There once was a boy in my neighborhood growing up and one summer day he took me to a large rock near a stream and asked “do you want to honeymoon?”. I didn’t know what that was, it sounded like candy. I was expecting something sweet, but before I could say anything else, he kissed me. Apparently, he was imitating what he saw in a movie and thought he was so slick by doing so. Having been raised through a Christian upbringing, I remember feeling like we had just done something sinful! Secretly, I liked it and wanted more. That was my first kiss and for the rest of 1st grade with my limited knowledge of love, I referenced honeymoon in anything that was about a boy and girl who liked each other.
As far as I can remember, I have always been a hopeless romantic. I remember watching the movie “Mannequin” as a kid, a film about a department store mannequin named Emmy who becomes human in the presence of a handsome window dresser. I wanted that kind of love, I wanted Andrew McCarthy to see me through his eyes and sweep me off of my feet. In retrospect, I find it funny how that film mirrored my life as a fa’afafine woman. Like Emmy, I had a sense of always being on the outside looking in and fantasizing about things I wanted but could never have. As I have lived my life and the experiences it offered, I have learned that there is a fine line between theory and reality.
Love and relationships are especially difficult for a fa’afafine. My life has never been shy with its share of fa’afafine sisters who have endured bitter memories from their lovers. For the most part, it is always us fa’afafine who carry their relationships into something meaningful. We have this saying in our lingo, “the power of the pussy”, a punch line in reference to how much we put into our relationships. No matter the effort, physical connection and material objects we give a man, they seem to always be unable to love US the way they could easily love a cisgender woman. I have had my share of tasting the sweet juice of a relationship only to soon face the pain that shortly followed. Those experiences forced me to induce myself mentally, telling myself that I don’t need to be in love to be happy. Perhaps I will always be that girl, but one can continue to imagine what it is to love and be truly loved right? I still do. . . sometimes.
My life lessons on love do not define everyone in my circle, for I have witnessed some of the most beautiful and romantic relationships involving a fa’afafine sister. For this Valentine’s edition of Fofola le Fala, I invited members of our community in passionate and lasting relationships to share their intimate stories with us. In their own words, they’ll tell us what has made their relationship blossom and give us some wisdom of what it means to find real love. . .
“Love is the only flower that grows and blossoms without the aid of the seasons.”
– Khalil Gibran
Sama & Via
Sama and I have been together for almost 30 years, we met in Tutuila, American Samoa in 1994; I was 18 and Sama was 21. I never imagined in a million years that a Samoan man would be able to love me and be together as a couple; and for these many years, yet here we are. Eight years ago, we finally decided to commit our love for each other and marry here in Seattle, Washington in the Kitsap Area of Port Orchard, which has been our home for the last 12 years.
Like any other relationship, we have had our share of the good, the bad and the ugly. And through every trial and tribulation we went through together, we remained resilient. It is hard to be gay and Samoan. Our religious beliefs and family values clash with our identity as human beings. It did not break the love Sama and I have for each other. We endured many years of pain, suffering and tears for our families to accept us. It took years until they realized that we loved each other and nothing was ever going to change that. It was either they accept us or lose us.
We were faced with those challenges in life, but in the end, it was all worth it. Our journey was not an easy one, but we would do it all over again to get to where we are today. We love our family and friends and we are forever grateful for everyone in our lives. Every day is a test of faith to learn and love each other daily. May we always be a blessing to one another.
Bianca & John
I met John in September 2015 during Labor Day weekend through a mutual friend. At the time he was in the process of a divorce and I was going through an ill-fated engagement. We became friends and found comfort in each other. John lived in Washington while I lived in Portland, Oregon. When my relationship with my fiancee ended, I moved my entire life from Oregon to Washington to be with John. We lived in a modest one-bedroom apartment at the time. One evening, while enjoying wine and a good conversation at my cousin’s home, the soundbar fireplace came on with the song “I want to know what love is” by Mariah Carey. John then turned to me with a ring in his hand and said, “My love, with all the craziness that has been going on in our lives, you stood by me and supported me through it all. Now will you be my best friend for life and marry me?” I was in shock and at a complete loss for words. I cried and said yes. We held a little wedding ceremony in Vegas that year with his family and some of our closest friends by our side. Growing up fa’afafine and a trans woman in Samoa, walking down the aisle in my own wedding was something I only imagined in my dreams.
