State Greens candidate Lilith Zaharias has come out as a trans woman ahead of the upcoming NSW election.
Zaharias – who is running for the seat of Wakehurst, on Sydney’s Northern Beaches – made the decision to come out publicly after spending several months of her election campaign transitioning.
Speaking to the Star Observer, Zaharias said she feels more like herself now than she ever has before.
“Looking back, it’s something I should’ve figured out years before I actually did,” she said.
“It’s amazing to feel like I’ve corrected a problem I hadn’t even realised was there.”
While Zaharias was aware of the transgender community as early as high school – despite going to an all-boys school in North Sydney, where she subconsciously knew she “didn’t fit in” – she wasn’t equipped with education that let her know it was okay to identify that way.
On the contrary, trans people were regularly categorised as “those other people”, and Zaharias, despite not feeling comfortable identifying with either boys or girls, didn’t acknowledge her trans identity until as recently as three years ago.
“There are a lot of problems with the ways the education system deals with things like that,” she said.
“I think my experience is pretty telling when it comes to how poorly educated we are as a society… we’re all growing up in a world that doesn’t think we should know about trans people.
“I found I was getting more and more depressed, and this discomfort grew inside of me until three years ago when I realised why.”
Zaharias is currently running for the safe Liberal seat of Wakehurst, a seat held by Liberal MP Brad Hazzard, who won 75 per cent of the electorate’s votes at the last state election.
Despite this, she’s confident she has a shot, given Wakehurst is partly in the electoral division of Warringah, which returned some of the highest numbers of Yes votes in the country during the marriage equality postal survey.
She said that most people are queer-friendly, when given the chance.
“Wakehurst isn’t Newtown or inner-city Sydney, and I’m sure people wouldn’t think of Sydney’s Northern Beaches as being where all the queer people live,” she said.
“But at the same time, the best estimates people come up with suggest at least two per cent of people are trans, and a significant number more are gay, or lesbian.
“That doesn’t differ depending on post code. Even in Wakehurst.”
When it comes to the issues Zaharias hopes to tackle if elected, affordable housing ranks highly on her list.
“Affordable housing is a huge deal for young people,” she said.
“You look at most politicians in parliament, and they wouldn’t know the first thing about struggling to pay rent, or being in precarious housing and not knowing when you might get evicted.
“This obviously gets compounded for queer people, where living situations are even more unsafe, and a lot of queer people end up homeless.”
She adds that her youth and unique life experiences will help her focus on forward-thinking issues that matter to young people like her around the country.
“The fact that I’m younger than most candidates means I’m going to be around for quite a long time,” she said.
“And the world I’m going to have to live in is one being shaken by things happening right now, like climate change.”
When she was in school, Zaharias had no trans role models to look up to, let alone in parliament.
She said parliament and politics have historically excluded queer and trans people, something she hopes to change for the sake of the next generation.
“I think it’s important that young people questioning their gender sees something going through this – a trans woman running for parliament,” she said.
“For those people who don’t feel comfortable coming out of the closet, seeing someone like me tells them it’s okay… we can be trans, and run for parliament, and have a voice.
“We can matter.”
The NSW election will be held on Saturday 23 March.