Transgender idendity in the Pacific area. - PhMuseum

Transgender idendity in the Pacific area.

Sebastien Lebegue

2018 - Ongoing

Portraits of people adopting expressions of gender different from that of their birth – French Polynesia, Fiji and New Caledonia.

In Pacific cultures, the question of gender offers a perspective which is often wider and more idyllic than in other societies.

In French Polynesia, tradition dictates that people are born man, woman or mahu (effeminate man). These three genders are all afforded an accepted and respected position in society. However, this three-gender system does not account for the scope of transgender identity. RaeRae (men who behave as and consider themselves to be women) follow paths which, whilst sometimes happy, are often more chaotic. Marginalised, they often find themselves forced into night time work, or even sex work.

In 1997, Fiji became one of the first countries to write transgender rights into its constitution. Confirmed in 2013, the legislation also banned discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

Nonetheless, same-sex marriage is still forbidden and a high number of cases of discrimination and gender-related crimes continue to be reported.

In New Caledonia, patriarchal and matriarchal lines strongly ingrained in the Kanak societal system make positions other than masculine or feminine gender difficult.

These portraits express the identities of transgender women who describe their journeys, their integration issues or difficulties faced in their youth and their everyday life associated with their status.

The photographer adopts the role of showing the femininity expressed out with the assigned gender. The detail calls for a subjective examination of the figure.

The issue of how we see others is also raised, evoking a distortion of the other's image through the bias of one's own perceptions. This image is often discordant with the true identity of the person observed.

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  • Christie is now a woman. Born as a man, she had a vaginoplasty in order to obtain female genitalia. After few year working in restoration, she finaly made her dream reality to work in pharmacy drugs store and be recognize in the society as a woman.

  • Teva, mahu and woman, 46 years old - Pirae, Tahiti
    Teva leads a double life, proud of her professional success. By day she works in a printing compagny, appearing as an effeminate man. By night, she sells her body but it is not just for the money. The pleasure of sex stops her from getting lonely.
    - 13th of december 2018, Pirae, Tahiti, French Polynesia

  • Ambre, RaeRae and transgender woman, 35 – Papeete, Tahiti
    Ambre has been working in restaurants and bars for a number of years. She affirms her position as a transgender woman but expresses ambivalence between her man’s body and the transformations which could make her a physical woman. A mammoplasty done few years ago was the only operation she desired.
    17th of december 2018, Papeete, Tahiti, French polynesia

  • Benji, transgender woman, 31 years old – Suva, Fidji
    Event coordinator in USP Oceania Center, Suva.
    Benji fully considers herself a woman but does not deny her man’s body and masculine nature. She wears a beard day-to-day and only shaves when she participates in public events, dressed as a woman.
    Photo taken in a natural setting, just before a make-up session. 22th of september 2018, Suva, Fiji

  • Isireli, Leli darling, transgender woman, 48 – Nadi, Fiji
    Born a man, Doctor Isireli always felt she was a woman, but he cannot express his female identity at his medical practice. However, in private and even in other public places he becomes a she, Leli darling, expressing her identity in its fullness.
    Photo taken in Leli darling’s home. 29th of september 2018, Nadi, Fiji

  • Vani, transgender woman, 35 – Suva, Fidji
    Self-employed, Vani is from a traditional village in Fiji and has been fighting for several years to defend her own identity, not only to consider herself as transgender but to be and be seen every day as a transgender woman.
    28th of september 2018, Suva, Fiji.

  • June, transgender woman, 34 – Suva, Fiji
    June considers herself a trans woman, and hopes someday to have a vaginoplasty in order to obtain female genitalia. Activist and apart from her advocacy work on transgender women’s rights, June is a well-respected hair and make-up professional. 28th of september 2018, Suva, Fiji

  • Allan, queer, limitlessly gender fluid, 30, – Voh, New Caledonia
    Director of a cultural centre in Voh. They refuse to be labelled by a hegemonic male or female gender, by their sexual orientation or even to enter into one of the LGBTIQ categories. They say they are “themselves” in a “limitlessly gender-fluid state”, symbolised by feminine attributes tattooed on their left hand, and masculine ones tattooed on their right hand, leaving the space between for their identity. 18th of november 2018, Voh, New Caledonia

  • Lalita, RaeRae, transgender woman, 36 – Papeete
    Lalita has been a sex worker for several years. She knows she is viewed negatively as a drag queen or a RaeRae, but she considers herself a woman. She has a tattoo of her adopted name as an affirmation of her identity, a name that she is not allowed to use officially because of her masculine gender. 13th of december 2018, Faa'a, Tahiti, French polynesia

  • Ambre, RaeRae and transgender woman, 35 – Papeete, Tahiti
    Ambre has been working in restaurants and bars for a number of years. She affirms her position as a transgender woman but expresses ambivalence between her man’s body and the transformations which could make her a physical woman. A mammoplasty done few years ago was the only operation she desired.
    17th of december 2018, Papeete, Tahiti, French polynesia

  • Lalita, RaeRae, transgender woman, 36 – Papeete
    Lalita has been a sex worker for several years. She knows she is viewed negatively as a drag queen or a RaeRae, but she considers herself a woman. She has a tattoo of her adopted name as an affirmation of her identity, a name that she is not allowed to use officially because of her masculine gender. 13th of december 2018, Faa'a, Tahiti, French polynesia

  • Sulique, transgender woman, 32 years old – Suva, Fidji
    Activist and co-founder of the Haus of Khameleon, an association defending the rights of LGBTH people, Sulique is a young transgender feminist of indigenous Fijian descent who has worked on LGBTIQ issues in the Pacific region for over 15 years.
    Her feet are pictured wearing high-heeled shoes in a nightclub in Suva. 22th of september 2018, Suva, Fiji

  • Tehotu, mahu, rearea, above all else, woman, 38 – Faa'a, Tahiti.
    Tehotu had to leave Tahiti and her family in order to thrive in Bora Bora in the company of other transgender people. 3 years prior to this picture, she moved back in Tahiti, where she is a waitress in a Papeete restaurant. She has been living with a man with whom she is in a relationship for several years and plans to marry. 13th of december 2018, Faa'a, Tahiti, French polynesia

  • Vani (left) and June (right), transgender women – Suva, Fidji
    Photo taken in home, preparing themselves and drinking a glass of cocktail before a night out . 22th of september 2018, Suva, Fiji.

  • Vani, transgender woman, 35 – Suva, Fidji
    Self-employed, Vani is from a traditional village in Fiji and has been fighting for several years to defend her own identity, not only to consider herself as transgender but to be and be seen every day as a transgender woman.
    Photo taken at her front door before a night out. 22th of september 2018, Suva, Fiji.


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