taboo: GENDER BENDING

Fafafine, we all know some and we all love some. I have only met a few fafafine’s in my life and that was in Samoa, no surprise there. To my understanding, fafafine’s are cross dressers, and

Men acting like women, women who desire to be a man, dressing like the opposite sex or getting surgery to change your gender or whatever; gender bending is a form of social activism in response to assumptions or over-generalisations about genders.

Gender benders is self-identified as transgender or genderqueer, feeling that the gender assigned to them at their birth is an inaccurate or incomplete description of themselves; some are transsexual and desire to change their physical sex through hormone therapy or sex reassignment surgery, while others were born intersexual. Others may identify as Two-Spirit or members of a third gender.

To my understanding gender bending is practiced all over the world, and has been around for ages. The most common form is drag queens. Men who dress as women are only accepted as a form of entertainment, but as a lifestyle it can be a tough journey in their life. Many cross-dressers find it hard to get respect in their community, but for one (her name is Nong Toom) who is born as a male believed to be a woman. She gained respect from her fellow peers and community by being a champion kickboxer. She was undefeated with something like 22 fights, 18 of them being K.Os. In Thailand the most common sport is ‘kick boxing’ which is traditionally for the toughest and skilled men. But she proved a lot, especially for the over-populated gender benders in Thailand, known as katoe. Story inspired that movie ”Beautiful Boxer”.

NongToom8394

It can be very confusing, but all and all its definitely a personal ‘thing’ and no one can really judge you but you.

It can go as far as just dressing differently to talking differently, to having surgery and having certain body parts removed or added. I think it is too painful, too expensive, too much of a burden to even go through with it. Its sad to know that people would go through it all, I wouldn’t have the strength or will power..or money lol.

Fafafine, we all know some and we all love some. I have only met a few fafafine’s in my life and that was in Samoa, no surprise there. To my understanding, fafafine’s are cross dressers, and because they ‘act’ like a woman, the community will treat them like a woman. Technically its not taboo in Samoa because its acknowledged.

They are not considered to be ‘gay’ because they have sex with straight men. Maybe that’s taboo because having that kind of experience or reason to have sex is a bit too much. Maybe it is true that people have sex with fafafine’s because of the experience. This would be considered as a heterosexual relationship, please correct me if I’m wrong. Though gender identity is shaped by our culture.

Being a woman in Samoa is different to being a woman in the western world. Having a third gender person in the family in Samoa is usually a good thing because of the extra help they offer. I like fafafines and I rekon the world could learn a thing or two about how Samoans deal/accept this concept.

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=cb4_1190882014 the vid-doc Transgender in Samoa

0 thoughts on “taboo: GENDER BENDING

  1. WOW~It’s funny that you’ve chosen this particular subject Gender Bending to write an article on ~its extremely bizarre because in a cultural perspectives tutorial my facilitator was speaking bout a writer who travelled to samoa and found that samoan women are valued and respected and compared it to other cultures such as the Middle East and parts of east Asia however she went on to argue the acceptance of transgender Males a minority called ”fafafine” and that how they are accepted amongst the people unlike western transgenders who are not accepted.

    I was asked what my thoughts were on ”Fafafines” after correcting the pronounciation and I concluded that some of my dearest kuzins and even Uncle/Auntie is a Fafa and they are no different because of the foundation of christian values, we accept them as they are. I
    my understanding of fafafine is they are either homosexual or bi sexual and are very creative fashion transgenders particularly in Apia.

    samoan fafafines have great priveleges and advantages over western countries or other parts of the world where they are ridiculed for their differences and their behaviour is not tolerated or accepted amongst sociey, this only proves how accepting samoan people are but also sets an example for others to follow.

    I only question if transgender males are accepted then why is samoan famale ”tomboys” are not….???…….could there be the same treatment of fairness or do fafafines hold a greater acknowledgement because they are males?.

    aneways great work and i really enjoyed it ~

  2. Hey julie thanks for takin time to read my post. Im glad you mentioned some similar things from your previous conversation with your facilitator. And you’re right about how they are no different because of the foundation of christian values,and that we accept them as they are. Theyre homosexual/bisexual with a flavour to their dress sense.

    To your question about samoan ‘tomboys’, in my oppinion maybe they’re more ‘feared’ compared to fafafines..?? lol though you do have a point and i might want to look into that aswell. Thanks for your response.

