Health needs of Transgender and Sex/Gender Diverse People in the Northern Territory

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Presenter:  Stephen Kerry, Lecturer in Socialogy Charles Darwin University

Date: Sep 27, 2016

Time: 2:30pm to 4:00pm

Contact person:  Northern Institute
T: 08 8946 7468

Location:  Yellow building 1, level 2, room 48, Northern Institute, CDU


Abstract: Over the past forty years, considerable research has been undertaking into the lived experiences of transgender and sex/gender diverse (TSGD) Australians. As a result, it is possible to map out several key issues facing TSGD people: namely, economic instability (e.g. unemployment), social exclusion (e.g. poor relationships and estrangement from family), high rates of mental illness, and sexual and physical abuse. Having said that, this picture is incomplete. Rarely, if ever, do these projects include TSGD Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) people (also known as ‘sistergirls’ and ‘brotherboys’) and TSGD Territorians. On those occasions when these groups are included, little is said of the specific issues which impact them. To address the dearth in the literature, Dr Kerry began a research project into the lived experiences of TSGD Territorians (including sistergirls and brotherboys) in 2014. Following an online survey, which acted as a pilot study, Dr Kerry went on to conduct face-to-face interviews with TSGD people across the NT, including the residential centres of Darwin and Alice Springs, as well as remote communities. This seminar presents several key issues which have emerged from the online survey and interviews. TSGD Territorians find it difficult to not only access health services but also medical practitioners who are both knowledgeable of TSGD issues and are trans-friendly. This is especially pertinent for TSGD people in remote communities, thereby impacting on sistergirls and brotherboys the most. Additionally, TSGD Territorians experience social isolation which includes not knowing other TSGD people and difficulties establishing intimate relationships with cisgender people. Furthermore, sistergirls and brotherboys uniquely experience double-discrimination. This takes the form of racism within predominantly white transgender communities and transphobia within traditional communities. Sistergirls and brotherboys may be misgendered when it comes to gender-specific activities (e.g. men’s business or women’s business) and/or experience violence, sexual assault, and murder. These are significant push factors which result in many TSGD Territorians including sistergirls and brotherboys either leaving the NT of taking their own lives.

About Dr Kerry: Dr Stephen Kerry is a lecturer in sociology at Charles Darwin University (Casuarina Campus) and identifies as a genderqueer Buddhist. Dr Kerry’s preferred gender pronouns are they/them in spoken English and hir/xie in written. For 25 years Dr Kerry has been an advocate for social change, especially in regards to those people that live on the gender margins of society; this includes being an active member of the queer communities both nationally and locally in Newcastle and Darwin. Dr Kerry has also volunteered as a telephone crisis counsellor for Lifeline. In 2005, Dr Kerry completed a PhD on the social lives of intersex Australians and hir recent research into the role of religion in the lives of intersex people has garnered international attention. In 2015, Dr Kerry was invited to be a keynote speaker at the Variant Sex and Gender, Religion and Wellbeing conference in the United Kingdom. After Dr Kerry moved to Darwin in 2012, xie began research into the health needs of transgender and sex/gender diverse people living in the Northern Territory.