Gay Marriage, the Samoan Community and Its Hypocrisy

It’s funny what one man says can do to the conscience of so many people. Even those who are not technically affected by this person’s decisions or statements suddenly find themselves engrossed in a conversation that pertains to the topic touted by such a ‘great’ man. But such is the interconnected world that we live in now that the statements made by Barack Obama the President of the United States; has led a situation where now New Zealand’s legislature maybe confronted with perhaps the most controversial bill to come before the house in recent times. The issue of Gay Marriage.

It’s rather ironic that the two members’ bills that have been placed in the ballot for debate have been drafted so hastily and so publicly considering that less than a month ago, the issue wasn’t even close to being on the agenda. Rather, the country has been imploring the government to not go ahead with selling its assets as opposed to a lively discussion about whether we should let Adam and Steve join in legal matrimony.

And let’s not ignore the violent storm of public opposition to the government’s proposed education reforms (that was hastily reversed after it was apparent that it could be an issue to bring them down at the next poll)

But such is the fickleness of politics. A master politician wields far greater influence than any ordinary citizen can imagine. And an American president, nonetheless, has given LGBT rights campaigners in New Zealand the impetus to force the debate to the public fore. This coupled with a survey conducted by TVNZ which said that 63% of the country was now in support of gay marriage, the time has never seemed more ripe for New Zealand’s last bastion of discriminatory legislation to finally be brought out into the public, aired, dried and hopefully retired to the yesteryear of backward, conservative bigoted thinking.

It’s been a fast rise for the LGBT community in New Zealand. Homosexuality itself was only decriminalised in 1986, when I was 2 years old, and now nearly 30 years on, we are on the cusp of perhaps the country’s biggest signal that it has arrived at a point of social tolerance that encompasses all minorities. A status that really can only be afforded to a small developed nation like ours at the back end of the world, where social experiment is something we aren’t afraid of.

The path to this point has been rather interesting though. In 2004 the then Labour government (socially progressive) passed the Civil Unions Act, which allowed same sex couples to join legally and live just like a married couple. We thought that this was progressive for the country at the time and struck the right compromise between the conservatives and the progressives as marriage was more of a ‘religious’ institution in most people’s eyes. So it seemed everyone was happy with this arrangement.

So what has changed then to push gay marriage back on to the agenda in New Zealand? Besides President Obama’s ringing endorsement, and John Key’s half endorsement (if you could call it that) there were a couple of things that most of us weren’t aware of.

The government of the day claimed that the Civil Unions Act 2004 would give same sex couples and heterosexual couples that opted for a civil union the same legal rights as a married couple. It would just remove the religious aspect of the bonding of two people. Helen Clark the then Prime Minister even went as far to say that if she had had the option in her day, she would have had a Civil Union instead of Marriage to her long suffering husband Peter.

One thing we all forgot to pay attention to was the fact that under New Zealand adoption laws, a same sex couple could not legally adopt a baby even if they are in a recognised legal civil union.(It has recently been pointed out to me that this also true for heterosexual couples) So this is where the lines become blurry and the voice of dissent louder. I suppose then the easiest thing would be to just amend the adoption act right? Well, yes it would be, but would it be the right thing to do?

I thought about this long and hard at first. I asked myself, is it really necessary for gay marriage to be allowed? Is it worth all the angst, the public outcry, the heated and misinformed debate. The bigots attacking the gays, the liberals being labelled gay for supporting the ‘gays’. Why don’t we take the easy way out? Compromise is such a New Zealand thing to do!

But I answered my question with one simple sentence. Because it’s the right thing to do.

Why is that a small section of our society should be denied the basic right that is afforded to every man and woman due to their sexuality? It’s more than the right thing to do, it’s a basic human right. To be joined in matrimony with the person YOU love.

And that’s essentially it. Someone can not control who they fall in love with. And you and I have no right to tell them otherwise. In a world where love is difficult for many to find, why must we shun those who have found it just because it came in a form that we aren’t used to?

