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Will same-sex marriage change anything for transgender Aboriginal Australians?

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On Thursday, Australia finally passed equal marriage into law, to tears, songs and massive celebration. But for some LGBT Australians, same-sex marriage is far from a priority.

The Tiwi Islands, north of Australia, are inhabited by indigenous Tiwi people. Their population of 2500 has one of the largest concentrations of transgender people in the country.

The Sistagirls, a community of Tiwi transgender women who are fighting for recognition and rights for LGBT Aboriginal people, spoke about their view on the vote.

Sistagirls at Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras 2017 (Photo by Zak Kaczmarek/Getty Images)

Sistagirl Jason de Santis said they had to be cautious about publicly celebrating the vote, as it is not accepted by many of the community.

“We have to protect ourselves, and celebrating something like that makes us feel vulnerable so we have to be really careful.”

Moreover, they said that while it was nice to see acceptance in wider Australia, on the Tiwi Islands and in other Aboriginal communities, it wouldn’t make much difference, and they had much bigger issues that need addressing.

“We’ve got huge welfare problems up here in the Territory,” Santis said.

“There’s a huge gap in regards to health for gays, lesbians, transgender, intersex, queers in the Territory, especially in remote areas.”

Sistagirls at Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras 2017 (Photo by Zak Kaczmarek/Getty Images)

The Sistagirls community in particular has had to fight for decades to gain acceptance in the Tiwi community, during which time two of their number committed suicide.

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