It is so much harder to transition when everyone knows your name. Whether it is a small own or an island nation in the middle of the Pacific. it is hard because everyone knew you before transition and many might not accept your transition and there is no place to avoid meeting them.
Leitis: Tonga's transgender community fights for visibility from the conservative Pacific KingdomIt is not easy in the island nation because of the laws, just like the laws that were here in the U.S. they have their own laws banning us…
By Yara Murray-Atfield
April 16, 2018
Transgender women and gender-diverse 'leitis' in the conservative Pacific Island Kingdom of Tonga say, "they cannot be silent anymore" about their fight for visibility.
Joey Joleen Mataele is one of many in Tonga's island chain who identifies as a 'fakaleiti' or simply 'leiti', which translates roughly from Tongan as "like a lady".
"The role of leitis in our society is more of a housewives role, a domestic worker, we're known in the public eye in our churches and for helping the youth programs, but when it comes to our personal choices, that's when the barriers start," she told the ABC's Pacific Beat program.
Leitis often identify as women or men who dress and behave in a feminine way, but mainly don't identify as either men or women.
While in some cases leitis are accepted as caretakers and workers, they are also outlawed, shunned and even face jail time.And of course the laws have a religious history behind them.
Tonga's Civil Offences Act criminalises cross dressing and sodomy, with both carrying jail terms of up to 10 years.
"It is probably the most religious country I've ever been to, which makes the story of how you work for change when it comes to how LGBT people are viewed very interesting and very challenging, but also very hopeful because in this case the Tongan leiti community is also very well integrated into their church communities," Mr Wilson told Pacific Beat.Yep, our right-wing conservative religious bigots are spreading their hate for us around the world. Their bigotry knows no national boundaries.
The push for decriminalisation and the rising public presence of the leitis comes at a time of heightened religious tension in the country, with American-funded televangelists fuelling a new campaign against the LGBT community in Tonga.