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Lindah Lepou’s powerful story of survival

Lindah Lepou is a Samoan transwoman, fashion designer, artist, and performer who recently shared her story in the form of a long prose poem called Blah Blah Blah, as part of the Pacific Arts Legacy Project from Pantograph Punch and Creative NZ.

This is an intense but powerful story that takes you on Lindah’s journey through growing up trans in NZ and Samoa, navigating stigma and discrimination, surviving physical and sexual violence, dealing with suicidal urges, and discovering her identity and personal power.

Lindah opens her story with an acknowledgement to ‘Le Va’. I love this concept. It’s like an ancient, indigenous predecessor to social constructionism and family systems thinking.

Jemaima Tiatia-Seath defines Le Va as “the relational space that connects people, things and elements. The sacred space between, the space that binds independent entities together, the space that is context, the space that gives meaning to things. A space not solely observed by the individual but also executed at wider institutional and societal levels. Pacific peoples inhabit multiple social spaces, hold various roles, responsibilities and standing within their families, villages, churches and communities, occupy a range of experiences, by age, socioeconomic position, gender identity, sexual preference, birthplace, ethnicity, disability, and religious/spiritual affiliation. Genuine Pacific cultural competency embraces and values all diversity. (See: Tiatia-Seath, 2018, The importance of Pacific cultural competency in healthcare, Pacific Health Dialog; 21/1: 8-9.) That can start to sound a bit academic sometimes, but when you read a story like Lindah’s, or any recovery story really, the many intersections come to life.

Lindah writes, “Ona muamua Le VA. Blah blah blah blah blah… Soso‘o mai loa AITU. Blah blah blah blah blah… GAFA Sāmoa and Pālagi lineage. A family of multidimensional artists. Blah blah blah blah blah… Solo Sāmoan mother and absent Pālagi father. Blah blah blah blah blah… I was born in Wellington, New Zealand (1973). Blah blah blah blah blah… Transgender. I was an effeminate child named ‘Aaron Lepou’. Blah blah blah blah blah…”

Later, she continues, “Blah blah blah blah blah… I create ‘Lindah Lepou’ with all the courage and qualities I urgently need. I wanted to kill myself. Blah blah blah blah blah… Performing Artist. I started dancing to express myself and build self-confidence. Janet Jackson and En Vogue were my obsession. Blah blah blah blah blah…”

Read the rest of Lindah Lepou’s story on Pantograph Punch here.