  3. They are not considered to be ‘gay’ because they have sex with straight men.

    =====================

    I don’t know about you, but to me that’s called gay.

    I live here in American Samoa, and yes there is an abundance of “Gender Benders” here(clever title, btw).

    But you’re absolutely right about Samoan Fafafines being privileged. They have quickly become leaders and role models in their communities. A lot of them are government officials, educators, and many of them are active in the church as well.

  4. thanks a bunch for reading it guys..means a lot.

    and toney starks, the line ‘They are not considered to be ‘gay’ because they have sex with straight men’ lol that was actually quoted from a fafafine lol i shoulda mentioned that but i suppose thats from ‘their’ perspective, if they only believe theyre women then in a way its not gay..but i guess your right too from our perspective and in a technical/literal way lol.

  5. LOL @ technical/literal way….nicely put.

    I just found it funny that’s all. It was one of those things made me go WTF? Wait hold up.

    I had to do a double take on that one line.

    Overall, it was a good read.

  6. your writes seem to be trail blazing gems.. grins… i’ve had the privilege of reading your biopic piece and this is no different as it is plied with the same intensity 🙂

    a thoroughly enjoyable read, something or an issue i should say that’s been ‘dormant’ i suppose you could say in everyone’s mind and no doubt people might have debated it’s nuances within themselves or just a commonly accepted proverbial shrugs that it’s ‘all good’ approach even 🙂

    ….of change
    i hear a lot of ‘man in a woman’s body’ stories or vice versa and have seen a lot of ‘reality’ type TV taking us through the ‘make over’ process.. for people in this situation i feel they won’t feel ‘complete’ if or unless they take this step.. i am not in their shoe so i dont have any prejudices on the matter.. but if it means it’ll give them a sense of ‘peace’ and that of being ‘honest’ with themselves then yeah…

    …of fafa’s
    i fink fafa’s have become imbedded in the Sa psyche and as such, accepted as the norm in the sense that it wouldn’t really ‘batter an eyelid’ of the everyday Sa coz they been there as long as we can remember, they were there or rather we had an awareness of them in our young years.. it’s like a ‘fact’ that’s been walking alongside us in life… i was gonna ask you about the “gay” & “heterosexual” points you tabled that Tony picked up on coz it was kinda curve ball but coming in at this stage of the discussion it’s all good, i dig it now..

    ….of tomboys
    it is something of note and i hear what you’re saying coz the ‘tomboys’ are not, readily embraced as the fafa’s are WHICH offers something of a paradox.. if fafa’s (who for all intents and purposes see themselves feminine) get away with it or are accepted, why would the tomboys (who lean more to the masculine) be any different??
    – could it be a sense of threat to a male?
    – is she seen as competition by the female?
    – is it or could it come down to ‘territorialism?’
    – or is it just plain ‘taboo’ that it’s just not ‘the done thang?’

    food for thought indeed…..

    thanks again for the topic, i’ve enjoyed reading it and the discussion

    🙂

    Dre

  7. Youre so right about everything you just wrote. esp. Tomboys; it could be ‘taboo’ but only because theres no real ‘answer’ as to why they have it different to the opposite, but i guess ‘tomboy’ is more of a short term thing like a phase. i dunno but you may have started something that would have been a little hard to comprehend.
    But all n all CHEERS! thanks for that Dre. Il take that in.

  8. I HAVE MANY FAAFAFINE FRIENDS, AND RELATIVES AND TO BE HONEST THEY ARE ONE OF THE MOST SMARTEST PEOPLE U WILL EVER COME ACROSS. FAAFAFINES ARE NOT CROSSDRESSERS THEY ARE TRANSEXUALS, I KNOW THIS BECAUSE MANY OF MY FAAFAFINE FRIENDS GET VERY OFFENDED WHEN THE WORDS DRAG QUEEN AND CROSS DRESSER ARE USE IN REFERNCE TO THEM (FAAFAFINE). THE ARTICLE WAS VERY WELL THOUGHT OUT AND WRITTEN.

