one of the boys as a girl.

As one of the "Fa'afafine" I was not raised to be Fa'afafine I just WAS and simply left to be ME. My family did try to direct me towards more masculine pursuits but never forced me to be anything other than myself. They definately never pushed me to be more feminine or female. Defining "Fa'afafine" is neither black or white, which is the whole point. I'm greatfull that Leo, Ymania and I were able to share our stories and that to be truly happy you must standup and be true to yourself.

Published on Jul 16, 2013
Not really a boy, not really a girl, not traditionally 'trans' of any kind. Somewhere between all those identities exists a third gender. We're talking about the Samoan Fa'afafine or 'Fafa'.

Fafa have the body of a man but identify as female. They have relationships with heterosexual men mostly and are generally not gay.


Well not for the Samoan community - it's part and parcel of their culture. Gender identity for Samoans is about the role you play in the family not so much which anatomical bits you have. So when you've got 7 or 8 sons - no girls in the family, it's quite the norm to simply raise one of your boys as a girl.

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