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The Huntress vs. The Headline: “Transgender Samoans ‘Glorious Miracles'”

July 5, 2011

Today I am being challenged by the truly stunning aray of offensive headlines on offer from our nation’s most read news. It’s a litter of Pippa Middleton, AFL players and penises making it a tricky course to negotiate. So avoiding the topics that really do belong in the gutter I am going for other trash, such as “Heyward Died With Undies On Head” dug up by AdelaideNow, “Mindless Load Hog Stuns Police” tossed out there by the Herald Sun and for the really obnxoious cut “Chubby Ranga To Be UK’s Next Top Model’ dumped by

Australian news online – achieving new depths of shallowness everyday.

Moving on to today’s headline. Samoan prime minister, Tuilaepa Sailele, has addressed a workshop of male-to-female transexuals, known as fa’afafine, praising them for their ‘shining example of glorious miracles and creations’. Mr. Tuilaepa noted that fa’afafine are a ‘special gender of their own’ and offered flattering comments such as ‘every year you all look very different…blonde hair, glossy lipstick, sporting Gucci handbags and us men continue to be taken in by your looks’. ‘Thick muscular calves bulked up after years of playing rugby’ notwithstanding.

Putting my feelings that Mr. Tuilaepa is just another lascivious man aside, I think it’s really quite cool that transgender people are so openly embraced and accepted in Samoa. Doing a little bit of research into the fa’afafine culture it would seem that they are recognised as a third gender and have their own specific gender identity and roles within society. I am also lead to believe that, as a tradition, families in which there were many boys some would be picked out to be raised as girls and perform what is seen to be a woman’s duties. In modern Samoa if a young boy appears to take on feminine characteristics he is neither encouraged, nor discouraged from doing so and is simply raised as a fa’afafine.

I hope that I have interpreted the information I have received on this subject correctly. It seems to be a deeply complex culture and I hope that anyone who feels the need to correct any misinterpretations I have made will do so freely. It is not my intent to offend anyone with my ignorance and if I have offended, I apologise.

Back to the main article. While the Samoan prime ministers comments have created a stir amongst the International Foundation for Gender Education (based in the USA) for being offensive I believe his words are more misguided than misogynistic. The acknowledgement that gender can go beyond simple male/female is far more advanced than what the current offerings are in western nations. The follow on effects of this acknowledgement could be great, with a greater understanding and empathy from society towards those who may be hermaphrodites, have a condition such as klinefelters syndrome or simply be of a sex that is not immediately identifiable after birth.

And I get told that I’M intimidating…




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One Comment
  1. Chris permalink

    I like the inclusion and acceptance shown by Samoan culture in this regard.
    Here, there is one or the other, and that is it. Male or Female.
    One of the things that is often mentioned in training days and the like for corporate and government employees is that there is no third option when filling out paper work.
    I would like to see a Samoan drivers license application or something, and see if there is a third category.
    We need it here.

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