Fa'afafine are people who identify themselves as having a third-gender or non-binary role in Samoa , American Samoa and the Samoan diaspora. Their behaviour typically ranges from extravagantly feminine to conventionally masculine. A prominent Western theory, among the many anthropological theories about Samoans, was that if a family had more boys than girls or not enough girls to help with women's duties about the house, male children would be chosen to be raised as fa'afafine ;  although this theory has been refuted by studies. The word fa'afafine includes the causative prefix fa'a— , meaning "in the manner of", and the word fafine , meaning "woman". The FTM or female-to-male equivalent in Samoa are known variously as fa'atane , fa'atama , and fafatama. Ultimately, Western terms like gay, transgender, FTM, etc. The Samoan slang word mala or "devastation" in the Samoan language is in less frequent use for fa'afafine, as it arose from fundamentalist influenced homophobia and transphobia.
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The first published description of mahu occurs in Captain William Bligh's logbook of the Bounty, which stopped in Tahiti where he was introduced to a member of a "class of people very common in Otaheitie called Mahoo Homosexual, of either sex; hermaphrodite. Missionaries to Hawai'i introduced homophobic and transphobic biblical laws to the islands in the s; under their influence Hawai'i's first anti-sodomy law was passed in Beginning in the mids the Honolulu City Council required trans-women to wear a badge identifying themselves as male.