Siliva’ai Luamanuvae, a fa’afafine from the village of Salelologa, Savai’i, loves his life.
It’s not without challenges but he’s not complaining.
Siliva’ai, 36, says fa’afafine play an important role in the villages.
“To tell you the truth, we play an important role in the life of Samoa,” he told the Village Voice.
“The only thing that’s sad is people in Samoa are too quick to judge and slow to listen. For us, it’s very hard to explain ourselves and it always seems like everyone just doesn’t want to listen to our side of the story.”
“No matter how much good we fa’afafines do in life, it just takes one mistake for all of it to be forgotten. No one cares how long we try and do well; they just wait for us to make a mistake.”
“We just let it happen because everyone is entitled to their opinions about us.”
Siliva’ai says that one of the benefits of having fa’afafine around is that they can do any job asked of them.
But one Siliva’ai takes seriously at home is to show as much respect as possible to those he loves.
“I don’t know about others but for me personally, respecting those in my family is the most important thing I know,” he said.
“No matter what, I show respect in everything I do. That’s how I was brought up and that’s what I know is right. When I am in front of my parents; I would dress respectfully and do nothing to disrespect them.”
“This is not just for fa’afafine’s, but whatever my parents do, I try and learn as much as I can while I have the chance. Whatever my father does I will also do and the same goes for my mother.”
“I can do the role of both a male and a female in the family and that is a plus for me. That’s one thing that’s great about us; I can work in the plantation and also wash dishes.”
Siliva’ai is just happy to be able to express himself freely everywhere he goes.
“People are different with how they express themselves,” he said.
“For me, doing my hair this way and wearing what I feel like wearing brings me happiness. This is the style I am comfortable with and I don’t want to change in any way.”
“I have grown accustomed to styling myself like this and I have no shame in it.”
Siliva’ai shared that his family showed a lot of support for him growing up. He was free to live his life the way he wants.
“As I grew up in my household, the only thing I knew was to respect others,” he said.
“My parents never neglected me or went against any of my choices in life. They let me live my life peacefully as a fa’afafine; the only person I was afraid of was my brother.”
“He was the only one who would force me to stop acting and dressing like a girl. Other than that, my life has been ok and free.”