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A fakaleitī (or leiti or fakafefine or lady) is a Tongan individual assigned male at birth who has a feminine gender expression. The term fakaleitī is made up of the prefix faka- (in the manner of) and the borrowing lady from English. Fakaleitīs themselves prefer to call themselves leitī or ladies.

Although leitī in Tonga do not necessarily associate with LGBT identities in the Western world, those who grow up in Tongan migrant communities in New Zealand, Australia, and the United States may find a greater level of community and affinity to similar identities than leitī in the island kingdom.

Leitī or fakafefine are similar to Samoan fa'afafine and Hawaiian māhū.

The Tonga Leitis' Association organizes the Miss Galaxy Pageant in Tonga. They have also been involved in reforming colonially influenced laws about leitī life that remain in Tonga. In 2018 a documentary film, Leitis in Waiting, was made about leitī leader Joey Mataele and the efforts of the Tonga Leitis' Association.[1] Mataele also works with the Pacific Equality Project, a non-profit group advocating for the decriminalization of LGBT peoples from post-colonial laws in the Pacific Islands.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pacific News Minute: Tonga's Leitis "We Cannot Be Silent Anymore."
  2. ^ "The Talanoa Trans Pacific Equality Project."". Archived from the original on 2019-09-06. Retrieved 2018-08-09.


  • James, Kerry E. (1994). "Effeminate Males and Changes in the Construction of Gender in Tonga". Pacific Studies. 17 (2): 39–69.
  • Besnier, Niko (1994). "Polynesian Gender Liminality Through Time and Space". In Herdt, Gilbert (ed.). Third Sex, Third Gender: Beyond Sexual Dimorphism in Culture and History. New York: Zone. pp. 285–328. ISBN 978-0-942299-82-3.
  • Besnier, Niko (1997). "Sluts and Superwomen: The Politics of Gender Liminality in Urban Tonga". Ethnos. 62 (1–2): 5–31. doi:10.1080/00141844.1997.9981542.
  • Besnier, Niko (2002). "Transgenderism, Locality, and the Miss Galaxy Beauty Pageant in Tonga". American Ethnologist. 29 (3): 534–566. doi:10.1525/ae.2002.29.3.534.
  • Besnier, Niko (2003). "Crossing Genders, Mixing Languages: The Linguistic Construction of Transgenderism in Tonga". In Holmes, Janet; Meyerhoff, Miriam (eds.). The Handbook of Language and Gender (PDF). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd. pp. 279–301.
  • Farran, Sue (2004). "Transsexuals, Fa'afafine, fakaleitī and Marriage Law in the Pacific: Considerations for the Future". Journal of the Polynesian Society. Auckland. 113 (2): 119–142.
  • Besnier, Niko (2004). "The Social Production of Abjection: Desire and Silencing Among Transgender Tongans". Social Anthropology. 12 (3): 301–323. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8676.2004.tb00110.x.

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