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A fakaleiti (or leiti or fakafefine or lady) is a Tongan individual assigned male at birth who behaves in a relatively effeminate manner.

Although fakaleiti in Tonga do not necessarily associate with transgender or gay and lesbian 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 fakaleiti in the island kingdom.

The term fakaleiti (with a long i at the end) is made up of the prefix faka- (in the manner of) and the borrowing lady from English. Fakaleitis themselves prefer to call themselves leiti or ladies. Fakaleiti or fakafefine are similar to Samoan fa'afafine and Hawaiian mahu.

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

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  • 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: 5–31. doi:10.1080/00141844.1997.9981542.
  • Besnier, Niko (2002). "Transgenderism, Locality, and the Miss Galaxy Beauty Pageant in Tonga". American Ethnologist. 29: 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, Fakaleiti 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: 301–323. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8676.2004.tb00110.x.

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