Walking on a fine line between two cultures

My experience struggling to find, accept my own beliefs

As a Samoan-American, finding the middle ground between two very different cultures is a challenge I’ve dealt with my whole life. However, after years of going back and forth on which set of beliefs I should embrace, I finally know what I believe in.

Samoa is a Christian nation. On Sundays, everyone wears white and heads to their local churches. People are cooking food, everything is closed and on that day, there is no playing or making loud noises. It is our way of showing our respect to God.

Living in the U.S., where abortion is legal, gave me exposure to the opposing side of the issue. Here, the support and awareness for abortion is something you will never see in Samoa.

— Hope Saena

As Christians, we don’t believe in killing, it’s a sin. Therefore, abortion is taboo in Samoa, according to Samoan Observer. Even if unsafe abortion still occurs, I believe Samoa will never legalize safe abortion, as it goes against everything we stand for. It is considered murder to many.

At one point, I was fully against abortion, too. When I was younger, I couldn’t understand why women would go through a procedure that would result in killing their own baby. It didn’t make any sense. That’s why I fully supported the idea of abolishing abortion. Why would you kill an innocent child?

However, living in the U.S., where abortion is legal, gave me exposure to the opposing side of the issue. Here, the support and awareness for abortion is something you will never see in Samoa. I learned women have many reasons as to why they would want an abortion, including rape, incest, unprepareness for motherhood and other personal motives. However, the phrase “my body, my choice” is what changed my view. 

The procedure happens within the woman’s body, and I believe women should have the right to do whatever they want to their bodies. It’s mainly affecting them. To me, legalizing abortion means providing proper facilties for women who do choose to have an abortion. If I were to ever want an abortion, I would want a proper procedure done.

Despite abortion being a woman’s choice, does it also give women the right to kill? Or do fetuses have the right to life? The debate between when fetuses are considered life is still ongoing and this is a matter I’m still debating. 

As a christian, I would believe that life begins from the very start. Meanwhile, I also believe from the start, fetuses have not fully developed, therefore they do not have the same rights as someone like me. This part of the matter still pulls me back and forth. 

This also extends to my acceptance of more than two genders. Samoa has three genders: male, female, and fa’afafine. “Fa’afafine” means “in the manner of a woman” and they have been widely accepted by Samoan society. Outsiders of the South Pacific would label fa’afafines as gay or transgender, but we believe those terms do not exist in Samoa. They are just fa’afafines. 

I grew up with fa’afafines around me. They are my family and friends, and are everywhere in Samoa. So at a young age, the acceptance of other genders was normalized to me.

But what troubled me as I grew up was, if America is more open about the freedom of choice than Samoa is, then how come sexuality and gender identity isn’t as embraced as it should be?

To us, fa’afafines were born the way they are, meaning God created them that way. That is why we proudly accept them, because they didn’t choose to be a fa’afafine, God did. But In comparison to America, I believe we choose our sexual orientation and gender identity. 

Even if the LGBTQ community isn’t as embraced here, I still support them and consider myself an ally.

Samoa and America’s views on the acceptance of genders and legalizing safe abortion has pulled me back and forth all my life. However, going deeper into the motives behind those beliefs has helped influence my own view on the matter.