You’ve heard of ladies in waiting, but have you heard of leitis in waiting? In Tonga, the smallest kingdom in the world, these indigenous transgender women have traditionally played a central role in society as attendants to the royal family. However, a recent influx of foreign evangelism has seen a rise in discrimination in this conservative island paradise.
Joey Joleen Mataele, a leiti of noble blood who founded the Tonga Leitis Association is leading the fight for equal rights. She’s a quiet force to be reckoned with; hosting the joyful and hilarious Miss Galaxy Queen beauty pageant, challenging the homophobic preachings of a US-backed Tongan televangelist, and addressing a United Nations panel on LGBTIQ rights.
From the team that produced audience fave Kumu Hina (MGFF15), this fascinating documentary is a rare glimpse into the culture of leitis (“ladies”) and their struggle for respect.
“Leitis in Waiting is a true gift to the world – mesmerizing and unflinching” – Jeannette Hereniko, President, Network for the Promotion of Asian Pacific Cinema
Presented with Katherine Wolfgramme – Gender Diversity Consultant & Trans Awareness Training in Sydney
To read the full article, see trailer or buy tickets click on the link below:
As the first transgender candidate in 15 years to the SGLMG’s Board, Katherine’s reasons to come forward with her candidacy include, in her own words:
• It is time for a visible trans presence on the Mardi Gras Board of Directors.
• I believe in social equity and that a trans voice needs to be present at Board level at Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras.
• As a Director I would consult with the trans population – both binary, non-binary, gender-fluid and gender diverse and their relevant organisations/groups to help:
Form a better understanding of trans culture.
Ensure and promote true and proper trans inclusion and define what that inclusion would look like.
Address the needs of trans people accessing services within the LGBTIQ community.
Address the definitions of safe spaces for trans people within our the LGBTIQ community.
Reduce the culture of patronage towards the trans population by being present at a decision-making level.
Give voice to those whose voices are not always heard through inviting open communication with all trans people.
Ensure the needs of the aging trans population are considered.
Shed light on the hardships faced by trans kids, youth and help understand ways to support their parents.
Put into practice what diversity and inclusion looks like on paper.
• It is time all trans people to be acknowledged for their true potential as human beings by being represented in all roles in society including leadership roles.
• As an adult, and upcoming elder, I have the social responsibility to send a clear message to our rainbow youth by being a positive presence and inspiring role model and showing them that all things are possible for their future, no matter where they have come from, no matter who they are.
• I am aiming to empower and set an example to all gender diverse people that courage is all we need to take our proper places within the Community.
• Help contribute to the easier accessibility for all community members to events.
• Contribute to the already exemplary record of good governance and financial stability of the current SGLMG Board .
“I believe in inclusion not exclusion, I believe an organisation born as a reaction to exclusion and discrimination should remain an example of tolerance and a beacon and celebration of acceptance, all members of the LGBTQI Community who work in any organisation and their allies should always be welcome and share in the Spirit of Mardi Gras.”
“In my advocacy I have sat on community committees, councils and advisory groups and I am the first transgender woman appointed to the Wear It Purple Board. – My track record clearly shows the spirit of my strong community service and my continuing intention to always do good for my community. Even in the face of adversity I will always endeavour to do what is right with the best of intentions. This is also reflected as my soon to be appointed official ambassadorship of The Gender Centre”
“Although in the past I have acted solely and on my own instinct, I do understand the responsibility of being a SGLMG Board Director and the importance of seeking counsel from all facets of the trans population, including elders, youth, conservatives, activists, friends & foes.”
“I believe I could make an important and valuable contribution to the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Board as it is always a great honour to serve my community and this will present new positive ways through visibility.”
Katherine is a self-employed Gender Diversity Consultant and Trans Awareness Trainer. She has spoken on Panels with some of the most respected female feminist minds in the country from all identities and has been invited to speak at some of the finest corporate and educational institutions in the country. She also works for one of the most popular gay venues on Sydney’s Oxford Street on the weekend, which keeps her in touch with other members of our community for the last three years.
She believes good governance is the greatest legacy a Board can provide an organisation with; and her own research shows that for the past two years Mardi Gras has been excellent in all governance areas. Because of this Katherine would like to endorse for re-election these incumbent Directors and looks forward to working with them and the rest of the Board if she is elected:
• Jesse Matheson
• Kat Dopper
• Christopher Brooke – Treasurer
The shocking truth is, per capita, thirty five percent of transgender people attempt to commit suicide, the percentage is even greater among trans the youth population, why you may ask?
A transgender child who remains in the home, protected by their parents and family will grow up to be a happy and healthy adult. These, I believe are the roots that are fundamental to human development and mental health in a person.
During the Marriage Equality Campaign, misinformed parents feared their children would be infected by trans children and their children would want to change sex too. This contagious argument, though ridiculous, was once applied to children from divorced homes, ethnic minorities, gay people, people living with AIDS, Jews, etc. We all now know this misunderstanding is just uneducated fear.
Parents of trans children who have chosen to love their children and keep them safe at home have come under immense scrutiny and criticism by other parents, religious groups and also spiteful writers who wish to sell newspapers. Through the internet, these same parents have found each other and can now find sanctuary in peer support. These brave parents are not over indulgent, they know their children are trans. And come from a place of love.
A trans child is not created, a trans child is born.
For at least 1,600 years Christian trans youth have been forced to leave home and seek out survival on the margins of society as a vulnerable people. And at least 30% of them committed suicide, many others were murdered, died of accidental substance abuse, starved to death – how they died is merely a sidetrack of the shocking fact that they were allowed by other Christians to die at all. As Christianity spread across the colonial world, more trans people were forced to survive outside of society and on the margins because their ancient positions in cultures were taken away from them, becoming beggars and prostitutes as their only means of survival. The Hijra of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh were forced off their valuable lands granted them by the Moghul Emperors and stripped of their privileges as priestesses and teachers. The Raj created anti-Hijra laws and made all them criminal tribes, under the Criminal Tribes Act. All because their gender did not comply with the British Empire’s religion. This is just one example of what befell trans people and their cultures with the rise of dominant religions through Empire. It is my belief that it is not true Christian behaviour to allow such a long term and widespread injustice to have occurred.
I believe the bishops of our world will one day stop and realise we are all children of God, and it is God’s will that we are created, otherwise the transgender population would not have existed as a naturally reoccurring phenomena in humans in every culture since the dawn of man.
If society supports parents of trans children, society will win. The government will save millions, definitely billions of tax payers’ dollars in the long term – because the children will have roots. Their parents will force them to go to school, get a job, and tech them life skills, just like other sons and daughters in other families across the world. This will reduce the strain on social welfare, through drastic reductions in unemployment, mental health, youth homelessness and suicides, and the benefits to society will be long term. It really is a win-win situation.
This issue is important to me emotionally because I was once a trans child, and my parents thought they were cursed. I was the source of all their shame – A heavy burden for an 8 year old child.
I left home at 18 so I could transition. My roots were severed, but by sheer force of will, determination and the love of my great grand parents, my roots slowly grew back, just enough to give me the will to survive and flourish, just at the same time that many of my peers lost their will to continue.
I don’t blame my parents, it was the early 1970s and our situation was beyond their comprehension. There was no peer support or readily available access to information for them, but there is support and information now.
As a trans adult who was once a trans child, I promise you these parents are telling the truth. If they ask for support, please support them, when they speak, please listen, if people refuse to acknowledge them, please, give them a platform.