"Film Hopes To Change Mindset About LGBTI People" - Fiji Sun

Fiji Sun - Sept. 7, 2018:

A feature documentary being screened in Suva hopes to change the mindset of the public about the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ+) commu­nity.

Titled ‘Leitis in Waiting’ by Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson and Kumu Hina Wong-Kalu, the 71-minute film premiered at Village 6 Cinemas on Tuesday.

The documentary is a story of Joey Jolene Mataele and the Tongan leitis – an intrepid group of transgender women fighting a rising tide of reli­gious fundamentalism and intolerance in their South Pa­cific kingdom. With unexpect­ed humour and extraordinary access to the Kingdom’s roy­als and religious leaders, this emotional journey reveals what it means to be different in a society ruled by tradition, and what it takes to be accept­ed without forsaking who you are.

It is an inside story created by a Polynesian transgender woman who once competed , and won the crown in Joey’s Beauty Pageant.

“Faith is necessary, a prereq­uisite for change and once we have the faith, we can change,” said Mataele, who plays the lead role in the documentary.

Mataele was referring to changing the mindset of soci­ety and how we can actually integrate people from the LG­BTIQ+ community and people of faith.

“Cultural, religious beliefs and values may have an im­pact on preferences for all LGBTIQ+. Capacity building and expertise is very much needed,” Mataele said.

“Members from the LGB­TIQ+ community feel isola­tion, lack of empowerment, lack of experts within reli­gion, and much internalised homophobia has led their members to isolation and risky sexual behaviour.

“We need support in exper­tise and champion/chiefs from our people, not experts from overseas.”

Mataele also applauded the Fijian Government for provid­ing the LGBTIQ+ community their rights in the Fijian Con­stitution, which promulgated in September 2013, bans dis­crimination based on sexual orientation and gender iden­tity or expression.

It took a year and a half to shoot the film in Tonga cost­ing close to $US500,000 (F$1.06 million).

The first screening started on Tuesday at Village 6.

Tickets are $20 per head and funds raised will go towards the Tonga Leitis Association.

Edited by Naisa Koroi

Feedback: sheenam.chandra@fijisun.com.fj

2Dean Hamer