Transgender Indigenous Acceptance & Mental Health

‘SisterGirl’ is the Indigenous Australian term for transgender women (BrotherBoy for transgender men). Ahead of the Mardi Gras, sistergirls are stepping forward to address mental health and cultural acceptance. Indigenous Australians are at higher risk of suicide and mental illness than other Australians, but this risk is even higher for transgender youth, and other gay, lesbian, and bisexual Indigenous Aussies.

Sistergirl Rosalina Curtis notes that the shame and guilt of being LGBTQ is the outcome of Christianity, which was imposed on Indigenous Australians who were forcibly removed from their communities during European colonisation:

“It’s really sad to see younger sistergirls and brotherboys committing suicide because they are not being accepted by their family and friends, it’s something that really needs to be fixed. It (being transgender) is sometimes considered taboo and a lot of sistergirls growing up in traditional communities are often shunned and pushed away.

“This is an attitude that prevailed since Christian missionaries arrived within the community – changing the thoughts of our old people, but sistergirls have always been there.”