Sistergirls: Welcome to Transgender Island

A remote community in northern Australia has the highest – and most well known –population of transgender people in the country. Locals say as many as five per cent of the population consider themselves a Sistergirl – including children as young as six. Sistergirl or ‘Yimpininni’ is the term used to describe transgender, homosexual or bisexual indigenous people, BuzzFeed reports. There are roughly 2,500 people living in the Tiwi Islands, and the sistergirls say there are currently around 80 yimpininni.

For years they fought against stereotypes and discrimination in order to be accepted by the remote community.

Sistergirls: Acceptance versus discrimination

Laura Orsto, 31, says that she informed her conservative parents that she was a Sistergirl while still 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,” Laura told BuzzFeed. She lived in Darwin with her aunty who accepted her but Laura wanted more: she didn’t “want to be behind closed doors any more”.

As a 16-year-old, she began living her life as a female and had to “fight and fight and battle hard to be accepted.” In remote Indigenous communities, being transgender often means challenging cultural as well as religious practices.

In a twist of fate, the sistergirl who gave Laura courage and strength – who was like a mother to her – tragically killed herself.

Several sistergirls committed suicide because of the lack of support. All those lost lives are not forgotten. They are the fuel behind the community’s demands of acceptance for transgender people.

Unity is Strength

“As the years go by we have slowly worked our way up, building our confidence and just basically being out and living life as the Tiwi sistergirls,” said Kerinaiua, a member of the community.

Another community member, Crystal Love, is fighting for the acceptance of all Sistergirls and Yimpininni by taking the conversation on the road as she travels all across Australia to educate the public about the issues that the LGBTQ community faces every day.

“It doesn’t matter if nobody else wants you. If nobody else wants you, then you are mine. I teach people about being themselves,” Crystal Love said.

What do you think of the sistergirls and the transgender community in this remote Australian island? Share your views in the comments section below.

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