Leitis in Waiting

'Leitis in Waiting' film internationally recognised

Titled 'Leitis in Waiting', it tells the story of Joey Joleen Mataele's life in Tonga over the course of a year.

The story highlights the battles many leiti's face everyday in the Kingdom such as the impact of Tonga's sodomy and cross-dressing laws.

Mataele said despite the film's accolades, life in Tonga's conservative and religious society isn't easy.

Tonga's transgender community fights for visibility from the conservative Pacific Kingdom

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.