Moefa’auouo Tanya Toomalatai passes on

The fa'afafine community is mourning the passing of Moefa’auouo Tanya Toomalatai who laid the foundations in Samoa that led to community acceptance and tolerance of fa'afafine over the years.

Hailing from Lufilufi, Laulii and Matautu, the 74-year-old died peacefully in her sleep at her home in Matautu Apia.

Samoa Fa’afafine Association [S.F.A.] President, Alex Su’a, told the Samoa Observer that Moefa’auouo was a tour guide and an entertainer in her early years and had a show at the iconic Aggie Grey Hotel in the 1960s. 

“Tanya paved the way for fa'afafine in Samoa. She was the person behind organising the first fa’afafine pageants in the late 1970’s, which did not eventuate at the time [as] fa’afafine were not allowed to dress up in women's clothes. But Tanya did the total opposite,” said Su’a.

“A member of the Advisory Council, Tanya was always upfront with anyone and everything. She spoke her mind and her strong will is one of her characters that speaks volume of the type of person she was.

“And no one would dare tell her that she can’t and this started from her younger years. Tanya in her 20s organised the first ever fa’afafine pageant for entertainment purposes.

“But did not eventuate due to the law that men cannot dress up like women and at that time the police made sure the pageant did not happen.”

Su’a added that looking back at the contribution she has made to the fa'afafine community in Samoa, she was truly a trailblazer. 

“She was pure fa’afafine in the flesh and looking back it is fa’afafine like Tanya that paved the way for us to be accepted in our community.”

Su’a said when the S.F.A. was first established 1995, Moefa’auouo was active. 

“We sought her advice to mentor and guide the younger generation but we noticed that over the years, she was not as active, but she remained as one of our advisors.”

Moefa’auouo was also a high chief and active in her family and church affairs, added Su’a.

“Devotion to your family as a fa'afafine is very important were the words of Tanya that really stuck with me over the years,” Su’a added.

“And I can testify that in the end, her wise words were evident in the way her families were there by her bedside. 

“She was loved and supported by her many families which goes to show her devotion to her loved ones. 

“As you know, we can’t have children; we only have our families, nieces and nephews and so family is vital and very important to me. And that’s the best gift she left for me.”

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