A wise woman once said to me that ‘I identify myself as a being capable of love, because although I prefer the company of men, I can not rule out falling in love with a woman. Because love knows no physical boundaries, true love connects two beings’. It was in that moment the penny dropped for me.

Unfortunately it hasn’t dropped for others.

Recently in the media, New Zealand First Member of Parliament Le’au Asenati Lole-Taylor came out rather aggressively in her opposition to the gay marriage debate and labelled the debate a ‘waste of time’. To quote the esteemed first term MP, she said to the Samoa Observer Newspaper:

“What I find irritating is that all of a sudden politicians or certain people are in support of it because President Obama said it, and because 63 percent of people polled are in support of it,The truth is, that’s 63 percent of people the surveyors spoke to, not 63 percent of the New Zealand population, let’s be completely honest about that.”

Apparently she disagrees with the TVNZ poll. And thinks people only support it because other people do? Interesting logic. She goes on to say:

“The media should be play(ing) its role to inform our people about some of the important issues that has to do with the cost of living, future direction of the country, education, employment and so on. Those are the things media should be bringing to the people so they are aware and be part and participate in them.”

I was taken aback at how low brow the quality of some of our politician’s comments can be. To say things like the media should be bringing ‘important’ issues to our people, is poor even by a novice politician’s standards.

What could be any more important to a person than recognition that they are an equal of any other person in our free society? What is more important than someone’s human rights? And this coming from a member of one of New Zealand’s other minority communities. To me it is rather disappointing. But she is not alone in her criticism of the debate.

Labour’s Su’a William Sio, another Samoan Member of Parliament wrote this in a column for the Samoa Observer: “I have received strong views from our Pacific community, the Asian community as well as Muslims regarding this topic. “I believe the majority [of them] hold to the belief that a marriage is a divine covenant made between a man and a woman and that covenant remains from beginning until the end of time.”

The word ‘Divine’ is the one that gets me the most. Because if you are Samoan you know for a fact that there is sometimes nothing ‘Divine’ about our people’s sexual practices. We don’t talk about it, but we all know it happens (married men sleeping with other men and fa’afafeine) And where does the Bible mention anything about fa’afafeine being a third gender? It doesn’t, yet it is a view widely regarded in Samoa as being a social custom. The truth be told our community are closeted bigots when it comes to the issue of homosexuality. And we promote an idea of social piety when in actual reality, we are far from chaste or pure.

Our community boasts one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in New Zealand. We also have one of the highest teenage delinquency rates, yet we remain one of the most religious. Somehow, that correlation just does not seem to fit a logical order.

And neither does our view on gay marriage. Sio even admits later on in his column that: “The issue is sensitive because there are Samoan same-sex couples living together. Some of them raising children. And that is not new. Many of these couples are also strong supporters of the church and their extended families. These same-sex couples have mixed answers. Some would like to marry and others prefer the status quo.”

So there is recognition that they do exist. So why are our community so tight lipped about it?

I guess we are sticklers for hierarchy, and even in some crude way, Samoan society accepts fa’afafeine and ‘gays’ at the bottom of the social hierarchy.

There have been signs of change in Samoa. The Prime Minister is the patron of the fa’afafeine society/association and there are many fa’afafeine who are now working in Samoa’s public service, some of which are my good friends and family.

But the issue goes to the core of what Samoans do that piss me the hell off. (excuse my bluntness) Our refusal to support anything that may upset the hierarchy is really just an attempt at exerting dominance over another group. There is no reason why Samoans should be opposed to gay marriage. But it would mean that Samoans would have to accept a caste of people, that they have long designated to the bottom of the heap in society, and recognise that they actually do have something valuable to contribute. This scares the institution more than anything else in my opinion.

So as beautiful and wonderful my culture is, there are things I still loathe about it. Namely in this regard, the utter hypocrisy demonstrated by our leaders in New Zealand and their lack of a backbone. Their job is to serve all the community, not just the part that they are enraptured with. The majority.

