Tiny Samoa starts a big ripple for women in sports

by Daphna Whitmore

The story of how the world awoke to a big injustice is starting to be told. 

The Pacific Games held this month in Samoa is another chapter. On the podium was Laurel Hubbard, the giant transgender weightlifter, wearing two gold medals and a silver, standing above two Pacific Island women. With their silver and bronze medals, they were stony-faced. Feagaiga Stowers and Iuniarra Sipaia should have worn gold and silver. Missing from the podium was Charisma Amoa Tarrant, the woman who should have been placed third.

For over two years voices have been raised about the unfairness to women weightlifters competing against Laurel Hubbard, a former competitive male weightlifter.  Those voices have been ignored and shouted over. Women are told to stop being nasty and get to the back of the bus. 

Feagaiga Stowers is a remarkable young woman who was the flag bearer for Samoa at the Pacific Games. Mata’afa Keni Lesa, writing in the Samoa Observer

This is a young woman who has had to endure tremendous difficulties in her childhood, where she eventually entered the Samoa Victims Support Group, to end up where she is today. It’s an incredible story. Indeed, Stowers’ meteoric rise has proven there is hope for everyone. And she’s done everything possible to be on top of her game, where she deserves to be. This was until she stepped up on the weightlifting platform on Saturday where her hopes of clinching a Pacific Games gold – and that of a proud nation – were crushed by a fellow competitor, Laurel Hubbard.

Gender ideology teaches that Hubbard’s win was a brave and wonderful thing. To the non-believers, Hubbard is a male-bodied athlete who should not compete against females. 

Daniel Leo, a top NZ-born Samoan international rugby player, witnessing the travesty, has spoken up:

Our generation has allowed this to happen on our watch… is this what we want to be remembered for? We must right this wrong before one of our daughters or sisters gets seriously hurt. Come on Rugby… time to show we really care about our ladies!

Leo cannot unsee the injustice and clearly will not be muzzled by the gender ideology clergy:

Please don’t patronise me with that “bigotry” BS. I have many friends and family who identify as Fa’afafine – among the most respected people in our Samoan & Pacific societies – who I love & who I stand up for in their struggle for equality. This is not equality though.

Indeed,  in Samoa fa’afafine (third gender) people compete in sports but they are in the male divisions. Fa’afafine don’t muscle into female divisions. Jaiyah “Johnny” Saelua, who has been recognised by Fifa as the first transgender international footballer to play in the World Cup, points out “there are lots of fa’afafine in American Samoa that play soccer, and other sports, and even in other national teams in other sports. We are all given an equal opportunity to play sport.”

As Mata’afa Keni Lesa explains

Hubbard denies the opportunity for women like Stowers to claim what is rightfully theirs … Hubbard does not belong in the women’s competition. As a transgender, there are only two ways Hubbard should continue to compete. Hubbard could either step up against the men or the organisers of the Pacific Games, or any competition Hubbard enters, should introduce a new division for transgenders.

Samoa’s prime minister has spoken up too: “This fa’afafine or man should have never been allowed by the Pacific Games Council President to lift with the women.” He said. “I was shocked when I first heard about it.”

Is this just being cruel to transgender people who want to compete as women? Where does the line get drawn?  Should sportswomen turn the other cheek to accommodate the needs of transwomen? Is it a rare event? There are eight transgender players on Iran’s women’s national football team. There is your answer.

The rules which currently allow transgender athletes to compete in women’s divisions need to be changed. Samoa, a tiny Pacific island, is leading the conversation. 


  1. I think it’s also important to keep in mind that New Zealand is the imperialist country that historically invaded, ruled and oppressed Samoa.

    And that Laurel Hubbard’s dad is a member of the NZ ruling class and one of this country’s richest people, Dick Hubbard.

    So we have a really gross sense of entitlement going on here – entitlement on several levels.

    • God created man and a woman born as a man is no change in His creation so why do we change it
      Very wrong

  2. The truth of the fact is that NO-FAAFAFINE OR MAN transform to woman should be allowed to be compete with the womens sport Samoa what so ever..Don’t bring other nations into the coversation.The Prime Minister is absolutely right, and the media is correctly by saying that this transgender should be with the mens to compete..Do we see any Faafafige compete in any sport in Samoa agaisnt their own people??
    The Faafafige always respect their sisters n their family regardless..So this transgender shouldn’t be allow with the women’s, this man or faafafige can compete in the men’s division…What ever the Faafafige do insports or compete with the female in other countries, please Don’t bring it to Samoa e faaleaga ai fua le matagiofie o Samoa ile lalolagi i taaloga, e faavaivai ai alo ma tama a teine fanau osi tatou atunuu pele o Samoa..Manuia le Palemia o Samoa ma ona tagata nuu mai lava i tua’a matutua i Tama ma Tina, alo ma fanau pele osi tatou atunuu o Samoa..Alofa mo Samoa..💖💖

  3. When I first read about the disappointment of Samoan people about this competition I strongly stand with my people because I know for sure this is very confusing and my children now started mocking me by coining in on that term on my facebook comment..the term “confuse” this gender categorisation is confusing for those people who identifies themselves as transgender and to the wider community. There are 100 thousands Samoan faafafine or faafatama i never heard anyone of them mentioned the transgender word in the past even now, what I think we should encourage this people to never doubt their gender like this and straighten identified themselves as a male or female especially in sports, trans means transfer from male to female😃😃 I also in that same comment said we should add another division in sports like this and called it a confusion division then people who are not sure about what is between their legs should fit themselves in that division. Please do not take my comment wrong, I have uncles,cousins, friends who are faa-fafine they are respectful people in our community they are very aware of who they are and their positions in our Samoan culture, when it comes to sports they understand eventhough they act and identify as female they never cross that line..and it’s time for the world to listen.

  4. In Samoan culture we have accepted transgender people into our communities for generations. But in so many sports, like weightlifting to say transwoman with mens physical advantages are equal is a joke. This unfairness must end.

  5. This is what I have been saying for a long time. Forget what gender they say they want to be and compete in the gender they were born with. That is fair.

  6. They should have a Sth Pacific Transgender competion but not mix with the ladies competition. A man is a man, a woman is a woman full stop.

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