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A fakaleiti is a Tongan man who dresses and lives as a woman. In many Tongan families, if several children have been born and they are all boys, one of them will be dressed as a girl and do girls’ chores, such as housecleaning. As the fakaleiti grows up, he or she may decide to continue to live the rest of his or her life as a woman.

An adult fakaleiti will usually wear western, rather than traditional Tongan, women’s clothes. If one sees a young Tongan woman in a miniskirt or revealing dress, chances are that, rather than being a native who has been influenced by the ways of American or European fashion, the young woman is actually a fakaleiti.

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