Last week, Owen J. Hurcum took office as mayor in Bangor, Wales. They were electedunanimously last year by their City Council.
Hurcum, who is a genderqueer, was sworn in on Monday after a delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 22-year-old is the youngest mayor in the country’s history. they are also the world’s second non-binary mayor.
Hurcum at first thought they were the first non-binary mayor in the world. However, Tony Briffa of Hobsons Bay, Victoria, served as mayor between 2010 and 2012. Briffa identifies as intersex and non-binary.
When I came out two years ago I was so worried I’d be ostracized by my community or worse. Today my community elected me Mayor of our great City. The youngest ever Mayor in Wales. The first ever openly Non-Binary Mayor of any city anywhere. Beyond humbled, Diolch Bangor 🏳️🌈 pic.twitter.com/pGHiaQTVaO
— Mayor Owen J Hurcum 🏴🏳️⚧️🏳️🌈🇪🇺 (@OwenJHurcum) May 10, 2021
Who is Owen J. Hurcum?
Owen J. Hurcum grew up in Harrow, London. They have been active in local politics since moving to Bangor five years before attending university.
They stayed in connection with the community through their position as a councilor for four years. Then, they went on to fulfill the role of deputy mayor and as chair of several committees.
Hurcum has participated in local political protests. Another interesting fact about them is that they created a book for queer individuals. It serves as an “introductory manifesto to trans and non-binary equality.” In 2019, they helped organize Bangor’s first Pride event ever.
In March, Hurcum decided not to run as a candidate for Welsh Parliament (the Plaid Cymru party). The reason they stepped down is that they accused the party of being transphobic. They had a party member (Helen Mary Jones), a trans-exclusionary radical feminist (TERF).
Here is what Hurcum had to say about it:
I want Helen Mary Jones to apologise in a way that is not ‘I’m sorry you’re offended.’ I want a sincere apology, and I want her to make an effort to learn about the community and understand why she’s perpetuating transphobia. Adam Price, as the leader of the party, needs to make it very clear not just that Plaid have a great set of policies for if they’re in government, but are also tackling transphobia within their own party immediately.
What Non-Binary Political Representation Is Out There Right Now in the World?
Across the world, there is a slim number of non-binary people in political positions. A map from the Victory Institute (an organization that helps elect more LGBTQ+ political leaders) shows how many public officials are in the United States. There are only 11 non-binary, genderqueer, or Two-Spirit public officials in the US. Only one of these leaders is at the state level. The rest are at the local level.
The state-level official is Oklahoma’s Mauree Turner. When they were elected to a state legislature last fall, they had made history in the United States. They are the first “out” nonbinary lawmakers. Also, they are the first Muslim individual elected to the Oklahoma state legislature.
How Much Trans Representation is there in Congress in the U.S.?
Even though there are more strides forward for trans representation in the U.S. since the 2020 election, they are not represented in Congress.
Because there is such a lack of representation, the results are catastrophic. There are many bills in U.S. state legislatures that harm the mental and physical health of trans youth.
Who Are Some Known LGBTQ+ Officials?
New Zealand’s Georgina Beyer was the world’s first transgender member of parliament. They were elected in 1999. Before that, they were the world’s very first transgender mayor.
Delaware official Sarah McBride was the first “out” transgender state Senator. She has been a Democratic member of the Delaware States Senate since January 2021. Danica Roem was also the first openly transgender person to serve in any state legislature. She was elected in 2017.
What is Trans Representation like in the U.K. and Wales?
Trans people in the U.K. and Wales are experiencing the consequences of having a lack of political representation from their community. Recently, trans advocates in the U.K. have criticized the British government’s lack of response to the alarming rate of violence against trans people. They have also called out the government for the long wait times for gender-affirming care at clinics throughout the U.K.
Over 100,000 people in the U.K. have signed a petition to urge the government to acknowledge non-binary identities.
Owen J. Hurcum states that Bangor is not always viewed as a place of metropolitan tolerance. However, they feel as though they can live as their authentic self. The Welsh Government, in particular, has voiced its support of trans people. Jeremy Miles, the Counsel General of Wales, wrote the following:
We believe trans women are women, trans men are men, and nonbinary identities are valid.
So far, the response to Hurcum’s election victory is overwhelmingly positive. Many people have shown their support. Hurcum thanked everyone on social media for their support; however, they are still aware of the challenges of being the first “out” trans or non-binary person in this position.
They did thank their other councilors for all of the support when Hurcum experienced online abuse, especially during the Plaid Cymru incident. In their tweet, Hurcum said that they were “beyond humbled” in being the first openly non-binary mayor “of any city anywhere.” Especially after fearing that coming out would mean being “ostracized by my community or worse”.
Even though Hurcum has received worldwide attention for this momentous occasion, they still are devoted and inspired by their local LGBTQ+ community. They get to celebrate people and their differences and show that the Bangor community that it’s good to be different and that their feelings are justified.
Billie Olsen (she/they) is a lifestyle writer, disability justice advocate, and cozy femme located in Kelowna, BC, Canada. Their works have appeared in Metro News, Discorder, Sophomore Magazine, the Post-Feminist Post, DINE Magazine, and NerdReader.