    REFERING TO TONYS COMMENT…..”HAVING SEX WITH STRAIGHT MEN, NOT BEING CONSIDERED A HOMOSEXUAL ACT”

    TO WESTERN SOCIETY THAT MAY NOT MAKE SENSE, BUT IN SAMOA FAAFAFINES ARE CONSIDERED WOMEN, AND WHAT EVER SEXUAL ENCOUNTER THEY HAVE WITH A STRAIGHT MALE…THAT IS CONSIDERED HETEROSEXUAL….AND YES THERE WAS A DOCUMENTRY ON THIS SUBJECT ON THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CHANNEL…

    I TOTALLY BELIEVE THAT SAMOAN FAAFAFINES ARE NOT THE LUCKY TO HAVE SUCH AN ACCEPTING CULTURE SUCH AS OURS, BUT IT IS US WHO ARE LUCKY TO HAVE FAAFAFINES. THEY INDEED HAVE THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS AND ARE SUCH A JOY TO BE AROUND.

  9. Thanks Kiara, glad you could share that here. I find that it can be a little confusing to discuss such a topic and only other peoples experience/oppinions can really help form an understanding for gender bendering / fafafine. I appreciate it.
    and you got a point ”IT IS US WHO ARE LUCKY TO HAVE FAAFAFINES. THEY INDEED HAVE THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS”

    thanks again, have a great one.

  10. Talofa. I am Shevon Matai, and I am a Samoan Faafafine. I guess you could categorize me as a transgender or the term “pre-op transexual. Immediately, when I try to see where I fit with the English terminologies, I struggle (point 1). Before I go on, I would like to say something about this term I see used “Fafas”. This term not only has no linguisitc connection to the word faafafine in particular, but it’s also coined in a way where an “s” is added for pluralism purposes, and I think it should be discontinued to protect the special identity of a true faafafine Samoa (point 2), and to stop the spreading of this unconnected and misconcepted term. “Fafa” in Samoa I think would literally means “something on top of another”, and faafafine should not at anyway in the special motif of their behavior be seen or labelled as such.

    We understand “faafafine” as we live in the generation we are in. What we need to consider is that faafafine also go through changes as life progresses. It just might bend the true meaning of the word. My point here is that the true identity of the term “faafafine” before misionary has shifted when missionary arrived (1830s), and all the way up to now, there are still changes happening. So the image of what a “faafaine” was then is totally different now. Were there any faafafine before missionary arrived? We need to research that, but if there weren’t, then Samoa would be an exception, and the term faafafine would never be a vocabulary in our language.

    I marked (point 1) earlier in my reply because it’s important to explore. English has coined many words to try and categorize each behavior. Here are some of the labels I could think of: gay, sissy, transvestite, ladyboy, shemale, dragqueen, genderqueer, pre-op transexual, post-op transexual, non-op transexual, transgender…etc. In Samoa, there is only one term: “Faafafine”, and it practically covers all. (Notice: negative call names are not mentioned here….words such as: mala, nancy, ailalolagi, aipageka, aikaloki, s.p…..etc.) In grammatical terms, “fa’a” is an adjective which it can also carry the meaning of “like”. “Fafine” is woman. Fa’afafine–like a woman. So to the eyes of Samoan people and the definition of their word, everyone that does things that portrays a woman, is a fa’afafine. So if “gay” are two guy having sex, and sex to the minds of people is something that is only between a man and a woman, then two guys having sex, one of them must be a faafafine because one is a woman in their engagement in sex. If you understand how “gays” see sex, then you would agree it is not even close to what we thnik of as “faafafine”.

    What is still evident in Samoan families is the special role of a faafafine. There is love and there is a role. I wont go into details. Christianity, when it hits the Islands, gave a rather forbidden connotation to the ways of a faafafine. Homosexuality was probably seen by the white people who came over, and to their eyes, values and beliefs, it’s a negative way of life and it goes against the teaching of the bible. This is actually where all the negative views of homosexuality came from, and this is a whole new argument, but it’s mentioned here so we know where the so called “hatred” came from. But Samoa held on to their belief of what a faafafine is and continued to love them, respect them, and honor them. Now, faafafine is a growing population, and Samoa has continue to embrace them, giving most faafafine the love they deserve. It made Samoa’s acceptance different from mst countries in the world. Lets not forget that there isalso mistreatment of faafafine in Samoa. Their was ban in other villages–maybe still there. If there is a law that is still in practice in the villages that men are to keep their hair short, it originally came from banning homosexuality, and keeping the image of men as short haired human beings, and women with long hair. In Samoa (Western) it is still in effect the law that men are not allowed to dress as women. This law prompted a big migration of faafafine from Western Samoa to fled to American Samoa to live freely and live their lives–another topic worth researching.

