- Tiwi Islands in the Northern Territory has the highest population of transgender people in Australia
- ‘Sistergirl’ or ‘Yimpininni’ is a term used to describe transgender, homosexual or bisexual indigenous people
- Locals say as many as five per cent of the population consider themselves a Sistergirl
- While they are largely accepted in the remote community, there are still many instances of serious abuse
A collection of photographs have highlighted the lives of the Sistergirls – the transgender, homosexual or bisexual indigenous people living on Australia’s remote Tiwi Islands, where children as young as six identify as being transgender.
The Sistergirls live in a small remote community in the Northern Territory near Darwin where locals say as many as five per cent of the population consider themselves a ‘Sistergirl’ or ‘Yimpininni’ – a term used to describe the transgender indigenous people and those who identify as gay, lesbian and bisexual.
The Tiwi Islands is believed to be home to the most well-known and largest transgender Indigenous community in Australia, BuzzFeed reports.
While the Sistergirls are largely accepted in the remote community, there are still many instances of serious abuse including domestic violence and rape, according to SBS.
Laura Orsto, 31, courageously told her conservative parents that she identified as a Sistergirl when she was just in primary school.
‘Age 10 I knew I was a Sistergirl. It was really, really, very hard for me to come out because my parents are really strict and didn’t want me to be out there as a Sistergirl. They wanted me to be saved,’ she told BuzzFeed.
Ms Orsto was 16 when she started to publicly live as a woman but said it only took place after a long fight for acceptance within the Indigenous community – one that has strong traditional views toward gender roles that are religiously grounded.
Locals say as many as five per cent of the population consider themselves a ‘Sistergirl’ or ‘Yimpininni’ – a term used to describe the transgender indigenous people and those who identify as gay, lesbian and bisexual
Isolation was an issue for Ms Orsto until she met an older Yimpininni who became her mentor by offering guidance and direction.
‘There were plenty of Sistergirls back then; I used to go out with them and talk about things, like how to act like girls you know and be ladylike,’ she said.
‘One lady, I use to call her Mum, she was like a mother to me, and she told me: ”You just have to be who you want to be, baby, just like me. I’m always here for you, you got me here”.’
Her mentor sadly ended up taking her own life leaving Ms Osrto feeling depressed and contemplating suicide. But Ms Orsto decided to face her fears and is now a respected mentor to younger Sistergirls in the community.
Andrew Farrell, a PhD student working towards a thesis in the area of Aboriginal transgender and gender diversities, told Daily Mail Australia that transgender people tended to feel isolated from the community.
‘In my research I have identified that community acceptance for Aboriginal transgender and gender variant identities is an issue facing Aboriginal communities throughout Australia,’ he said.
‘For many of these communities, categories of ‘male’ and ‘female’ still dominate. When people step outside of those parameters they often face obstacles such as discrimination and violence from within community lines.’
The Tiwi Islands is believed to be home to the most well-known and largest transgender Indigenous community in Australia
Crystal Love, who is also known as Crystal Johnson Kerinaiua, is another Sistergirl fighting for the acceptance of all Yimpininni and Sistergirls.
She travels around Australia as a performer and also educates crowds about the issues facing the homosexual, bisexual and transgender community.
‘It doesn’t matter if nobody else wants you. If nobody else wants you, then you are mine.I teach people about being themselves,’ Ms Love told Samesame.
Dr Stephen Kerry, who lectures in sociology at Charles Darwin University, completed a pilot survey on the health and wellbeing of transgender Australians in the Northern Territory last year.
‘It is difficult to determine the number of transgendered individuals living in the Northern Territory, yet it is anticipated that a significant number will identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander,’ he said.
Aboriginal writer Steven Ross, who identifies as being gay, told Daily Mail Australia that identity was complex but cultures were dynamic and could change, including Aboriginal people.
‘Responses from Indigenous peoples to people of difference are as diverse as any community’s diverse opinions. Of course there is homophobia and transphobia but there is also deep love and unconditional acceptance – we’re all human in the end and that’s all,’ Mr Ross said.
It is difficult to determine the number of transgendered individuals living in the Northern Territory, according to researchers
Source – The Daily Mail