Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Yimpininni or Sistergirls

On the Tiwi Island of Australia, photographer Bindi Cole and writer Jirra Lulla Harvey have captured the life of 50 to 70 hermaphrodites through film, text and photographs. Their artwork titled, The Sistagirl exhibition is currently on tour.

Here's more information on the Yimpininni women of Australia:

•Sistergirls don't like to be referred to as "gays". They prefer the term "women". They also reject a lot of the myths about them, both from the mainstream and from Indigenous society. Firstly, they reject the claim that they are "unnatural". A Sistergirl is born, not made. It is clear by the age of two or three if a person has been born this way, and when they get to the age of six, parents give them to older sistergirls to look after because they're in that special category.

Sistergirls are distinct from the wider homosexual community, as they have their own internal law. They have their own customs, rituals, rules and leadership, and as such are a separate cultural group rather than part of an undifferentiated "gay" category defined by broad definitions of lifestyle or sexuality choices.

•Sistergirls reject early anthropological studies of Tiwi society, which omitted their identity from the texts. Transgenderism has been a part of Tiwi custom since time out of mind, but in the old days the Sistergirls were called "Yimpininni", and were honoured, rather than subjected to the rape, violence and marginalisation that came with western colonialism. These horrors continue to plague them, and are only increasing with each year that passes.

Story Continues...


  1. In pre-missionary times, Tiwi “big” men dominated the culture, taking up to 15 wives and building potent households which denoted power. “Having sistergirls (they were then called Yimpininni, meaning boy-girl) around helped with the problem that arose when the old men married all the women”.

    The Bulletin, Issues 6428-6436

  2. "...And sistergirls, coming from cloistered tribal life, were seen as even more vulnerable. ... Gay men often want the sex to go both ways, but sistergirls refuse to penetrate another man and do not allow their own penises to be handled..."

    The Bulletin 2004

  3. "Sistergirls" is not a term that gets a mention in any anthropological studies of island life, although men role-acting as women is a known part of the Tiwi ceremonial repertoire. In 1954, a National Geographic Society expedition noted..."

    The Bulletin 2004

  4. ^smh, why travel to the end of Austria to dress up a bunch of hermaphrodites? It would've been wise for the photographer and her friend to read the article written on these sistergirls before they went in to shoot and film. There's documented history already on record. Why are they unearthing problems? The tiwi island rest at the end of the very end. It's like they are on an small island seperate from Austria.

  5. "...Yimpininni, meaning boy-girl"

    Wow. they were called boy-girl as in boyand girl. the natives didn't know what they should be called because they were born with both male and female genetails.


  6. austria=australia

  7. Grace Jones is a sistergirl.

    Caster Semenya is a sistergirl.

    If you can sing or run really fast, the people will come get you from the village and send you off to Hollywood for a makeover.