Wales welcomes the world’s first ever openly non-binary mayor
The LGBTQ+ community are welcoming Owen Hurcum as the Mayor of Bangor and the first openly non-binary mayor. But what does their election mean for the community?
Over 46,000 likes, nearly 6,000 retweets and hundreds of comments and messages were shared in support. The world turned to Owen Hurcum as they were elected the world’s first ever openly non-binary mayor, and Wales’ youngest ever mayor. But what difference will their election as Mayor of Bangor bring to the LGBTQ+ community here in Wales as they fight for equality?
Having served five years as a councillor, including one as deputy mayor, Owen was delighted to have been chosen. They said: “It has been incredibly humbling to know this news has resonated with so many people across the world and I’m really glad I’ve been able to be that little bit of positive representation that some people have engaged with.”
“I really hope it can inspire more non-binary people to engage in local politics as their true selves,” they said.
Members of the LGBTQ+ community shared Owen’s joy, including Sai Roberts. “There are actually a few factors in play that I find amazing. The age of Owen is something that would also not have been accepted years ago. Gender identity and views would certainly not have been accepted,” she said.
Sai, who spent the first 30 years of her life identifying as male moved away from Wales over 20 years ago due to lack of acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community. Having been the subject of insults and threats in her hometown of Wrexham for discussing gender identity, she said: “This is a major step in bringing Wales closer to what most of Europe considers to be equality and acceptance in the communities we live in,”
“Here in Belgium, we work for acceptance and not tolerance,” she said.
Admitting she had lost touch with Wales, Sai felt that Owen’s election brought her Welsh upbringing back to her. She said: “The more I see Wales evolving in the modern world, the prouder I feel of my roots.”
For others, including Fiona Greenly-Jones, daughter of a past mayor of Bangor, Keith Greenly-Jones, it’s important that new ground is being broken. “Historically, Mayors have stereotypically been middle-aged men or women, and I think that Owen becoming Mayor has broken with tradition, not only in terms of age but also in terms of inclusion and diversity,” she said.
As a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, Fiona said: “This is a welcomed shift for Wales. I believe Owen’s election as Mayor means that Wales are embracing inclusion and diversity.”
Although proud of their election as mayor, Owen, wants people to remember that they are not the world’s first non-binary mayor, but the first openly non-binary mayor. “ Non-binary people have existed as long as humans have,” they said.
“I’m sure there have been non-binary mayors in the past who weren’t able to be out and I don’t want to remove that history from them,” they said.
Owen also admits that although this is a great step towards a progressive and more diverse future for Wales, a lot of work still needs to be done to achieve equality. An area especially important to Owen is governmental laws, as the current government does not accept non-binary as a legal gender on documents.
“For as long as this government does not accept non-binary as a legal gender on documents then the ability for us to interact as our true selves in all parts of life is restricted,” they said. “Equally as much as the law needs improvement, the fact also remains that we are seen as a debate by many in the court of public opinion, and we most certainly aren’t a debate and nor are our rights,” they said.
Sai agrees with Owen that Wales needs to push forward to achieve equality for the LGBTQ+ community. “Just like every other country in the world, there is never a point where you can say “we do enough”. There will only be equality when there is no longer a need to ask for it,” she said.
Diverse Cymru, Wales’ only pan-equality charity, said: “We believe their appointment is a long- overdue step in recognising the diversity that makes up Wales within elected offices.”
“We wholeheartedly support Owen’s fight for better representation of non-binary people, to ensure Wales truly is a country where everyone is valued,” they said.