Trans people resisting Colonial-era laws on the remote Tongan islands


Here, in the deepest South Pacific, extreme Conservative values enforce Colonial-era laws which affect Leitis, the local trans women who are trying to prove that transphobic hate and discrimination have no right to exist even in such a conservative area. They have no treatment and no medicine, the shamans of the islands are not qualified to perform gender reassignment surgery and they are too narrow-minded to understand why it is necessary. 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 their perspective. Existing separately to the religious Tongan mould, the Leitis are treated “with a very deep suspicion,” because the locals simply don’t believe that human’s rights can be defined otherwise than by the religious dogmas. The contradiction goes further, as the Leitis – as well as exiled by Tongan law – are also in cahoots with important Tongan leaders and helped Dean and Joe enable some of the film’s most startling interviews. The Leitis argue their Tongan standpoint on transgenderism, as Dean and Joe explain, is (despite the tensions) “a little further along” than it is in the West.


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