12 Apr “I love you – no matter what.”
I’m honored to have Phineas Hartson as a guest on this blog in the first of a new series of guest-posts from (what the palagi would call) our ‘LGBTI’ Pasifika community. This is an #OwnVoices series. I first ‘met’ Phineas via her powerful and honest writing online as she shared insights into her experience as a fa’afafine living in Australia and more recently, her journey of transition. Last week, she wrote a particularly poignant piece about her father and I asked if she would be willing to share on this blog. Her response – “If it can inspire other parents to just Love their children and children to just trust their parents than my job is done…”
My name is Phineas Hartson.
I was born the second son of Mr & Mrs Matautia T Hartson. My mother passed away in 1995. I have four sisters and a younger brother who died only a few days old. I have a growing set of nephews and nieces with one grand nephew. Not forgetting the hundreds of extended family all over the globe.
I was born Fa’afafine. My story is not that unique in the Samoan context.
I wasnt raised “Fa’afafine” I was just Phineas, a sensitive, intuitive, feminine little boy who loved to sing, dance, draw and daydream, who had an affinity with animals and who loved his family more than Life itself.
I was born and Educated in New Zealand, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree and a failed attempt at being a High-school Teacher.
I was accepted into Law school in Sydney and became the first Samoan Fa’afafine to be admitted to the Australian bar as a Solicitor. However this blessing came with long-term unemployment. Being open came at a price.
But last year I was very fortunate to be given full time work as a solicitor at the Central Coast Community Law Centre as an open trans woman.
As a young adult, I identified as Fa’afafine, even though I tried to distance myself from “it”, lost in the bland, black and white landscape of New Zealand in the 80’s. The only option available I thought was “Gay”. Being “Fa’afafine, was unheard of in my small country town and the word “Transgender Woman” wasn’t even in my vocabulary.
For years I thought “Gay” was me, until the break up of a long term relationship last year which brought me to the realisation that I had been living as a Woman for years and that I was not Gay.
So at 49, I decided to live my life as the real me, the life that I had suppressed for many years. Suppression that resulted in harmful addictions and dark thoughts of suicide.
A few weeks ago, I sent a letter that I had written months earlier detailing my transition from male to female, to my Dad. I added a photo of my “new” self and waited.
Last night, I received a Facebook message from my youngest sister in Samoa, “Ring Dad”.
I told her, to tell Dad that I would call him tomorrow.
Now my Father is 85 years old. He’s also a Pastor of a Evangelist Christian Church.
The next day I rang home in New Zealand and after a few rings I heard Dads familiar voice answer the phone; “Hello?”
I said “Hi Dad”, as I always did.
Without pause, my Father said that he wanted me to hear these words directly from his own mouth; through tears and emotion, he said “Son, I Love you…”
He said he Loved me unconditionally, “No matter what…”
My soul rejoiced.
My Dad said that God had given all of us free will in this life and he said to ‘be happy living my life and not to worry or listen to anything, anyone else said.’ He had heard secret whispers from within the “extended” family, but had waited to hear word from me.
We talked for 30 minutes about how I didnt want there to be any secrets between us and talked about my thoughts of suicide last year because of not living my authentic self. He told me “don’t ever think those thoughts”, that I am never alone and that he wanted me to be happy. I told him that I was “Very Happy now!”, the happiest I had ever been in my whole life.
During our conversation I told my Dad that I loved him and it was because I loved him, that I wanted to include him in my life: knowing everything, about my life, the good, the bad and the ugly.
We talked about my late Mum and how she had changed my Dads life, giving him a wonderful life and children.
My father told me that he supported me and that he knew that my sisters supported me too. I told him that I felt the same way too.
I am now over flowing with Love for my Father and my siblings right now.
Three simple words set me free “I Love you” the chains of self doubt, pain, fear, dissolved in an instant like salt with water.
I feel now, I can achieve anything, knowing that I have my Father’s Love.
I’m very lucky to have this Family. Very lucky.
Thank you God! XXX