Delton Clark talks about the female influences in her life during a special NAIDOC Week celebrating women.
Delton Clark talks about the female influences in her life during a special NAIDOC Week celebrating women. Stuart Quinn

'My family accepted me as a transgender indigenous woman'

THIS week has been incredibly important to Delton Clark.

She has spent the past few days celebrating her culture in NAIDOC Week, and because of this year's theme, focusing on the women in indigenous communities, she has also been able to celebrate the women who helped shape her into the person she is today.

Delton is flamboyant and she is proud. Proud to be indigenous, proud to be transgender and even more proud to just be her.

As she talks, her mannerisms exude confidence and purpose, she flips her hair and smiles as she explains the impact the women in her life has had on her understanding and embodiment of femininity.

"Having the women in my life give me those foundations that contribute to my qualities and my values it is a really big part of me," she said.

"It has been mostly my mum, my grandmother, my two aunties, five great aunties and a truckload of female cousins, being a transgender woman you take everything you can from all of these women in your life because nobody actually teaches you.

"When you are transgender and you are growing up as a different gender, no-one is obliged to teach you these things because you go off with the men and learn their ways and customs in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait culture."


Because of Her. Delton Clark
Because of Her. Delton Clark Stuart Quinn

Delton publicly came out as identifying as transgender at the end of 2014 and she began hormone treatment the following year.

"I had to learn all this myself and then finally came out and was like 'this is who I am'," she said proudly.

"I came out first as a gay male and started to cross dress... and then I was prescribed my hormones at the end of 2015 and began to transition from there.

While attending an LGBT+ conference specifically targeted at indigenous youth in 2016, Delton said she was confronted by the personal stories she heard from those in similar shoes.

"There were a lot of trans men and women there and it was really enriching and enlightening but also heartbreaking to hear a lot of the struggles," she said.

"I consider myself very blessed because I have come from a very (supportive) life and I never had to do anything on my own.

"All of these people had had so many struggles and barriers and faced abuse, it is crazy to think that the world is like that."

The Aboriginal, Torres Strait and South Sea Islander culture has a strong link to traditional Catholic values which discourage non-conforming gender identity and sexual preferences.

Delton Clark
Delton Clark in her younger years as a male model.

Delton said the religious beliefs held by her father's side of the family, who are from the Torres Strait, were initially a barrier when she started to transition.

"It was a struggle with my dad's side of the family, the Torres Strait Islander people," she said.

"My great-grandmother is a very strong Christian woman, but she believes that God accepts everyone.

"It was hard to explain the concept of it all to my dad's family, but I think because I am so open about it too I don't leave them in the lurch wondering how it works, so they do not have the fear of the unknown."

Describing herself, Delton said she has known she was a female since before she can remember.

"I would not say I am trapped in the wrong body, instead I would say I have embraced it," she said.

"With the right amount of money and the right education I can alter the outside to match the inside, that is the easy part.

"It is just me in the wrong body; the outside just has to mirror the inside, inside I feel like a bloody Barbie doll."

Delton Clark
Delton Clark as a child. Ashley Pillhofer

While Delton feels she has not faced any overt discrimination due to her gender identity, she said often people who identify as transgender experience "unspoken discrimination", especially in the workforce.

"It is still very hard for trans people to find employment... people are still worried about the face of things and how they look," Delton said.

"There is still a lot of room for discrimination and the hate against the idea of it all."

She blushed at the idea that because of her and the barriers she has broken down, others in the Mackay and wider indigenous community are able to be more authentically themselves.

"I think that stems from all of that support, Because of Her I have had the strength to be able to pass that on, because of all the women in my life, these amazing pillars and leaders I know how to offer that support and love to other people," Delton said.

"There is a lot to pass on and if I can pave some sort of way to make life easier for someone coming through, oh my god, there is nothing more fulfilling."

Because of Her. Aunty Valerie Pilcher, Aunty Allannah Munro, Delton Clark and Sari Clark
Delton Clark with her Aunty Valerie Pilcher, Aunty Allannah Munro and mother Sari Clark. Stuart Quinn

Delton's mother Sari Clark said she was incredibly proud to watch Delton talk at the NAIDOC Week civic ceremony on Monday morning.

"To listen to her say the things she said and express the things she had felt over the years was just so good," Sari said.

"I always knew Delton was going to be different... but it was only when she came of age and knew her rights and she knew she didn't have to be afraid to be open about her sexuality.

"I was so proud of her when she made her speech."

Ultimately, Delton said her main message to others struggling with their identities was to 'embrace yourself'.

"Embrace yourself in everything that you are and love yourself for who you are and what you have," she said.

"Because nothing is too bad, or too hard, if you put your mind to it the world is a beautiful place."