Miss Tara, the 2010-2011 Miss Galaxy Queen, was crowned at the largest annual pageant in Tonga on Friday 9 July 2010. The pageant kicked off on Saturday 3 July with a spectacular condom parade and attracted crowds of approximately 2000 people each night. The Miss Galaxy Queen pageant showcases the social, creative and educational skills of Leitis in a colourful extravaganza of performance and fun. The Tonga Leitis’ Association (TLA), which organises Miss Galaxy, defines Leitis as an inclusive term for transgender, gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM).
The three night celebration of sexual and gender diversity was held at the Four Seasons Resort in ‘Umusi with entrants from New Zealand‐based Tongan communites, the USA, and Australia, as well as local talent competing for the title of Miss Galaxy.
However, behind the colour and extravagance of the event is a serious purpose; the final night also celebrated the launch of the TLA Strategic Plan 2010‐2015. Joey Mataele, TLA Executive Director, says the strategic plan has been the result of a partnership with the New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF) and the TLA. “The TLA now has a clearly defined mission to reduce discrimination, and prevent HIV and STIs, for Leitis in Tonga, and clear goals to be achieved by 2015. By working with the NZAF, the TLA will achieve its vision of a Kingdom without STIs and discrimination.”
Miss Galaxy is now in its eighteenth year and has high‐ranking support from the Hon. Salote Lupepau’u Tuita, the eldest daughter of Princess Pilolevu and Lord Tuita. Hon. Lupepau’u usually attends Miss Galaxy each year and is the Patron and an active advisor to the TLA. However, this year her sister, the Hon. Frederica Tuita launched the TLA Strategic Plan 2010‐2015 on the final night.
NZAF Director HIV Prevention and Communications, Simon Harger‐Forde says, “this strategic plan is an extraordinary achievement for the TLA. The TLA is an organisation with small resources but big energy and it has developed a plan that clearly establishes the priorities for improving human rights for Leitis in Tonga. Tonga should be proud of the TLA”.
The partnership between the TLA and the NZAF is part of a broader three-year programme to reduce the discrimination faced by Leitis in the Pacific, and is funded by the Pacific Islands HIV and STI Regional Response Fund.