Since her childhood, Delton Clark-Doolah knew that despite what her body would make people believe, she was female. The 23-year-old Mackay resident, who is of Aboriginal/South Sea Islander, Torres Strait, Malaysian and English descent, began transitioning in 2014 and was met with an overwhelming amount of support from her local community.
Suicide rates among transgender people, and transgender teens in particular, are astronomical, making Delton’s story a refreshingly different one that reflects on the inclusivity of her rural home.
“My community have been giving me nothing but the utmost positive response. I've been labelled an ‘inspiration’, ‘role model’, ‘brave’ and many other things in a positive sense,” she tells NITV.
While readily admitting that she has had no experience in Indigenous communities other than her own, Delton reflects that transgender people aren’t “something that is common so it's not a topic that is widely talked about, although Indigenous communities have diverse cultures within themselves”.
However, she says that “from a personal point of view, I find I am very accepted in the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities of Mackay. [It’s] not that I seek support, but the offer of needing people to talk to if I'm having trouble dealing with negative responses or "hate" (which there is never any) is always there whether it be from friends or family.”
As of November last year, Delton is on hormone replacement therapy and feels better than ever. “The process of transitioning so far has been an excellent experience. I think doing my research before being comfortable with coming out helped out a lot! Also having my family and friends accept me and treat me as a normal human being has made my journey so far so much easier.
“I feel I'm where I should be at the current point in my transition, even though I have a long way to go, everything is running smoothly and going according to plan and I'm happy within myself,” she says. “My face and my body are ever changing in a positive way and I'm slowly but surely seeing the results I wanted. I finally feel relief that the outside is finally starting to mirror who I am inside.”
Delton will have to wait a minimum of four years before she can be eligible for gender reassignment surgery but is already seeing her facial hair lessen and breasts develop.
Although it wasn’t until her 20’s that she decided to finally take the step towards her new life, it didn’t come as a surprise to her family and friends. She says, “For most of my life and as I got older it was a subject that wasn't discussed with any of them, everybody pretty much gathered what my sexuality was. So when I came out about wanting to transition the response was more of a relief that the words had finally come out of my mouth and everybody could grasp the concept of it all and be there for me when I needed it.”
In Australia, LGBTI people have the highest rates of suicide with 20% of transgender people reporting current suicidal thoughts according to a 2011 Beyond Blue report. Delton believes that breaking down barriers will have a significant impact in making teens feel more accepted.
“I think there needs to be less of this sense of ‘difference’,” she says, ”We're in the year 2016 and we are all human, no matter what somebody’s race, sexual orientation, religion or hair colour is, it should not define how you treat them.
“I think there should be more support groups or counselling services that specialise in helping transgender youth and their families. Not only for transgender youth but youth in general, communities need to have more of a sense of open arms from their and elders/older generations with today's suicide rates.”
She confronts hate, particularly when it’s levelled to her online, with resilience, remarking, ”I'm living my life the way I like, everyone is entitled to their own opinion for sure!
“I don't personally know any of those people so their opinion doesn't affect me in any way, as long as I have a loving family, close friends, a roof over my head and food in my stomach I'll continue to be authentic to myself because I'm not living anyone else's life nor are they living mine.”