Your body, your sovereignty

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Rachel Laulu

The Yoga Juice studio is right next door to a seamstress who is fa’afaine, she’s amazing. We often chat and hug greet each other in the corridor, I get her to alter my op-shop finds and she often has HEAPS of her fa’afa mates around, sometimes long into the evening, laughing and listening to music while she sews. All the girls seem to know my name now, and often call out to chat to me in the street, very cute... 

A couple weeks back my neighbour and I cried together in the hallway over the Observer’s #BeautifulJeanine front page story. We’ve chatted nearly every day since, discussing what’s happening in the news and how it’s effecting their community, our community. 

It’s been a huge shake up with massive ripples. Front page articles with ministers declaring that fa’afa’s didn’t exist in our culture until recently (ahem...). Social media has been afire in response to many articles and many conversations are popping up daily on facebook in regards to many of the issues which have been raised. There’s definitely an energy at the moment, one that can’t be ignored.

For this weeks article, I started writing a piece about going vegan, which I’ll finish soon (maybe you’ll read it next week?) - I still feel drawn to keep the focus on our LGBTQI community so am rush writing this on the day of deadline, luckily I’ve just returned from my yoga class at Tanoa with the free breakfast included and I’m tanked on coffee...

A month or so back I noticed lots of shares on facebook of a blog series by Lani Wendt Young (one of the best Samoan authors ever, in my opinion) – these blog pieces are interviews with young, happy successful LGBTQI people, where they talk about their struggles of acceptance with their sexuality from friends and family and themselves. There are more than a handful of interviews and they’re inspiring, reminiscent of the “It gets better” vlog campaign on youtube, where LGBTQI celebrities talk about their struggles and their successes once “coming out”.

I would suggest checking both out for inspiration. Remember, you’re not alone and even though you  may be in a small village, may be even reading this article way passed the issue date. You’re not alone. 

 To let go of holding onto a facade, a mask can be truly liberating, nearly as liberating as being non judgemental. Living and letting live. We all have something that we feel defines us and the moment LGBTQI people are given the freedom to just be they/we can focus on other things in life.

Repression of basic human rights is what creates stagnancy in a person and in a culture, so much time spent just to fit. Being put into a box with a label is never fun, and it’s sad that we have to use acronyms like LGBTQI to define where and who we are but it’s needed in these times of unfolding of closed mindsets, minds that have been templated by archaic belief systems. But enough is enough. A few days ago in Pakistan there was religious decree declaring transgender marriage to be legal.

The decree, or fatwa, was passed on Sunday 26 June by a group clerics. It said that according to Islam transgender people with “visible signs” of being male or female may marry someone of the opposite sex. The 50 clerics, also said any act intended to “humiliate, insult or tease” transgender individuals should be considered a crime under Islam. - Now this is momentous, and the great news continues all around the world for LGBTQI folk, last week in Washington, USA , Defence Secretary Ashton B. Carter removed one of the final barriers to military service by lifting the Pentagon’s ban on transgender people serving openly in the armed forces.

“Effective immediately, transgender Americans may serve openly,” Mr. Carter said. “They can no longer be discharged or otherwise separated from the military just for being transgender.”

The decision pushes forward a transformation of the military that Mr. Carter has accelerated in the last year with the opening of all combat roles to women and the appointment of the first openly gay Army secretary... Now I’m not into military or war, but this is also amazing news for equality.

But it’s not all good news, we only had the Orlando gay nightclub shootings recently. It’s a fight against the minds of those who have chosen old world religious templates for thought, those who don’t think for themselves or with their hearts when condemning basic human rights. Here in Samoa

it’s illegal to have gay sex, with upto 5 years imprisonment, it’s even illegal to have consensual anal sex if you’re straight. Our bodies should be our sovereignty.

In August 2012, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Mailielegaoi reportedly “scoffed” at the idea that Samoa would follow the lead of New Zealand in legalising same sex marriage. When asked if he would support legalisation, he said, “You are dreaming. He reiterated this position, on explicitly religious grounds, in March 2013.

My view as the leader of Samoa on this gay marriage issue is simple: There is no way, none whatsoever, that this issue will ever be considered in Samoa. The Samoan parliament would never consider a bill such as this, at least not in my time. It is the strong and combined view of the government of Samoa and the country’s religious denominations.

We stand united against this because Samoa is founded on Christian beliefs, and Christian beliefs are against this type of behaviour which the Bible states, was the reason for the curse that brought destruction on Gomorrah and Sodom. It is very clear that the sacrament of marriage is between a man and a woman. Same sex marriage is a sin. And no matter how people present this issue, no matter how they wrap it up, there is only one truth, and that is, this type of behaviour is a sin.

I feel weird reading the above statement knowing that the ideas behind the opinions are from the same book which has more about left handedness being a sin than being gay, but the good book has been through many interpretations and had more than a few editors with people picking and choosing whatever they like for adding emphasis to their own agendas, or maybe they’re just far to gone to actually look at all of human history and see that religions come and go, it wasn’t long ago that Samoa (and the World) was polytheistic and possibly a lot less repressive and happier. Beliefs change.

Science is a great place to look for explanations as to why we’re all born beautifully different and the study of epigenetics seems to be pointing in the right direction to finding the left-handed gene, (and also the gay gene). For me, I don’t understand why we’re even looking...

Your body is your sovereignty., what you do with your body is your business, what you and your lover(s) do with each others bodys when in love should be celebrated because you are using your instrument of experience to experience bliss and joy. Choose to eat good food, listen to wonderful music, dance and laugh and wish everybody else the same joy. You’re a human being. Be a nice one.

*Rachel Laulu is a yoga teacher who offers private yoga classes to corporate groups, schools, retreats and individuals. If you have any inquiries please feel free to contact Rachel via email at yogasamoa@gmail.com or add her on facebook through her Yoga Juice Samoa group page

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