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Fa'afafine) (also spelled faafafine, fafafige, and misspelled fafafini) is a third gender specific to Samoan culture. Fa'afafine are biologically men who in childhood choose by their nature to be raised to assume female gender roles, which is not discouraged in the traditional fa'asamoa (Samoan society). The word fa'afafine includes the causative prefix "fa'a", meaning "in the manner of", and the word "fafine", meaning "woman"; and it is cognate with other Polynesian languages like the Tongan "fakafefine", the Maori "whakawahine", and the Hawaiian "mahu". Samoan slang "mala" for faafafine or gay is in less use being an abject derivation from the Samoan bible.

Fa'afafine are prominent in all aspects of Samoan society as workers, administrators, educators, church elders, business people, and artists. They are known for their hard work and dedication to the family, and are often the guardians and caretakers to elderly parents, as well as the biological children of their siblings.

In recent years, several new organizations have been involved in promoting the health and welfare of fa'afafine worldwide, including the Samoa Fa'afafine Organization of Apia in independent Samoa, the Island Queens Alliance of Pago Pago in American Samoa, UTOPIA of San Francisco, UTOPIA Hawaii of Honolulu, and the Faafafine Fono annual international gathering in Auckland, New Zealand.

See also

External links


  • Milner, G.B. 1966. Samoan Dictionary. "Fa'afafine" entry pg. 52 under "Fafine"
  • Besnier, Niko. 1994. Polynesian Gender Liminality Through Time and Space. In Third Sex, Third Gender: Beyond Sexual Dimorphism in Culture and History. Gilbert Herdt, ed. Pp. 285-328. New York: Zone.
  • Mageo, Jeannette M. 1992. Male transvestism and cultural change in Samoa. American Ethnologist 19: 443-459.
  • Mageo, Jeannette M. 1996. Samoa, on the Wilde Side: Male Transvestism, Oscar Wilde, and Liminality in Making Gender. Ethos 24(4):588-627.
  • Schmidt, J. 2001. Redefining Fa'afafine: Western Discourses and the Construction of Transgenderism in Samoa. Intersections, Issue 6.

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