New Brunswick's first openly trans candidate 'doing it for a whole community'
26-year-old Scarlett Tays feels she's advocating for LGBTQ community by running to become MLA
When Deputy Premier Stephen Horsman hits the campaign trail in September, he'll face a determined challenge from the first openly transgender candidate to enter provincial politics in New Brunswick.
Scarlett Tays, 26, secured her historic nomination for the NDP in Fredericton North on July 20.
"I don't really have anything to lose and there's so much to gain," she said. "I can advocate for low income families and I can advocate for the LGBT community."
The Progressive Conservatives have nominated Jill Green, CEO of Green Imaging Technologies Inc., as their candidate.
'People need to stay'
Tays works at a downtown restaurant and said her main priority is raising the minimum wage to $15. She also wants to work toward better childcare and reconnecting Fredericton's north and south sides.
"There's so much at home and I find that people need to stay. They leave for this prospect of a better life when a better life can be achieved here when we put more into our community and our economy," she said.
The Sussex native said she wants her candidacy to prove to people that the LGBTQ community can be part of the political process.
"I feel like we're so marginalized and we're just stigmatized and we're going to break that, we're going to open the eyes of the people and open doors that have been closed to us for so long," she said.
In an ideal world, Tays said she'd be able to run for office as a woman and not have to emphasize that she's trans. Until then, she said there's work to be done.
Being the first openly transgender candidate puts pressure on her to become not just a politician, but an advocate.
"I want to break through that pressure that it puts on me and people who are of a minority," she said. "We all need to be seen as individuals with defining characteristics."
Tays knew she was trans from the age of 10 but said it wasn't until last year that she found the courage to come out to her family and friends.
She said she was held back by a fear of abandonment.
"I thought that my friends were going to abandon me, that certain family members were going to abandon me," she said. "That I wouldn't have a job. That society would look at me a certain way."
Now she said that fear has dissipated, and it didn't return even when she gave a speech at her nomination ceremony.
"I feel like the people are behind me on this," she said.
Across the country
Transgender people are breaking into politics across the country. Last year British Columbia had four transgender candidates running for provincial office. Alberta elected a trans MLA in 2015, and a small town in Quebec just elected the country's first transgender mayor.
It's been a week since her nomination was announced, and Tays said she's yet to hear any negative feedback.
But she sees the way people give her a wide berth on the sidewalk, and how some people move their children to the other side of the road. She said it may be an uphill battle to "open people's minds."
"Even if I do feel that backlash I'm doing it for a whole community, I'm not just doing it for myself," she said.
- An earlier version of this story said the Progressive Conservatives would nominate a candidate July 28. In fact, they've already nominated Jill Green.Jul 26, 2018 10:13 AM AT