The Isabelle Lake Memorial Lecture is held in Perth each year on May 17th, the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia (IDAHoBIT). This year the lecture will be given by Tongan transgender woman Jolene Mataele. Mataele has recently featured in the documentary Leitis In Waiting, a film that follows a group of transgender women fighting for their place in the island kingdom.
"A story that comes, quite literally, from one of the farthest corners of the globe, 'Leitis in Waiting' is a surprising and thought-provoking documentary from co-directors Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson. While the threats of the evangelical community’s polarizing views have put the Leiti at risk of harm, this film is by no means designed to insight anger or fear. Rather, the filmmakers skillfully maintain a steady hand in weaving together multiple perspectives on the importance of modern-day Leiti in Tongan society, with just the right amount of delightful humour included for good measure."
Wondering which LGBT+ films to watch from the BFI Flare 2019? We’ve got you covered. Like the very best documentaries, Leitis In Waiting tackles a subject rarely discussed on our side of the Pacific while also helping to fight for real change and social justice.
Wellington, 20 March 2019 - On 20 March, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) launched the 13th edition of its flagship publication, State-Sponsored Homophobia, authored by Lucas Ramón Mendos.
This publication compiles data on laws that affect people on the basis of their sexual orientation - a fundamental resource for researchers, civil society organisations, governments and the general public. They are a powerful tool in the struggle for a more just and inclusive society. Download full report HERE.
As the BFI Flare London Film Fest gears up for its launch, festival programmer Zorian Clayton highlights the best documentaries from the 2019 programme. “The Leitis, like in many parts of the Pacific Islands and across Asia, have a historic third gender – one that occupies a space close to trans and non-binary identities. Because it’s an island that largely avoided colonisation, they managed to retain a more inclusive understanding of gender. Homophobia and transphobia are being brought to these Polynesian islands now with the arrival of western culture, and people who have been accepted for many, many centuries are under threat. It’s a unique insight into how precarious these traditions can be, but it also offers a potential look at how our thinking about gender could change for the better.”
Invisibility seems like an unlikely problem for Joey Joleen Mataele. Radiating both strength and warmth in equal measure, she was one of the most striking figures at the second Asia-Pacific Rainbow Families Forum, a meeting of delegates from 27 countries hosted once again last year in Hong Kong. Full story HERE.
Since Nanook was captured on film fishing through a hole in the Northern ice, the documentary form has brought millions of other lives into our own. In a stunning choice by Queer Screen’s Mardi Gras Film Festival, Tonga’s Leitis community will warm your heart, give you hope and inspire you to be Fearless. Leitis in Waiting is an emotional and motivating feature documentary about the transgender community of the Kingdom of Tonga.
Leitis in Waiting, a feature documentary, launched the fourth Nuku’alofa International Film Festival 2018 at the Digicel Square in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, last night. The film is about the struggles of transgender people living in Tonga – known locally as ‘leitis’. Full story HERE.
The latest film from Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, who brought the similarly themed KUMU HINA to HIFF in 2014, brings another fiercely outspoken advocate into the limelight, as Joey defends the rights of the leitis and all LGBTQ Tongans by encouraging direct dialogue with their vitriolic opposition. It is a true portrait of pride and poise in an island paradise tainted by the tendrils of western cultural colonialism. - KITV
Audiences accustomed to stories about rising sea levels in the Pacific, are introduced to another sort of rising tide in the Kingdom of Tonga. Leitis in Waiting presents the high spirits of a transsexual beauty pageant alongside religious fundamentalism that condemns both the pageant and the lifestyles it represents.
Lepolo Taunisila of the Pacific Community's Regional Rights Resource Team speaks eloquently about human rights in response to an evangelical pastor's comments at the Tonga Leitis Association's national consultation on inclusion and equality for all in the Kingdom.
To many of us, the South Pacific may almost seem like a different realm altogether but paradoxically, attitudes there have an all-too-familiar backdrop when it comes to the subject of the LGBT+ community. This is a story of LGBT+ and Cultural Diversity: The emotional journey of what it means to be different in a society ruled by tradition, and what it takes to be accepted without forsaking who you are.
The Samoa premiere of "Leitis in Waiting" took place on the last night of the ILGA Oceania conference in Apia.
The documentary had a huge impact on the local audience:
“Faced with humiliation, cruelty and their dreams openly with us. Struggling for human rights and the right to love and be loved, I was overwhelmed with how brave the leitis are despite their challenges"
“The Leitis movie was insightful and inspiring. All the hard work that Joleen does is incredible. The most unforgettable part was when her daughter, a young Leiti who had been given an ultimatum-to stop being who she is or leave the family home-came out in the gold dress for the miss galaxy pageant. She looked so beautiful"
“It was extremely powerful to be able to experience through this film, the untold stories of our sisters, the Leiti’s in Tonga. There is so much power in narratives like Jolene’s.” - Briana Fruean
On August 21, at the Tanoa International Dateline Hotel, Her Royal Highness Princess Pilolevu hosted a reception and screening of 'Leitis in Waiting' - a one-hour documentary depicting the lives and challenges of leitis in Tonga, a transgender minority group fighting for equality. The special event served as the open of the 2018 edition of the Nuku'alofa Film Festival.
HRH Princess Pilolevu attended the pre-screening reception at the Tanoa Hotel and was presented with a copy of the documentary by the directors.
At least 2,000 people have put their name to a petition sponsored by the Leitis in Waiting Pacific Equality Project and the Pacific Human Rights Initiative calling on the Pacific Islands Forum to use its influence to help decriminalize homosexuality.
LGTBI advocates behind the petition argue that while PIF says it promotes equality for all people in the Pacific, seven of its member states still criminalise homosexuality.
