Oceania: the Pacific diaspora has many transwomen

Oceania is the name given to the populated, spread out, islands of the Pacific. They are home to many transwomen.

The British explorer Captain Bligh famously sailed HMS Bounty to Tahiti in 1789. A crewman, James Hamilton, noted that:

the mahu (male-to-female transwomen) of Tahiti were “like the eunuchs in India.” (By which he meant the hijra and their sisters.)

Mahu in Tahiti

Hamilton described how they lived and dressed as women, sang and danced along with them and excelled in all their tasks. Upon hearing that the mahu were hermaphrodites, Bounty commander Captain Bligh asked one of the Polynesian “eunuchs” to remove his loincloth. Bligh’s report noted that the native’s “yard” [penis] was not absent or deformed but very soft and small, having been customarily tied up against the groin. He also observed how the native women treated and respected the mahu as one of their own.

In the Hawaiian Islands, whose inhabitants are believed to have originated from Tahiti, the mahu were also present along with the aikane—sexually related or “friendly” men that were essentially masculine-type homosexuals and bisexuals. In Tuvalu, the word pinapinaaine substitutes for mahu, as does the word fa’afafine (“like a woman”) in Samoa and fakafefine in Tonga.

Fa’afafine in Samoa

All of these various terms refer to the same thing: males who appear to be and live as women.

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