Joey Matele, a prominent Tongan trans activist, leads the charge for transgender equality with the help of the Leitis of Tonga. In a land where transgender individuals were once sacred until the arrival of Christian missionaries, Matele and her crew work to find justice and build community through an annual beauty pageant and community dialogue.
Shining a spotlight on another queer community in the Pacific Islands, Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson’s latest documentary is a beautiful and inspiring follow up to their 2014 feature, KUMU HINA. LEITIS are a group of native Tongan transgender women, led by the fearless Joey Matele.
Joey is a prominent Tongan trans activist and devout Catholic. She co-founded the Tonga Leitis Association in 1992, became a founding council member of the Hirschfeld-Eddy Foundation (an organization focused on LGBTQ+ human rights), and leads the charge for transgender equality in her homeland.
Historically, transgender individuals once used to be sacred in Tonga as servants of the royal family. After the arrival and influence of Christian missionaries over the small island nation, the status and safety of these individuals changed drastically. LEITIS IN WAITING follows Matele and her crew as they work to overcome these struggles, find justice, and build community through an annual beauty pageant. —Trent Nakamura
Co-presented with Community Partners: API Equality LA
Director, Producer: Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson, Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu
Cast: Joey Mataele, Eva Baron