Fa'afafine in Samoa

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Samoan and western discourses around the fa'afafine

Conceptualisations about gender, identity and sexuality

Gender: traditionally represented through gender-specific labour tasks in Samoa vs. bodily expression and appearance in western societies (Schmidt, 2003)

Identity: collectivistic, relational self in Samoa vs. internal and individualistic in western societies (Dolgoy, 2000; Mageo, 1998).

Sexuality: not a focus on ‘sexual orientation’ or sexuality linked to identity in Samoa vs. ‘gay’/’straight’ discourses in western societies (Mageo, 1996).

  • Fa'afafine is not understood as 'homosexuals' in Samoa, but western academic literature seems to often use terms as ‘homosexuality’ and ‘transvestism’ when presenting fa’afafine (Schmidt, 2003).
  • Many Fa’afafine are now expressing a sexualised hyper-femininity congruent with western gender constructs and ideals, which is largely discouraged by other Samoans (Schmidt, 2003).