And what about the others who are Non-Samoan and opposed to gay marriage? What do I have to say to them? Well let’s be honest. A common response I always get when I ask people why they are opposed to it is because it’s unnatural, it’s between a man and a woman. Well your lack of an explanation is all the explanation I need. Could you perhaps be a tad homophobic?

It’s like how a racist always precursors a racist statement with “I’m not racist but…” and proceeds to make a racist statement; such is the same logic behind your inability to find a sound argument for your opinion to be propped up on.

There is no logical or ‘natural’ reason to disallow gay marriage. People say that gay marriage will cause an upheaval in society. That’s not the ‘gays’ fault, that’s societies fault for being closed minded. I even read in a column by a New Zealand herald columnist that ‘gays’ shouldn’t be allowed to adopt because it will have severe damages on a child having to battle through discrimination all their lives because of their parent’s choice. That has nothing to do with their parents, the only thing that is causing the severe damage is the society itself. It’s refusal to accept others for their differences and your inability to focus on your own life and your insistent poking into other peoples business is really the issue here.

And that’s just it. Why do people get so worked up about gay marriage in the first place? No one’s telling you to have one. so what if your neighbours down the road do? You’re not walking down the aisle. So why don’t you just take a seat and let love be.

And the issue of religion is something that I really can’t stand. It’s a touchy subject for Samoans and I would probably need an entire new post to let out my frustrations.

But I just want fellow Christians to know this, God has made all of us in his image, he has earmarked all of us in his plans. Concentrate on your own plan and on letting God have his way in your life, rather than trying to get the Drag Queens on Kr’d to turn in their high heels!

Your right to your religion doesn’t give you the right to take away another person’s freedom. That is the most anti-christian thing I have ever heard in my life.

So let others be who they want to be, and let them be with who they want to be if you are a true Christian.

Because if you’re so busy making a huge racket, and screaming to other people to repent, chances are you’ll be too busy trying to be pious that you won’t hear God call out to you to love your neighbour as he has loved you.

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32 thoughts on “Gay Marriage, the Samoan Community and Its Hypocrisy”

  1. That was a fantastic post! Thank you so much!

    Just wanted to make sure you know that no Kiwi’s in a Civil Union, be it gay or straight, can adopt in NZ. I am in a straight Civil Union, and just like our gay unionised friends, we cannot adopt in NZ. We could ‘convert’ our Civil Union into a marriage in order to adopt, but this compromises our personal beliefs around equality. ‘Converting’ is just another way of buying into a society where it is wrong to be, or to be a supporter of our gay community and keeps us further from a more equal society.

    I can understand why Labour didn’t change this when they brought in Civil Union (a whole other kettle of fish in many’s eyes which would have made it hard for them to get Civil Union through), but this antiquated law from the 50’s needs updating promptly. Our Prime Minister has stated on this issue that ‘it is not a priority’. We already have gay parents the country over doing a fabulous job, and we need legislature which makes it possible for more to do the same.

  2. Hey Pat! I had no idea you had a current blog – but the heading of this got my attention from your Facebook – you articulated your thoughts and argument very well and I completely agree with you! Felt like I was reading an article from a Pacific Activist as part of my Pacific Studies honours degree right now! lol! Malo lava 🙂

    You’re statements about the ambivalence of Samoan society and PIs in New Zealand is really key and an issue that needs to be brought up more in our communities, as they apply to so many other aspects like education (act smart but not be smart, get an education but not be changed by an education), religion (well you’re right that you need to blog again!) and as you have touched on: gender. You have really unpacked some of those politicians comments well and is encouraging not just for those who are gay but more importantly – others that may be marginalized as female, disabled, anything different -in effect EVERYONE to think critically and reflect on larger processes that we might just take for granted.

