As a transgender woman herself, Joey Joleen Mataele knows firsthand the struggles that the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI) communities face in her native Tonga and the greater Pacific region. As a singer and entertainer, she also understands the importance of oral culture and the role of song, humour and dance in Pacific cultures, which she has been using to elicit support for and raise issues affecting the often marginalised LGBTQI community.
“What motivates me is the hardships I went through when I was young, the verbal and physical abuse at school and in my own family, and witnessing the amount of stigma and discrimination towards our LGBTQI communities” explains Joleen to the SPC.
In 1993, Joleen founded the Miss Galaxy Queen Pageant as an annual event to celebrate the diversity and creativity of “fakaleitis” and the LGBTQI community in Tonga. A year prior in 1992, she co-founded the Tonga Leitis Association, of which she is currently executive director. Joleen is also the Pacific Island Representative on the International Gay and Lesbian Association (ILGA) Executive Board and Chairperson of the South Pacific MSM (Men Who Have Sex with Men) Network Group.
Ms Mataele is also the co-founder of the Pacific Sexual Diversity Network and an active figure in the LGBTQI and human rights movements in the Pacific.
The 70 Inspiring Pacific Women campaign has been produced by the Pacific Community (SPC) in partnership with Australian Aid and Pacific Women. The campaign marks the 70th anniversary of SPC, and leads up to the 13th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women and 6th Meeting of Ministers for Women in Suva (Fiji) from 2nd to 5th October 2017.