    I do hope that I have contributed to this discussion. I thank jaytoo for intiating this discussion. What’s important is that we Samoans should understand that our “faafafine” is a special term and are special people, and should never be generally defined with others from other countries because of the specialness that Samoa has created for us, and we are so blessed to be born Samoan and to carry the identity of a “faafafine” because Samoa has given us this special “talaga atoa” to be our “nofoaga” in Samoa’s very own “circle of life”. By Shevon Matai, from Satitoa Aleipata, Vaimoso Faleata, Satupa’itea Savaii, Aunu’u and Fagatogo, American Samoa.

  11. WOW..im so happy and greatful to have your part in this discussion. (Dont mind me im still reading it over a few times to take it all in). You have contributed so much to this and its great. I could only do so much and hoped to recieve and share an understanding of something that maybe perhaps only a few have little knowledge about.
    You have mentioned some interesting facts, some good points and even straightened some ‘ideas’ that have been mentioned earlier. I learnt so much more from your response; history, migrating to American Samoa (which interests me to do some research on ). Thank you so much.

    Hope you have a great week!

  12. About this gender bending crap, it shouldn’t even exist. Point 1, I disagree from a Christian’s viewpoint that it should be tolerated; point 2, I live with regret to try to understand what real purpose do “fafafines” serve for themselves. Of course we accept them for being a great helper in caring for their parents while the straights go on with their merry life with their own families. But I believe that life is not all for them to live only to be a caregiver of their parents when their old. God created men to be men, not to be their opposite; otherwise, God would be a God of confusion. Men give the seed; women give birth to a child as a result of the men’s seed intermingling with the women’s egg. If you really think about it, men that have gone gay are wasting the seed God put in them for the purpose of procreation. Guys, if you’re reading this. You being created physically like that has a reason and that is to mate with your opposite–women. Anything beyond or against that truth is false. This shouldn’t be talked about if men and women know their own selves and all that God created them with. It disgusts me to see “gender-benders” loose their way through life just because of the choice they made to be someone they’re not made to be. Think about it…

  13. thanks LiJH.

    Clamant7, thank you for stopping by and sharing your response. You also have mentioned some valid points about ‘gender bendering’, I have thought about it especially before writing this up; and I agree with you also. it does get confusing when you involve god because its testing the truth, world and yourself but its simple at the same time.
    How do we tell if ppl are living out their purpose in life?
    Some things can/should remain as taboo for a good reason…some would think otherwise.

    have a good week

  14. Good read.

    I was thinking while reading Clamant7’s post, if God only made male and female, why did He also make hermaphrodites? Humans that have both male and female reproductive organs. Surely if God made humans biologically men and women and everything in between, then He must have made humans psychologically men and women and everything in between too?

    Just another pebble to throw into the pond…

  15. Hi Everyone,

    First things first, to Clamant7, I wont speak on behalf of God but i will say this today is 2009 and this is the time for us all just get along and spread the love and respect for one another regardless.
    To deny ones place on earth is to deny ones self as human.
    What you have said is the exactly same thing the White Ancestors of America said about the Black people of Amercia. And look at Amercia today.
    Hello MR OBAMA! WE LOVE YOU AND MARTIN LUTHER KING, they represent us all.

    I also think you sound like you are full of hate? you remind of the KKK actually you have the same beliefs the only differnce is you might me Samoan.

    This is why the world is full of hate and people hating on eachother is when you have people like you making comments that are negative but im not going to off at you but that just how i feel.

    Who cares about Transsexuals,Gays,Blacks,Asians,Muslims,and Jews what they do AS LONG AS THEY DONT HARM AND ANYONE BUT RESPECT ONE ANOTHER.

    All we need to know about Transsexuals is that they just wanted be part of this world in any way they can in anyway that anyone is willing to take them as they are.
    What they do behind close doors is NONE OF YOUR DAMM BUSINESS.

    Transsexual stories have always been a very touchy story because it involess alot of Sad and Bad stories. For those that have come before us and path the way for us so we could live a better life something i will be forever gratefull for and i appreciate it everyday.
    I owe my freedom to the likes of people like Georgina Beyer and Carmen Rupe.
    I also give thanks to my Family who amaze me everyday with their love and support i would trully be nothing without them.

    Sorry i am meant to be sticking to subject and the main reason im on this blog lol lol.

    TRANSSEXUALS: well all i can say is we live in peace and we want to share and spread peace too all those who seek it.

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