    I also just wanted to talk a little more about your point of globalization and how in the 21st century a statement from Obama can affect the reality of the lives of New Zealanders. If my recollection is correct, before leaving for my stint in Korea in 08 – Key borrowed a lot from Obama’s initial presidential run in the very same year with the presence of ideas such as “CHANGE: YES WE CAN”. Even though the foundations of their parties differ (center-right and left wing – I think that’s right? unfortunately my interests in the political arena take a hike upward around election time or controversial proposals and bills), it would seem that what National and Key have done particularly well in is maximizing the effect of globalization and how, I quote your opening line, “It’s funny how what one man says can do to the conscience of so many people”.

    Lastly, “doing the right thing” ma le alofa i le lua te tuaoi e pei lava ia te oe, Iakopo (sorry cant remember the mataupu and faiupu but it was my aóaóga from last months exam). Just thinking about this and all the injustices in the world, sooooo… overwhelming and exhaustive -but 100% necessary and I cant stress how important. Whatever scale – small or big – doing the right thing will help someone. So, malo for your blog and being true to yourself!

    I have a habit of becoming too depressed by life that I can’t function, and since my exam is tomorrow I have to function (and get off Facebook ha)!!!. I know life is not as easy as the shoop doobe doops and lalalas in a pop song BUT I just went to Lady Gaga’s concert in Auckland last week – and when I read you’re blog I had to stop myself from breaking out into the BORN THIS WAY tune and true to myself I’ll leave you with a snippet of her lyrics to hope to keep anyone reading upbeat and empowered:

    Don’t be drag, just be a queen
    Whether you’re broke or evergreen
    You’re black, white, beige, chola descent
    You’re lebanese, you’re orient
    Whether life’s disabilities
    Left you outcast, bullied or teased
    Rejoice and love yourself today
    Cause baby, you were Born This Way

    No matter gay, straight or bi
    Lesbian, transgendered life
    I’m on the right track, baby
    I was born to survive
    No matter black, white or beige
    Chola or orient made
    I’m on the right track, baby
    I was born to be brave

    I’m beautiful in my way
    Cause God makes no mistakes
    I’m on the right track, baby
    I was Born This Way

  3. LOVE the post! So awesome to hear intelligent discussion about this so-called unimportant issuse. Just an ammendment though, it’s fa’afafine, not fafafeine. Fa’a: similar or like, fafine: a woman. Keep up the awesome blog! 🙂

  4. Wow, didn’t think that so many people would be commenting on this. Rachel you know I always loved our random discussions about all things to do with our culture and the world! hahaha I also did fail to mention that the Civil Unions Act and its discriminatory aspect also affects straight couples thanks for pointing that out Hannah! And Koefernisi, thanks for correcting me! I don’t understand why I spelt it that way! hahahaha, sorry, vave kele le alu a lima ae le mafaufau ile spelaga sa’o a le upu!

  5. Excellent post, thanks.
    In response to the adoption anomaly … “Civil Unions Act 2004 would give same sex couples and heterosexual couples that opted for a civil union the same legal rights as a married couple”.

    I think there was a lot of work on this issue in the Care of Children Act 2004 amended 2005 http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2005/0005/latest/whole.html. Obviously for this kind of legislation it is good to have some kind of cross party consensus so the rules don’t change too often and families get unnecessary stress.

    Keep it up… looking forward to your next post.

  6. Hahaha ae a fo’i! That’s what happens when you are so passionate about the topic a ea?! 🙂

    1. HAHAHAHA sa’o lelei oe! My mother would be so ashamed at my spelling in Samoan. I used to email her in Samoan and she said, uo lava, kau le malamalama i ou imeli son, just use english! hahahaha

  7. Great post and dealing with one tough issue. In my experience, religion seems the number 1 road block in peoples thinking, with Biblical justifications oft given for atrocious attitudes. Personally, any religion that has such vile prejudices deserves no respect in such a vital debate for constitutional equality and freedom. I am for Gay Marriage and for equality under the law. Keep up the great writing Uce.

