Tuisina Ymania Brown
Tuisina Ymania Brown is a Samoan human rights activist and the Technical Director of the Samoa Fa’afafine Association, an NGO that fights for the the rights of indigenous lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex citizens in the country. Fa’afafine is a third gender characterized by individuals who were born male, but display both male and feminine personality traits. Fa’afafine are an important and recognized part of Samoan history and culture, yet they often find themselves discriminated against and devoid of legally recognized status. As a young child, Tuisina witnessed the death of a famous fa’afafine performer who had been beaten in front of her own house. Empowered by what she saw Tuisina was propelled into activism fighting for respect, equality and recognition of all genders in Samoa and throughout Oceania. Tuisina successfully introduced legislation that decriminalized “impersonation of a woman”, a crime for which many fa’afafine had been previously jailed. Tuisina continues to work through her organization along with the UN and Samoan National Human Rights Institution to help defend, define and educate Samoa on gender identity and human rights issues.
Julian was immediately charmed and enlivened by the kindness and goodwill engendered by both Tuisina’s photograph and touching life story. Utilizing motifs and themes from Samoan tatau art, the portrait is hand-drawn pen and ink. While many tatau compositions are random and fluid, this portrait was intended to connect her generous heart to her cultural heritage, radiating outward and conveying her mission of spreading awareness abroad.
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