The Rarotonga Queens, one of the Cook Islands’ best known stage acts, are famous for their flamboyant cross-dressing antics.
On stage, they are outrageous crowd pleasers, but it’s what goes on behind the scenes that they are fighting for.
For years they have been ridiculed and have never been taken seriously in a society that is still strongly conservative towards transgender.
The Queens put on a show at the launch of the Tia Tiare Foundation, which is an organisation in the Cook Islands which helps people in the transgender community.
The group say they banded together to promote respect in a bid to protect their rights and be treated with dignity.
“A lot of the local people have actually laughed at them, ridiculed them, and haven’t given them the time of day & the members of Te Tiare Foundation have decided enough’s enough its time for the members to be recognised,” says Rohan Ellis, the event organiser.
If numbers were anything to go by, the message was a success. The show was a sell-out attracting locals and tourists alike.
Ellis says the event’s success proves Cook Islanders are embracing of differences in society.
However appearances can be deceiving.
“There is a certain acceptance to a certain level but not as complete, not as much as we would like it to be,” says Tangee Kokaua, one of the Raratonga Queens singers.
But many say it’s a start.
The queens of Rarotonga are coming out in style and for them it’s about moving forward one step at a time.