  8. Hey Patty! Very thought provoking post. Personally I can’t fault it. But politically, how do we convince our Samoan/Pacific communities that supporting gay marriage is the right thing to do? Because there’s no doubt it’s an entrenched view despite the hypocrisy.

    1. Thanks Reece! You are right to say that it is an entrenched view and difficult to change people’s views. But it’s like any social movement, you stand true to your ideals and you get your message out there. I wrote this in the safe knowledge that I am comfortable in who I am and where I sit in this debate, hoping that more young Samoans like yourself will have the courage to at least not openly run against this issue because the rest of our community does it. But you’re absolutely right Reece, it would be a mission impossible in many respects. But I hope this post can at least be one of my contributions to the debate. Malo lava uce, hope you and family are well in NZ!

  9. “…But it’s like any social movement, you stand true to your ideals and you get your message out there…”. By saying this, are you saying that Christians need to stand true to their ideals as well? And that their message is that they are opposed to gay marriage?

    Cheers

    Malo

    1. Hahaha that’s a good response to that statement! Well I do believe Christians need to stand true to the ideals of Christianity, as long as they are true Christian ideals, I am a Christian and I believe in the ideas of charity, tolerance, love and respect. I also believe in the principles of the bible and its teachings. But I do not take passages like that in Leviticus as the word of God, Because God never gave those words to us, they were given to us by a group of self-interested men who wanted to subordinate all in their realm of control, it’s contextual. So what I’m arguing is that if a Christian would stand true to the ideals of Christianity they would not be judgmental and would not be opposed to the principles of love and respect. And neither would they be mixing religious prerogative and matters of individual choice and freedom. So that’s what I meant by that. but I totally see where you are coming from too! 🙂

  10. A great read Patty. I especially agree with “Your right to your religion doesn’t give you the right to take away another person’s freedom”. Interested to see how this debate evolves. Hope you are well. And your eyes in your photos are great. Corneal graft? Or transplant? Xox

  11. I only just discovered your blog through this article and I just want to say thank you so, so, so much. Everything you wrote was exactly what I’ve been trying to articulate to people whenever this ridiculous argument comes up. Thank you so much for you support, it means a lot to me and I just want you to know that you have really brightened a closeted teenagers day. You’re giving a lot of people hope 🙂 So thank you. I’m not in NZ at the moment, I’m in a country where every one is a lot more bigoted and close minded than I’m used to so I have been very pessimistic and scared about coming back and getting involved in this debate but thanks to you I think I’ll be able to return to the roots of my feelings about this, that everybody is human and deserves equal rights, no matter race, gender or sexuality.

    1. Thank you so much for leaving a comment T! Your comment is the reason I wrote this in the first place. Because I know what it can be like for teenagers to be marginalised by society for being different, Keep your head up and don’t let anyone take away from you your spirit and right to be who you are! You just made my day!

  12. Wow long winded story! you are obviously passionate about this however there are also those of us who are just as passionate in defending the true and long history of marriage between one man and one women! Yes at times it won’t work out but thats life. You can twist and use what ever educated and articulate argument you may choose, but that’s all it will ever be an argument. People don’t just look at two guys or two gals funny when they see them kissing or holding hands becos they are misinformed, they see and know in their spirit that it’s not right or normal. I dont think civil union should have happend nor should any union or bill be passed where same sex have any rights that’s is formulated and is the god given birthright of those who are of “one man joined in marriage to”one women who within that one union have the right likes its always been to share the seed from man to his wife to bring “YOU”!! Into this world! So my Samoan brother just becos the minority have and are making big noise no way is it right!

    1. First off, thank you for commenting considering that our views are very different on the issue. I will just say that I agree to disagree with you on your views. But please don’t confuse what is right with what is being righteous. You may think what is completely ‘natural’ to you is the same as everyone else. But the truth is, your truth isn’t the same as everybody else as everyone sees the world from different perspectives. It’s important not to judge others on your own standards. We as a society need to learn to be more understanding to other people’s perspectives. I’ll leave it at that! God Bless Ese!

