Not a boast, but the absence of shame


As we come to the end of Pride Month in Auckland, I’m thinking of all the events I wasn’t able to share with my Aucklanders this year, of the people who shared their stories, who worked in solidarity for visibility and strength, who marched, danced and advocated for those who couldn’t themselves. Thank you. I made it almost thirty years without being called an activist. I flinched at the time: it was in the context of advocating the worth and integrity of Samoan knowledge, customs and values. Now I know that being an activist is just caring about something enough to do something about it that benefits more people than yourself.

I'm all right with that.

My heart is tired and I'm recovering, but every day I am gaining strength and I thank every one of you for lending me yours. It makes me think about all those students out there walking into university who don’t have the benefit of staff fighting for their rights, of family and friends at their back, or of faith as their shield and foundation.

A couple of months ago, I shared a small chapter of my story as it related to being a member of the LGBT, Christian and Samoan community. There were predictable reactions that I won’t go into, but I want to thank everyone who weathered them and stood up for me in that public forum. Thank you to my church, family and friends who shared that story and didn’t hesitate to reach out with love and support.

What you might not realise is that every time you did that, you were standing up for others like me and those who didn't realise they had an ally in you. What you didn’t see were all the LGBT and non-LGBT people who contacted me privately afterwards to say 'thank you'. Who approached me out of the blue in person to say how proud they were of me. It's pretty surreal.

All of them were Pasifika.

Many of them were scared, tired, and didn't have the security to like, share or express a positive opinion on such a story online without fearing repercussions from their social circles. These people are your family, your friends, your co-workers. They are finding their way and it’s a powerful source of strength simply knowing you are not alone.

To these people, I sympathise as someone who knows too intimately what it feels like being exhausted down to their core: please stay alive. It’s going to be okay. We’re going to be okay. If once in a while you fracture or break, that's also okay. Just keep going.

And if you can, march this weekend in our Auckland CBD for yourself, for someone you love, for those who don’t have the freedom to do so yet. Pride is not a boast of superiority, but the absence of shame. Do not be ashamed. No matter your age, you are a beloved child worthy of love and respect, and we’ve got work to do.

Be kind to yourself. Rest when you need to. Keep spreading that good stuff.

Ia manuia.