Mataele remains an articulate, dignified, wise leader in a film that highlights a beautiful nation and a different perspective on activism that seeks collaboration with the country’s most cherished institutions. The leitis are committed to staying in their communities because they value Tongan culture and social relationships. Leitis in Waiting emerges as a documentary that is a catalyst for meaningful, sustained change that sets mutual dignity and respect for all community sectors.
Why did you make your film? We made "Leitis in Waiting" because Joey Joleen Mataele, one of the founders of the Tonga Leitis Association and most prominent leitis in the Kingdom, invited us to Tonga to show Kumu Hina, our previous movie about a similar subject in Hawaii, and said afterward: "We've long dreamed about having our stories told. Can you help us?"
The plight of the Leitis caught the eye of award-winning US filmmakers Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, whose film Leitis In Waiting, they say, is the first time anyone has told the story of the famous Leitis from the perspective of the group themselves.
She's been the face of Tonga's Leiti community for the last 25 years, and now her story is featuring in a documentary screening in cities around the world. Joey Joleen Mataele says it's been an amazing journey, but not without its traumatic moments. Soana K-Aholelei of TVNZ's Tagata Pasifika sat down with the courageous transgender activist. Watch the video HERE.
Leitis in Waiting Pacific Equality Project are calling for support to protect and promote the human rights of gender and sexual minorities in the Pacific Islands. With a petition, the group hopes to rally the support of the Pacific Islands Forum Chair, country leaders and member states.
`Leitis in Waiting´ es una interesante y no menos emotiva película documental en donde queda reflejada la lucha de la comunidad LGTBI en este reino enclavado en Polinesia y por extensión, en el resto de las Islas del Pacífico ; una lucha para lograr una mayor aceptación y tolerancia en un sociedad particularmente religiosa y conservadora.
We’ve looked ahead to concoct this list of the must-sees at this year’s San Francisco Frameline Film Festival. LEITIS IN WAITING: Deep in the South Pacific, a group of transgender women have filled a vital role as aids to the royal family of the nation of Tonga. Western forces threaten their very way of life, as Christian fundamentalists come to Tonga bent on outlawing anything LGBTQ. Meet the transgender women fighting to protect their cultural history—and their lives.
Joey Joleen Mataele, an activist for the rights of transgender women in Tonga and Chairlady of the Board of the Pacific Sexual and Gender Diversity Network (PSGDN), said discrimination, equality and acceptance are important issues in the Pacific for the LGBTQI people.
We need people from all backgrounds not just the LGBTQI communities but also every possible stakeholder to speak from their privileged position to ensure that we eradicate all possible manifestations of bigotry, prejudice and discrimination.
How did the story of Transgender women fighting for acceptance in Tonga come to the attention of US based film makers? They were invited by the Tonga Leitis Association to come and screen the Kumu Hina Documentary during the Miss Galaxy Pageant and when they came I had already started thinking maybe I'll talk to them about how we can do something to be able to share our stories.
America’s role in fanning the flames of division in places like Tonga is laid bare in the film. It follows an American-financed evangelist spouting a western notion of gender, advocating for the criminalisation of the leitis and spreading the message that their lives are sinful.
A new documentary screening in New Zealand this week focuses on the lives of the leitis of Tonga, transgender women with traditional roles at court and in church. The film, called “Leitis in Waiting,” shows that they also face discrimination and even punishment. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.
The plight of Tonga's LGBT community is under the spotlight with the released of a new documentary Leitis in Waiting. Appearing in the documentary and travelling with it is Lord Fusitu'a, a noble, a member of the Tongan parliament, and a champion of the rights of LGBT people and women.
If 'life unscripted,' Doc Edge's tagline, makes a truth claim that is liable to elicit a raised eyebrow from anyone who happens to have taken a Film 101 paper, there is nevertheless something to be said for the immediacy, freshness and urgency proper to documentary filmmaking.
With 74 docos from across the globe, and offering a number of excellent homegrown pieces amongst these, this year's Doc Edge has something for everybody. There's food, sex, politics, adventure, drinking and dancing to be had; kind of like a wild party, but one from which you get to go home sanshangover or broken bones. Here's our top picks.
A film documentary, 'Leitis in Waiting', has won the audience award, after premiering at the Festival of Commonwealth Film 2018 in London earlier this month. The film is about Joey Joeleen Mataele and the Tonga leitis, a transgender minority group fighting for equality in Tonga.
“I’m overwhelmed and I thank God for all his blessings and for all the love and for all the support and to be recognised from the Commonwealth is a milestone for the work of the Tonga Leitis Association.”
“A movie about transgender women fighting for acceptance in Tonga hopes to bring about change in the Pacific island nation - and help local activists start over after a cyclone smashed their main office, a leading gay rights campaigner said.
Leitis in Waiting, which has its European premiere at the Festival of Commonwealth Film in London on Sunday, follows Joey Mataele, a prominent transgender activist, as she organises a beauty pageant amid growing pressure from religious groups.”
The Commonwealth Points of Light award recognizes outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community. They are heroes who had an idea they decided to make a reality. Their actions have changed lives and their stories can inspire thousands more to get involved or start their own initiatives.
The Kaleidoscope Trust's work in the U.K. to advance equality and human rights for LGBT people globally has brought us into contact with inspiring trans activists, including Joleen Mataele, an LGBT activist from the South Pacific. Joleen has been working as a community organizer and advocate in Tonga, where homosexuality carries a prison sentence of up to ten years, since she was fourteen. In 2007, she co-founded The Pacific Sexual and Gender Diversity Network (PSGDN), a trans-fronted advocacy group that represents the interests of LGBTQ people in the Pacific region. The Trust's Louis Staples interviews Joleen in the lead-up to the London premiere of "Leitis in Waiting" in the Festival of Commonwealth Films.