Gay marriage in Samoa, a "big no-no"


Written by Cherelle Jackson
Wednesday, 25 June 2008

The recent legalizing of gay marriages in the State of California has not stirred the hopes of local fa’afafines in lobbying for the same rights.

In fact, if anything they are adamant that they do not go down that path, at least not yet.

President of Samoa Faafafine Association (SFA) and one of the more prominent voices of fa‘afafines, Roger To’oto’oalii Stanley says gay marriages in Samoa is a “big no-no.”

“It’s hard enough for our cultural values to accept the term gay, let alone gay marriages,” To’oto’oalii said.

According to him although local fa’afafines do have relationships with men, it is not often that it leads to a lifetime commitment or cohabitation.

“There are very few fa’afafines who have live in partners,” To’oto’alii said.


To’oto’oalii agrees.
have long been part of the Fa’aSamoa, however they are rarely identified strictly as ‘gay’ but rather ‘transvestite.’

Defining Fa’afafines

Lau Dr Asofou Soo of the National University of Samoa Institute of Education (NUSIHE) has formerly defined the faafafine as: “Men who act like women, feel like women and tend to do work done by women.”

The Samoan Dictionary by G.B Milner defines it as “a feminine man or youth.”

The Transgender web site, which talks about transvestites in many cultures draws from a definition used in Paradise Bent a documentary about Samoan faafafines.

“When it comes to gender, it seems there is a truly Samoan way of seeing the world. Paradise Bent is a fascinating and entertaining film that tells the story of the Samoan fa'afafines: boys who are raised as girls and take on the domestic duties performed by women around the home, raising the children, caring for the elderly, and bringing the family together.”

Film critic Jane Yu states: “Fa'afafines are born biologically male, but recognized as female.”

A transvestite however is closely defined as: “A person who obtains sexual gratification from the personal style and appearance of the opposite gender and is usually homosexual (but not always). The male transvestite population are more visible and are sometimes called, drag queens.”

Defining Gays

Gays are define differently.

The Oxford Dictionary defines gay as: “Homosexual, intended for or used by homosexuals, generally informal in used but favoured by homosexuals with reference to themselves.”

Dr Asofou Soo defined gay as “person attracted to the same gender and psychologically like the opposite sex attraction. They do the same things.”

Thomas Clough a reviewer of gay literature wrote: “The word “homosexual” has been redefined to mean someone who shares erotic experiences with other adults.”

So for Samoan fa’afafines who are gay, should they pursue the option for same-sex marriage?

According to To’oto’oalii it will be a long time before Samoa is ready to hear about the notion.

Tuilaepas Stance

The Prime Minister has also put his foot down on the issue.

In an interview back in 2006 Tuilaepa said the issue of same sex marriage conflicts greatly with that of the Samoan culture and Christian values.

Although deeply rooted in the Samoan culture Tuilaepa says there is a role for the fa’afafine in Samoa that does not have to end in same sex marriage.

In fact he said: “I personally know of several that have gotten married, fathered children and raised families. But still they have these feminine mannerisms because God made them that way."

Tuilaepa Sailele Lupesoliai Malielegaoi said at the time about gay marriages: "It's a foreign concept which of course is not accepted as it is not in accordance with the Christian values Samoa is founded upon."

He added: "And these dictate that a man can only marry a woman and not another man. Same for women."

Crimes Ordinance

But although accepted socially and ingrained in the Fa’aSamoa, there are still laws which discriminate against the transvestite or fa’afafine and gay men.

According to the 1961 Crimes Ordinance it is illegal for a male to impersonate a woman with “the intent to deceive any other person as to his true sex.”

That would mean a man who dresses as a woman, walks like a woman, holds a handbag, uses lipstick or “any other article intended by him to represent that he is female or in any other way is impersonating or representing himself to be a female.”

The maximum penalty for such a crime is six months of imprisonment or a fine not exceeding $200.00.

But local law practitioners say this particular law should not worry local fa’afafines as it was imported from New Zealand and not made to suit the local scenario.

To‘oto‘oalii says this is not an issue: “Samoans accepted Fa’fafines long time ago; we are part of this culture.”