The UK’s First Non-Binary Mayor on Being Elected at 23

Part-time university student Owen Hurcom has been appointed mayor of Bangor, Wales.
Daisy Jones
London, GB
Mayor of Bangor Northwest Wales Elected
Photos courtesy of Owen Hurcom

Finally, some good news in a sea of doom and gloom. Owen Hurcom has just become the UK's first openly non-binary mayor – in Bangor, Northwest Wales – after being elected by the city’s council.

They were initially thought to be the world's first ever non-binary mayor, although that title goes to Tony Briffa, who served as the mayor of Hobsons Bay in Australia, between 2010 and 2012. 


But at 23, Hurcom is also the youngest mayor to have ever been elected in Wales. Yes, 23 – the age in which most of us are only just learning how to boil an egg and file our taxes. Seeing as that’s two historical landmarks in one election, we decided to give them a ring to chat about it.

VICE: Hey, congratulations! So talk me through the events leading up to you becoming mayor.   
Owen Hurcom:
The city council, as they have done since 1883, elect a mayor. So I initially ran for city council four years ago; I served as the deputy mayor for two years, so it wasn't out of the blue for my name to be forward for mayor. But it was a great honour and privilege. It's been a crazy few days since that happened.

I can imagine. Why do you think you resonated with those who elected you?
I like to think it's the hard work I've been putting in during my years on the council. I might only be 23, but I've got experience at a local level, so I like to think that was shown through when the councillors were deliberating. The fact that I was elected was quite nice, because of course there are different political parties on the council, but no group thought to put forward a candidate other than myself. It was pleasing to know I'd earned the trust and respect of all councillors, regardless of their affiliations. 

It’s really exciting to think that there’s someone your age representing the interests of people in Bangor. 
It's always useful to have that representation when local decisions are being made. I like to think that I use my voice to elevate the voices of young people in the city, as well as LGBTQ+ people as well. 


I saw on your Twitter that you're still at uni as well. How are you managing it? I could barely manage reading two books. 
Uni is part time, and I work part time as well. I do a lot, but I manage to get through. I'm doing an MA in Archaeology. 

Nice. I read that Bangor is an extremely, extremely old city. 
Oldest city in Wales. I chose Bangor for a myriad of reasons. As soon as I arrived here, I fell in love with the place. I grew up in London but I always knew I'd return to Wales, which is where my family are from. I chose Bangor Uni, then within a week I knew I wouldn't be leaving. 

You were a candidate for Plaid Cymru in May's parliament elections, but then you stood down. What were your reasons behind that?
I stood down because of the way that I felt the party was platforming Helen Mary Jones, who had been espousing transphobic rhetoric, such as insinuating that trans and non-binary people were part of a social contagion, or that we were trying to infringe upon the rights of women, even though we are just trying to exist peacefully and have our own rights. One person's rights doesn't trump another.

Many years had gone by where people like myself and others had been raising this internally, and it just wasn't going anywhere. I refused to share a platform with that, or allow the party to point at me and go, “No look, we're not transphobic, we've got a non-binary candidate.” I wasn't going to be used in that way, so I decided to step away. 


Bangor city council has been a lovely working environment ever since I came out. I've enjoyed the support. It's nice to have that representation that non-binary people don't often get. I know that when I was growing up, it would have been inconceivable to see a non-binary [person] presented in a way that I hope I am, rather than the stereotypical caricature that we're used to in the media. 

What sort of changes are you planning to push for Bangor?
I work as part of a team, which is a great position to be in, because I know if I have a good idea there will be ten other councillors with ten other brilliant ideas. What I know that I can do as an individual, and what I've been trying to do this week, is a lot of PR for Bangor. My ability as a young quirky mayor with green hair, or whatever colour I decide to colour it that week, is that hopefully I can get people talking about Bangor. 

I'll also be presenting ideas to the council, such as the possibility of a poet laureate, or organising events, such as a Pride event among other public engagements. Again, I've got a year in office with a fantastic team. It's not my place to drive forward a particular agenda, but I'm looking forward to doing whatever I can and also listen to the people of Bangor. 

Amazing. So Bangor hasn’t currently got an annual Pride event?
Back in 2019, I organised the first Pride event, but that was just a small scale toe-in-the-water thing. We got about 400 people, which was fantastic, but it was done on a £200 budget in a couple of weeks. We weren't able to do it last year because of COVID but this year – if we can – or the next, it should hopefully be a lot bigger and that's something I'll be excited to be a part of. 


In general, what do you think needs to change in relation to LGBTQ rights in Bangor but also across the UK?
We need more legal recognition. A workplace tribunal recently did suggest that non-binary people are covered by the Equality Act of 2010 which, before, wasn't really certain because of ambiguous wording. I would like to see the wording changed to be less ambiguous. 

The Equality Act protects transgender people, but on the grounds of them reassigning your sex. If you're non-binary, and the Equality Act defines sex as only male or female, how can you be covered by that? The Equality Act is still so ambiguous that if my university or my landlord turned around and evicted me because I'm non-binary, I might be able to win the case against them – but it wouldn't be a guarantee. 

We also need the ability to be our true selves on documentation. If I was to get married, I wouldn't be able to get married as my true self. I'd have to be married as a male or female person. 

It's not just legal changes – it's the de facto changes as well, where we're respected and understood and aren't portrayed as a joke, which we often still are. 

I saw that you've got a book coming out too, called Don't Ask About My Genitals. I'd love to hear more about it. 
It's ready for pre-order. It's a broad stroke approach to the introductory stuff you can do for trans and non-binary equality. There's information in there about people who might be questioning their own gender, and it covers topics from pronouns to porn to relationships to education. Hopefully it will resonate for people as well. 

My own story does feed into it, but that's only so I can talk from a place of experience. It's not about me. It's about what we do as society, as allies and as LGBTQ+ people, so that we do get the equality we are owed as human beings. 

I'm excited to read it! Thanks for chatting, Owen.