Owen Hurcum took office Monday as the world’s first known nonbinary mayor.
Hurcum, 23, is genderqueer and agender, and was elected unanimously last year by the City Council in Bangor, Wales, after serving as deputy mayor for a year, North Wales Live reported. Hurcum, who uses gender neutral pronouns, didn’t take office until Monday due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Hurcum shared a photo Monday wearing a traditional mayoral chain, and thanked the city.
“It is an enormous privilege to have been elected by my fellow City Council members to the office of Mayor of Bangor,” Hurcum said in a statement to NBC News. “I don’t take this lightly and I will work as hard as I can in the role to give back everything to the City that has given me so much. I might only be 23 but I have a wealth of experience at local government and a fantastic team behind me so I know we are set up to face the challenges ahead.”
Hurcum added that representation “is more than just putting on the chain, but I’m glad to have received thousands of positive messages from Non-Binary people the world over saying what it means to see me in this role.”
Hurcum told North Wales Live they moved to Bangor, which has a population of about 18,000, about five years ago to attend Bangor University.
“Within a week, I fell in love with it and tried to throw myself into the city’s culture,” they said last year.
Hurcum became interested in politics while attending university, North Wales Live reported. Prior to becoming deputy mayor, they served as a city councilor for four years.
Hurcum also ran for Senedd, the Welsh Parliament, in the spring, but stepped down in March, saying the Welsh Plaid Cymru party for which they were running provides a platform for those who promote transphobia.
They specifically called out Senedd member Helen Mary Jones, who has described herself as a “gender-critical feminist,” according to the BBC. Hurcum said Jones retweeted “transphobic” Twitter accounts that have sent them “verbally abusive” messages.
“She has made no effort to learn about our community and why her retweets are so damaging,” Hurcum wrote on Twitter in March.
A few days later, Jones issued an apology and closed her Twitter account, the BBC reported.
“I specifically recognize that some of the accounts I follow and retweet have shared content which is unacceptable and transphobic and I very much regret the impact of this on individuals as well as the trans community more broadly,” she said in a statement. “None more so than the trans community. For this, I sincerely apologize to the trans community for the pain and hurt I have caused. I am still learning.”
In a response at the time, Hurcum welcomed the apology, but told NBC News the Plaid Cymru party is “still a ways away from winning mine and our communities’ trust back.”
Hurcum joins the growing list of transgender and nonbinary elected officials worldwide. In 1999, New Zealand elected Georgina Beyer, the world’s first trans member of parliament. Tony Briffa became Australia’s first openly intersex mayor in 2011.
More recently, Oklahoma state Rep. Mauree Turner became the first publicly nonbinary U.S. state representative in 2020. Three years prior, Danica Roem became the first openly trans person elected to a U.S. state house.
Hurcum wrote on Twitter that they’ll “be wanting to use my term to promote Bangor as much as I can, bring in investment and interest and celebrate the multi cultural community that makes our city the greatness that it is.”
They previously told North Wales Live that they also want to sell Bangor as a destination.
“I really want to work on bringing more funds to improve the high street, push for more green spaces and promote the interconnected communities between the university and the city itself,” they said.
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Welsh town seats world’s first known nonbinary mayor – NBC News