At the beginning of the 21st century, fa’afafine identities exist in spaces of tension between tradition and modernity, between Samoan cultural discourses of family, respect and social status, and western ideologies of sexual liberation, individual freedom and the right to emotionally fulfilling relationships. In Samoa, shifts in Samoan understandings of gender and sexuality have meant that contemporary fa’afafine utilise aspects of both indigenous and imported cultures and discourses, often in explicitly strategic manoeuvres designed to realise their own goals. In Aotearoa/New Zealand, migrant fa’afafine negotiate between the demands of the Samoan community, the hegemonic structures of western gender frameworks, and their own sense of themselves as family members, as Samoan, as feminine, and as social actors attempting to meet their own individuals and various needs. While the details of these practices are unique to these individual participants, to contemporary fa’afafine, to Samoans, to transgendered people, to cross-cultural migrants, or to other specific categories of persons, the processes themselves are universal. As a means of drawing some sort of conclusion to this research, I outline some of the over-arching systems which frame these micro-practices, drawing links between the lived experience of the fa’afafine I have spoken with and the means by which all genders, and all subjectivities, are constructed and maintained. The practices illustrate that:
… there is no such thing as the ‘free’ play of signification in a material world, bodies are not passively inscribed by signs; they are inscribed by people who select items of material culture from a restricted range of options and arrange them according to imaginations that are shaped by historical development (Weston 1993b: 13-14).