At the beginning of our marriage we lived in stealth. John’s family knew of me being transgender but I chose to keep it hidden from his coworkers and friends. I did not want them to have any ill feelings towards us or treat John any differently. As a wife It was important for me to put him first because I wanted our marriage to work. John is a retired Naval officer who served over twenty years in the military. One of the challenges in our relationship was his constant health problems. Being able to nurture and care for my husband while in and out of the hospital has been a true testament of our love and commitment to each other.
In 2019, we relocated to Henderson, Nevada and bought a house here; we also adopted two rescue pups. I am content and could never ask for a better husband and life. May all our storms be weathered and may all that is good get better. Happily Ever After is real, even for a woman like me.
Annie & Tana
As a single mom at the time, I was hesitant to move on because of my son. He was always my priority and I could not allow him to get hurt again. Tana and I met through a family member. She fully understood that my son and I were a packaged deal. I did not trust easily, but Tana was patient and very understanding of my position on being a mother first. On our first date, we laughed and drank a lot of coffee. It was refreshing to be able to communicate with someone who could relate on different levels of intelligence with you. We dated for a few weeks before we actually committed to each other; that was April 16th, 1999.
The stigma is still alive about gays and lesbians and some people cannot see past that. We are doctors, lawyers, business owners; we thrive on intellectual conversations, we thrive on loving ourselves harder than anyone, we thrive to be stronger each day even as society chips away any dignity we have left. We are of adjective, adverb and noun and we get to rock this world with all the best fashion. I will cherish those who were before me, and I will ROCK IT LIKE NO OTHER!!! That is my attitude.
Thankfully, Tana has an amazing and loving family. I could not have asked for better in-laws. We were both blessed with so much love and support. I never thought that anyone could love someone so much without any judgement or ridicule. My family was not so inviting or kind. I came from a right-winged Christian family, being a lesbian in my family was unacceptable and a reprehensible crime. It was embarrassing to my family, as they would say. I chose to walk away from them and others for the sake of my own happiness and honestly it only made me stronger. My mother-in-law, Tolua Fale, taught me so much about love, respect and our Samoan culture and just learning to become a strong woman and mother. I owe her so much for teaching me to love myself and put God first in all things.
Tana and I have had our ups and downs as our journey taught us that you do not know someone until you live with them. We struggled as a couple, but our love for each other was greater than any obstacle. We separated for a time as we both lost ourselves in our commitment to each other. I Thank God, Our LOVE kept us strong. Unfortunately, we lost some friends along the way, but also made new ones and kept moving forward. Thankful to those who continued to be with us through our journey.
Tana is a city girl at heart and I am a country girl, bringing those to the table was interesting. We clashed on style, money priorities at times, but we managed and what an amazing adventure it has been.
On December 9th, 2004, we made the commitment to become domestic partners, and as the years progressed, we became stronger as individuals. We live a private life as we decided that we cannot tolerate outside noise, so boundaries were set and we realize how much happier we are without the noise from society.
We are no longer ashamed of who we are, time and patience can wear thin on the heart. We knew we needed to break generational curses, so daily we help those who struggle, who need an ear, who need love, we surrendered control to make more room for freedom & individuality. If you aren’t loving us, motivating us or praying for me, then you’re a distraction.
When it became official that we could marry, Tana and I did not hesitate to make that last commitment to each other. On December 9th, 2015 we became Mrs. & Mrs. Fale. There were no fancy white gowns or flower girls (as I dreamed), but the moment I said yes, none of that little girl’s dream mattered; we are official and we couldn’t be happier. Being married to Tana has made my life complete, she works hard, shows love and respect daily, and compassion to all on her journey. We have grown as one, our hearts beat as one and stand strong as one. We will not allow anyone to invade our peace and tranquility that does not honor our commitment as one. We stepped into a new chapter in our lives where anything is possible.
Our 911 in our life is God, he did not create us to be perfect, but to be faithful. People will always have an opinion; do not question who you are, remember you’re still here standing strong, and your story has yet to come full bloom. Nurture yourself, feed that heart daily, and love yourself unconditionally. We are living the best days of our lives.