Jaiyah Saelua is an American Samoan international football player and the first transgender player to compete in the FIFA World Cup Qualifier in 2011.
Following reality star Caitlyn Jenner’s public debut on the cover of Vanity Fair, Jaiyah writes an open letter on the subject of transgender women in Samoa and the Pacific:
“Respect is said to be the foundation of the Samoan culture, and that includes respect for fa’afafine. Fa’afafine who are respected by their families and community are able to overcome obstacles more easily and realize their abilities to reach their highest potentials earlier in life. These fa’afafine become very crucial members of society. Everyone knows that Samoan humor is crude, but to what extent does it become an issue of the Samoan people? How can one support Caitlyn Jenner [who is without a doubt an icon for transgender women & fa’afafine together, but a complete stranger] and not support the fa’afafine in their own families? That is when it becomes an issue. We must understand that joking about a fa’afafine is not a means of support. Understand them first.”