The Tongan word fakaleiti is the name given to people we would name in the West as transgender women, but having some cultural characteristics, frequent in various places of the Pacific, which make of the fakaleitis one phenomenon.
This expression is composed of “faka” that we could translate as “in the manner of”, and “leiti”, which is an adaptation of the English word “lady”, so, the literal translation would be “in the manner of a woman.” However, these women prefer to call themselves leitis. Although today the Kingdom of Tonga is an independent country, in 1900, it became a protectorate of the United Kingdom, which proposes a time frame for the emergence of the term.
The fakaleiti phenomenon is similar to what happens in Hawaii with the traditional Māhū, who played an important role in the culture until the arrival of Christianity, the moment when social rejection began. However, in the case of Tonga, this has not prevented the fakaleitis from enjoying a certain social integration even fostered by the royal family.
Every year the fakaleitis contest, the Miss Galaxy Pageant, is held with the sponsorship of the government and local businesses, although we have not seen boyfriends or couples of fakaleitis, probably due to social pressure and especially to the laws.
Variations: Leiti, Fakafefine, Lady.