      1. Fair enough uso don’t mean to judge just expressing that’s all. I too have relatives and friends who are gay however they know where I stand with them we talk and joke like only hamos can but when jokes turn serious then it’s on like donkey kong!! Lol bless you too uce.

  13. “Your right to your religion doesn’t give you the right to take away another person’s freedom.” This is the best line/quote I have ever heard. This blog was awesome, keep it up buddy! 🙂

  14. I read the article with the two politicians’ views, and can I say that I sense a frustration in Asenati Lole-Taylor’s about being asked about gay marriage as if their situation is more important than hetero-sexual marriage. I certainly did not get a sense of being unsupportive in her comments, rather the question about why there is a need to be an issue. So what if people are gay… why do gay people need to seek affirmation as if they are in-secured about their own sexual orientation.
    Su’a Sio’s comments was more on the prograstination line, and comes across as someone who sits on the fence.

    My question though is: “Why should you have the right to ask such question of non-gay people?” I am disappointed at your blog because my son is gay, and he is well supported and well loved, and he does not need to seek an approval or affirmation from anyone to be who he is.

    Can I also say that Obama’s comments was only sought as a politician in order to provide justification for some gay community. Why do you need his approval? Is he a God of Marriage?

    1. Hi Ana,

      thank you for your feedback, It is always interesting to see what other people think about the same issue.I do want to point a couple of things out in relation to your response to my blog post.

      First of all, Asenati’s comments disappointed me because she tried to play off the issue of gay marriage as one as unimportant. That we do not need to discuss it, as is something that you seem to think that we should do. The fact that you want to ignore it as unimportant is not an argument in my view. I was pointing out that it is wrong for Pacific politicians to say that it is nothing that we should discuss because there are more important issues to discuss. Well human rights are important. Especially because it affects a large part of their constituency.

      In addition to this you say ‘why do gay people need to seek affirmation as if they are in-secured about their own sexual orientation’ – this unfortunately is not logical at all and not what the discussion is about. Once again, it’s about what is a human right. I don’t believe you should stoop to accuse the gay community of being attention seekers for the sake of their own security. That is ludicrous! The gay community are not the insecure ones’ it’s the heterosexual community.

      Furthermore, you say that your son is gay and he is well supported, that’s fantastic for him. But not all are as lucky as he is, and the reason why gay marriage is so important is that it sends a signal to society that gay people have a right to exist and be in loving relationships that are not condemned by society.

      Your arguments and questions would have more credence if you weren’t arguing for the status quo. And the status quo is where a gay person can be persecuted because of their sexuality. They can be discriminated against, they can be physically bullied by the mainstream, and this is the real reason why the discussion has to be had.

      You can’t ignore discrimination against any community, and I will stand up for anyone who has been denied the opportunity to live as they choose, because I’m from a minority group and have seen first hand how ignorance can cause prejudice and even unnecessary violence.

      No one is saying that gay marriage is more important than heterosexual marriage. No one has ever insinuated that in this debate, rather your views seem to promote the opposite with no reasoned argument to support your view.

      And your final question about Obama obviously means that you didn’t understand why I mentioned it at the beginning. I was alluding to the mere fact that Political influence can wield a huge amount of power.

      Once again thank you for your response, I do have to differ on your opinions, however, I wish you well.

      Regards
      Patrick

  15. Talofa, love your analysis on this very important issue…As Samoans we need to acknowledge our history especially the impact of Western colonial rule and its impact on us as a people..anything to do with discussing sex and sexuality including sexual identity we try to justify these sensitive issues by hiding behing the bible or quoting verses from the book to justify our views on this issue….so your analysis is brillant and is exactly my thoughts on the issue and I can bravely put my views across to people who blantly are homophobic…and like racists say I have nothing against gay people I have family and friends that are gay like racists Palagi say about their justification saying the same thing…so thank you for putting it out there…

  16. Patrick – you are articulated your thoughts with conviction. I totally support your direction on this kaupapa….kia kaha….

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