ClassificationGender identity
Other terms
Associated termsFakaleiti, Two-spirit, Trans woman, Akava'ine, Māhū, Pinapinaaine
Regions with significant populations

Vakasalewalewa are people from Fiji, who were assigned male at birth but who have a feminine gender expression. In Fiji this is understood as a traditional third gender identity, culturally specific to the country.[1][2][3][4][5][6]


The term comes from Fijian and translates as "acting in the manner of a woman"; it has connotations of a traditional cultural way of life. A related modern term is qauri, which is used to collectively describe all non-heteronormative male-bodied people in Fiji.[7] Another related term is viavialewa, which translates as "wanting to be a women".[8]

Vakasalewalewa is included in the acronym MVPFAFF+ (mahu, vakasalewalewa, palopa, fa'afafine, akava'ine, fakaleiti or leiti, fakafifine, and other), coined by Phylesha Brown-Acton, to "enhance Pasifika gender diversity awareness in addition to the term LGBTQI".[9][10]

History and culture

Colonial historical records are silent on the role of vakasalewalewa in Fijian society.[11] However, like many other gender identities in Oceania, such as akava'ine in the Cook Islands or Fa'afafine in Samoa, that these identities existed and were valued in pre-modern Fiji.[12][11] Activist Shaneel Lal argues that prior to colonisation, vakasalewalewa were integral to native Fijijan society. Lal claims that colonisation stripped Fijians of their rich queer identities and conditioned them with homophobia, transphobia and queerphobia.[13]

According to Joey Joleen Mataele, many vakasalewalewa work in hospitality industries.[3]


In Geir Henning Presterudsten's study of qauri communities, they reported that many rejected the label of vakasalewalewa, believing it to be "old-fashioned" or "restrictive". However, people who ascribed to vakasalewalewa found greater acceptance in Fiji, than those who identified as qauri.[11]

Notable vakasalewalewa

See also


  1. ^ Frequently Asked Questions: Sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status in the Pacific (PDF). United Nations. 2015.
  2. ^ Sears, James Thomas (2005). Youth, Education, and Sexualities: K-Z. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-313-32755-1.
  3. ^ a b "Governments have failed to protect trans people from murder -and from COVID-19". Amnesty International. 2020-11-20. Retrieved 2021-08-25.
  4. ^ Gender-affirming care in Canterbury - Simplifying the complexity (PDF). Health Quality & Safety New Zealand. 2019.
  5. ^ Global Trans Perspectives on Health & Wellbeing (PDF). Dorset Healthcare. 2018.
  6. ^ Johnston, Lynda (2018-10-25). Transforming Gender, Sex, and Place: Gender Variant Geographies. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-00825-5.
  7. ^ Presterudstuen, Geir (2020-06-11). Performing Masculinity: Body, Self and Identity in Modern Fiji. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-000-18116-6.
  8. ^ Thompson, Tulia (2014). "Queer Lives in Fiji". Retrieved 2021-08-25.
  9. ^ "From Fa'afafine to Fakaleitī: Understanding Pacific gender diversity". 2019-08-30. Retrieved 2021-06-21.
  10. ^ Motuga, Ann-Tauilo (2022-02-23). "National health survey for Pasifika Rainbow+ is now open". TP+. Retrieved 2023-01-07.
  11. ^ a b c Besnier, Niko; Alexeyeff, Kalissa (2014-12-31). Gender on the Edge: Transgender, Gay, and Other Pacific Islanders. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-4019-8.
  12. ^ Brown, Terry (2006-04-01). Other Voices Other Worlds: The Global Church Speaks Out on Homosexuality. Church Publishing, Inc. ISBN 978-0-89869-793-3.
  13. ^ Lal, Shaneel. "The Genderless Void: A review of ATUA". Pantograph Punch. Retrieved 2022-01-26.
  14. ^ "Youth". Make Your Voice Count. Retrieved 2021-08-25.
  15. ^ Magazine, Viva. "People Of The Year: Shaneel Lal Is A Powerful Voice Of A Generation - Viva". Retrieved 2022-01-21.