[June is Pride Month, and this year we're celebrating by honoring 30 LGBTQ firsts. To see the full list, visit nbcnews.com/pride30.]
Owen Hurcum, 23, became the world’s first known nonbinary mayor last month. Hurcum, who uses gender-neutral pronouns, was unanimously elected mayor of Bangor, Wales, by the city council in an indirect election last year. Because of a pandemic-related delay, Hurcum officially took office May 10.
Hurcum, who was elected to the Bangor City Council in 2017, said they enjoy local politics because it enables them to have an impact on the community.
“When you see something happening, you know the story behind it and try to do what’s best for the city,” they told NBC News.
Hurcum, who also identifies as pansexual, said the City Council has supported and protected them as someone who is publicly out. They said the long-held stereotype that local governments are unaccepting is “outdated.”
Hurcum moved to Bangor, which has a population of around 18,000, about five years ago to attend Bangor University. They said the public’s understanding of nonbinary identities is not perfect but is improving. While news of Hurcum's historic election garnered international headlines, they said they — along with city staffers — have also received a slew of transphobic messages. Those messages, Hurcum said, are “coming from a place of ignorance.”
“It almost doesn’t faze me at all,” they added, though they said they do alert the local police when they receive death threats.
Hurcum also said they do get positive messages, particularly from LGBTQ people, which they called “humbling.” Hurcum said several Americans sent congratulatory messages and told Hurcum that their election was welcome news amid the wave of state bills in the U.S. targeting transgender Americans.
Hurcum said they are open about their gender identity and sexual orientation in the hopes of helping younger people who are questioning their identity. They said being visible shows pride and a refusal to be written out of history. But for Hurcum, being the first out nonbinary mayor is a small step toward equality.
“It’s pointless and regressive to celebrate if it doesn’t lead on to more nonbinary people getting involved in local politics,” Hurcum said. “If there’s more LGBTQ+ people putting their name forward as their open selves, then I'll consider that a victory.”
In addition to serving as mayor, Hurcum is publishing a book, “Don’t Ask About My Genitals,” which they described as an introductory manifesto for transgender and nonbinary people. Set to be released April 2022, the book covers pronouns, coming out and relationships, they said.
As for their plans for LGBTQ Pride Month, Hurcum said it’s important to keep in mind that “the world is still targeting LGBTQ+ people.”
“As much as we can and should celebrate ourselves, we need to be using Pride as a platform to force change,” they said.