Kweenz on journey of transgender awareness
It's OK to be different.
That's the message a group of fa'afafine and transgender teenagers want to drive home to audiences this weekend.
The Kweenz performing arts group enjoy shopping, fashion and going to the beach, just like any regular teenagers. But the road to acceptance has been difficult for them says 19-year-old Jaroncye Lole.
"My life before was hard being the only fa'afafine and transgender in my family, especially growing up with three older brothers and a sister," she says.
"My family do accept me for who I am which is a good thing because without my family, I wouldn't be here."
The Kweenz will hold an awareness concert tomorrow at the Corbans Estate Arts Centre in Henderson to celebrate being different.
It aims to raise awareness about homosexuality and transgender people and how they positively impact the community.
There will be dancing, skits, singing and interviews with high-profile transgender people focussing on growing up.
The Kweenz began at Kelston Boys' High School and there now about 20 members in the group.
"We were all friends and we would dance together at talent quests. We were known as The Kelston Kweenz at school but it wasn't until two years ago we actually started dancing as The Kweenz," Jaroncye says.
Since then the group has been taken on by Phoenix Young Performers, a performing arts mentoring programme that provides youth with a platform to develop and refine their skills as young artists.
Phoenix manager Shirley Daniel says performing is a big part of being transgender and fa'afafine.
"It's hard when you know you're not the same. You want to come out but there are many obstacles. The Kweenz are strong to be here. We need to teach them to be strong but to not worry about what comes their way," she says.
"It's about being strong, confident, knowing who you are and being proud of that."
Bee Chan Chui, 22, says school was hard before The Kweenz were formed.
"You want to be yourself. You suppress most of who you are because it's a boys' school. Once there started to be more of us, it was just normal," Bee says.
"You still got mocked but it was easier because you were in numbers. Having others around you helps you to accept yourself."
Fellow Kween Brina Sua, 16, says struggling with their identity and a fear of being disowned is scary.
"Just be strong and don't be afraid of who you are," she says.
The showcase is on tomorrow at 7pm. Tickets are $15 on the door.