Established in 1992, the Tongan Leitis Association (TLA) focus on improving the rights and celebrating the contribution of Leitis in Tonga. Leiti is a local cultural term which is a modern derivation of the English word ‘lady’ and is used as an inclusive term for the broad range of men who have sex with men, transgender people, gay and bisexual men and non-identifying MSM.
TLA’s strategic goals include strengthening and developing partnerships between the TLA and key stakeholders that advance their mission, and providing development opportunities for TLA members. They established a TLA community centre which promotes their objectives, and aim to raise awareness of the social, creative and educational skills of Leitis and promote condom use through their annual Miss Galaxy Queen pageant. These activities contribute to their goal to reduce stigma and discrimination against Leitis and people living with HIV. TLA also aim to continually strengthen their governance, management and communications within the association.
The TLA is committed to making a significant difference in the lives of transgender and same sex attracted people, to better improve human rights and the HIV response for Leitis in Tonga. It is well known for its Miss Galaxy Queen Pageant which is now in its 20th year. The Miss Galaxy Pageant showcases the social, creative and educational skills of Leitis in a colourful extravaganza of performance and fun, attracting huge crowds and media attention.
In May 2013, the TLA celebrated the opening of its drop-in Centre ‘Ofa he Paea’, which means “love for those in need’. This drop-in centre is the first of its kind in the Pacific that is solely funded by the TLA, and operated by its members. The keynote address was made by the Princess of Tonga HRH Salote Mafile’o Pilolevu Tuita. It was a night of celebration for all, which saw members from the Diplomatic Corp, Government Ministers, Community Leaders, NGOs and the wider Tongan community. Families and friends of the TLA showed their support by witnessing this special event which is a milestone for the TLA.
The name of the centre was chosen by the Hon Salote Lupepau’u Tuita, who is the daughter of the Princess of Tonga HRH Salote Mafile’o Pilolevu Tuita, and is also the Patron of the Centre. This naming took into consideration that most leitis are shunned from society and neglected by their families, with others coming to the centre as drop outs from educational institutes. Therefore, this centre is seen as a safe haven for them, where they will be able to have vocational training and learn about Human Rights, health and wellbeing.
To find out more about Tongan Leitis Association, head to their Facebook page or their website at http://www.tongaleitis.org/
Photo Caption: Crowning of the Miss Galaxy 2012, the Hon Salote Lupepau’u Tuita (Patron of the TLA) was there to crown the winner on the night, Miss Venus Fonua. Hon Salote Lupepau’u Tuita seen standing to the right.