What is the Western gender binary mindset?
The Western gender binary pairs sex and gender together; defining two distinguishable, distinct genders: males who identify as men and females who identify as women. This means that qualities of feminine or masculine are assigned to the way a sex is perceived to act within the confines of social norms. Gender binary generally dictates self-expression from lifestyle choices to occupations. Expectations of dress, private and public behavior, sexual orientation, names, pronouns, personality traits, careers, and the usage of restrooms are also strongly dictated by the gender binary mindset.
Who are the Fa’afafine?
Fa'afafine is Samoa's recognized third gender, opposing the Western gender binary mindset. ‘Fa’afafine’ translates to ‘in the manner of a woman’ and describes Samoan biological males who identify in a range of feminine-gendered ways. About 1-5% of Samoa's 190,000 population identifies as fa’afafine. Generally, a boy’s preference for feminine tasks will be recognised at an early age. After being acknowledged as fa’afafine, she will then adopt said feminine behaviours relating to dress, dancing the siva (a traditional dance usually performed wearing a feathered headdress), and fulfilling female roles within the village. Fa’afafine are accepted as feminine, but they may also undertake masculine tasks or fulfil men’s roles, implying a large, flexible scale of femininity and masculinity. They have been an integrated part of Samoan communities for centuries.