Attitudes towards LGBTQI relations in the South Pacific are multilayered and complex. Due to the conservative Christian influences, being gay or lesbian is on one level regarded as unnatural and sinful. Yet in Polynesia – especially Tonga and Samoa – there are long traditions of male cross-dressing and transgenderism that are usually, though not always, associated with being gay. Melanesian countries tend to be less tolerant of gay men and lesbians, but this stance has noticeably softened over recent decades.
Being gay is technically illegal (although this is rarely enforced) in many South Pacific countries, including the Cook Islands, Niue, the Solomon Islands, Tokelau and Tonga. Lesbianism only gets an official mention in Samoa, where it is also illegal. But in Fiji and the more liberal French colonies of New Caledonia and French Polynesia, being gay or lesbian is legal.
Excessive public displays of affection – both heterosexual and of any sexuality – are frowned upon in most South Pacific societies.