PRIDE - PASIFIKA STORIES - Peyton Wolfgramm
In celebration of Auckland Pride Month, we're sharing Pasifika Pride stories.
Doctoral Candidate/Councilor/Mental Health Advocate
Peyton is a proud Tongan born in Auckland and was raised (and still resides) in Māngere. She is a daughter of migrants. Her father is from ʻUtungake, Vavaʻu and her mother is from Niutoua, Tongatapu. She is a sister to four brothers and one sister. She is an aunty to nine nieces and nephews. Currently Peyton is a Doctoral Candidate at The University of Auckland, studying towards being a Doctor of Clinical Psychology. Weaved into this, she is a proud leitī.
As we know, this month is Pride month and we’d love to hear what “Pride” means to you?
Pride is the full acknowledgment of who one is. It includes the authentic expression and embodiment of oneself as an LGBTQIA+/MVPFAFF+ person in their unique context. But it also includes the ʻofa, acceptance and respect of friends, family and allies.
How impactful do you feel the Pasifika LGBTQIA+/MVPFAFF+ has been in making the fabric of the Pacific community?
Very impactful! Our Pasifika LGBTQIA+/MVPFAFF+ community have and continue to occupy roles that ensure that our Pasifika community as a whole progresses and succeeds. We have been present in the minds of Pasifika and non-Pasifika alike, leading and blazing in a number of domains - creative industries, sport, health and academia to name a few. We are often the keepers of the home and the carers of the young and the elderly. We provide support in a number of ways and often expect nothing in return. In saying that, there are a number of us who do not get the recognition or acknowledgement that we truly deserve - even from our own Pasifika Peoples. It’s the everyday stories of struggle, hard work, commitment, loyalty to family and unconditional love for me! And it often pains me to know that many MVPFAFF+ don’t often get the platform to share their stories. I mean, I know of one leitī who is a recognised Tongan dance choreographer - the epitome of Tongan excellence. But God forbid they take centre stage and perform the tau’olunga - a dance traditionally performed by cisgender women. Many of us are the creators and curators of events, experiences and objects that are adored and respected by many. And yet, we often enact the opposite reaction by our own fāmili, kainga and communities. As Seuta‘afili Dr Patrick Thomsen says it eloquently in a recent article, we are and have been “the ghosts in this place”.
You're studying towards your Doctorate congratulations! What does it mean to you to be Queer, Pasifika and making waves as an academic?
You know, I never saw myself as an academic and if I am going to be honest, I am still learning to come to terms with that identity. What I can say wholeheartedly is that I am very much aware of the privilege that comes with it, especially as a Tongan leitī. In fact, I am always aware of the privilege that comes with moving into spaces like academia as a Pasifika, MVPFAFF+ AND the responsibility that comes with it. And that is why I made the conscious decision to conduct research that is meaningful and makes sense to the communities I choose to serve - a responsibility I feel all Pasifika academics have. Specifically, the research I am conducting aims to explore the experiences of identity and wellbeing of leitī living in Aotearoa New Zealand. I am guilty of having read research, particularly research that is meant to be trans-affirmative and been like “OK, and?” And this is why I have enjoyed being around researchers both Pasifika and non-Pasifika who get that Pasifika research has to centre culture first and foremost. That itʻs not some peripheral or contextual ʻthing’. It is pivotal and prioritised beyond all else. Periodt!
Thank you for all that you do and have done to be you! In what ways would you like to see the Pacific community become active allies to the LGBTQIA+ community?
I believe there is a step that comes before being an active ally, and in my own research, it’s value and beauty is often disregarded or minimised. And that is - listening! Listen to the stories that we tell. And I mean truly listen - without judgment, assumption and expectation but rather, with love and compassion. And after that listening, you may come to a place of mutual understanding and respect. If you don’t, that’s OK - just keep listening. Whether we like it or not, we are all connected as Pasifika people. And we do a disservice to ourselves when we let judgment in particular, get in the way of that connection. If we can cast this judgment aside, and take the time and space to truly listen to each other, we strengthen the bonds between us as people of the Moana. I realise that being an ally of the Pasifika LGBTQIA+/MVPFAFF+ community is a tall order for many Pasifika people. I’ll be the first to say that as a leitī, I would love to see more allies. I am also empathetic to many Pasifika whose path to allyship isnʻt so easy, for whatever reason. But I believe, that you can dial it back and make it easier on yourself and say “I can’t promise right now that I will be an ally, but I can promise you I will listen” - that’s a step in the right direction and a step that is truly needed.
What advice would you give to young Pacific Islanders who are still finding themselves?
Gosh, again, the privilege that comes with being asked this question does not leave me! My message would be...to love you as you are now. For far too long, I had so much despair for myself and I chose to stockpile and reserve all my love for the ‘future me’ that I believed I had to find. The me that would be smarter, prettier more successful and more free. The real tea people is that you are continually finding yourself and that ‘future you’ is...drum roll...you! Even as I approach my mid-30s, I am learning, growing and finding out more about myself. You know, I lost so many years of loving the me in that moment and though I choose not to regret anything in my past, I can’t help but feel tinges of sadness for the then-Peyton left wanting love and compassion from the one person that she needed it from - herself. Long story long - love you. And all shades of you. All the prickly (no pun intended) and peculiar parts of yourself. And watch that love light up around you as you go on your journey of continual self-discovery.
What's something about yourself that makes you prideful to be uniquely you?
I am prideful of being a leitī that has come to a place in her life where she can just be - with zero or little interest in what others have to say about how and who I am. I must say though, it has been a long journey to get to this place and if you asked me this question 10 or even 5 years ago, I definitely would have had a different answer. The real t is that it takes some mindful practice to keep it up as your inner saboteur can often take residence and wreak havoc. But in general, I am loving the freedom that comes with just, being, me.