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Should fa’afafine be called he or a she?

Thursday 30 June 2016 | Published in Regional


SAMOA – It’s the most asked question in Samoa following the outrage over the death of Jeanine Tuvaiki – whether a transgender person who changes from man to woman, known in Samoa as a fa’afafine, should be called “he” or “she”?

Some people have coined a new term called “shim.”

The Samoa Observer asked people on the street what they thought was correct?

Is it appropriate to refer to fa’afafine as “she.” If yes, why? If no, why?

The street poll was overwhelmingly against calling fa’afafine by the feminine personal pronoun “she”.

Junior, 22, of Vaiusu Uta, was the only street poller that was happy to call fa’afafine “she”.

“I think that fa’afafine should be called she. Because they want to be females, that’s their perspective. They do their makeup and dress like women, so we can address them as she.”

All the other people polled said they should be referred to by their original gender.

Pati Tauda, 35, Apia: “They should be called he. God only created man and woman, there’s nothing in between.

Tua’au Pati, 67, Letogo: “They have to be addressed to as he. I remember that in the 1980s, the government passed an act which did forbid men to wear the clothes of a female. What is happening now is that there are way too many fa’afafines in Samoa, because our Prime Minister has become their chairman.

“This disappoints me, because there’s only husband and wife. The holy book does not say, ‘and then, god created fa’afafine’. It’s just not right, it’s stupid”.

Toni Amoa, 70, Samusu: “I prefer to call them he rather than something else. It’s simply what they were meant to be, so why should that be changed?”

Fa’aa’oa’o Iakopo, 45, Saleimoa: “We should call them he. There is no such word as fa’afafine. There’s only ‘tama’ meaning boy and ‘teine’, meaning girl, that’s it. Anything else is rubbish.”

Eme Letasi, 19, Laulii: “We need to address fa’afafines as he. Anything else is a sin in the eyes of our lord since he created only man and woman. We do not have the right to change this.”

But commenters on the Samoa Observer’s Facebook were not so pious in their opinions.

Arthur Loren posted: “You are all very disappointing human beings. Pervading your views, you all know absolutely nothing about what makes people ‘ people’.

“What shocks me even more is how completely narrow-minded all of these people are. Using the holy book as a cover for what you think.

“And why it is dangerous to take such a narrow view of its teachings? As human beings we are complicated, and everyone seeks acceptance, Samoa is becoming a very warped brain-washed society where instead of hearing actual facts about a deed, I get a Bible verse and a full stop.

“It is also disappointing to see a young 19-year-old with a simple automated, almost machine-like, answer to something she can not fathom fully.

“And the 45-year-old woman saying there is only a boy and girl and anything else is rubbish. It’s just sad a pathetic and ignorant. I hope you all get clarity. Junior, 22, gets it, respecting people for who they are, good on you. As for the rest of you, shame on you all.”

Tyler Mauga also responded: “You got to remember these are some of the Samoan people. They have their stance and we have ours. Me personally. They should be addressed as she out of respect. That is what they are and we should respect that.

“I can’t believe these people except Junior are ignorant as hell. And to top it off why are we questioning whether she was a he or not.”

Lann responded: “I see that not everyone has the same mindset and that’s okay. As long as it doesn’t stop them, from treating everyone with respect.

“We should ask the fa’afafines what they want to be called. They are humans and should be able to live their lives happily.”