Manchester introduces its first ever openly gay Lord Mayor

He’s the former Mr Gay UK, and he’s here to stay

Manchester has finally welcomed its first ever openly gay Lord Mayor in the shape of Carl Austin-Behan.

Carl Austin-Behan was kicked out of the of the RAF for his sexual inclination in 1997. Today, he’s making history.

Austin-Behan is finally receiving a title to match his status, following his proud reputation in the international gay capital that is Manchester.

The 44-year-old – a former Mr Gay UK – felt it was time for someone to represent Manchester’s celebrated lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Carl is no stranger to prejudice and discrimination due to his sexuality, thus this historic moment is all the more meaningful after a long battle to stop his sexuality blocking his ambitions.

Just over 20 years ago he was kicked out of the Royal Air Force for being gay at a time when it was still illegal.

But now – a few months after getting married, and starting the adoption process with his husband, Simon, – he is taking the highest ceremonial office in the city.

“I thought it was time we had an openly gay lord mayor. We have had different races and cultures doing it – so this is a recognition of the LGBT community,” he said.

“I was kicked out of the air force for being gay in 1997. We have come such a long way but there’s still barriers there.

“I see this as an opportunity to put it out there that we are all as normal as each other.”

Now he wants to help the LGBT community overcome its remaining barriers.

“The barrier is more to do with the trans community now,” he said.

“I think people don’t understand it so well. It’s about awareness and education.
“We also need to look at HIV. It’s still on the rise and Manchester is one of the worst places.”

Meanwhile he also wants to change perceptions of the role of mayor itself – and plans to carry on wearing his signature bright shirts, whilst taking on a more pastoral role, closer to the community.

“I won’t be wearing the traditional black and grey trousers and I think I only have one white shirt in my wardrobe.

“I want people to feel like they can relate to the Lord Mayor.”