First openly gay Lord Mayor of Manchester Carl Austin-Behan has an emotional message as he steps down
Manchester’s first gay Lord Mayor has paid an emotional tribute to the city’s young people as he steps down.
Carl Austin-Behan and his husband, Simon Austin-Behan, made history as the first same-sex couple to hold the city’s ancient ceremonial posts of Lord Mayor and consort.
The historic title is a long way from his former life in the Royal Air Force, when in 1997 he was kicked out because of his sexuality.
Four years later he became Mr Gay UK while working as an events manager, long before he had set upon on a career in politics.
Now Carl has paid an emotional tribute at the end of his 12 months in office, saying being out and proud with young people was his highlight.
The outgoing Lord Mayor told PinkNews: “Going to schools, speaking to children as young as six, especially the children, about equality and LGBT issues, that was the best part.
“We need to let them accept people for who they are.”
He addded: “I remember a six year old – it was very random – he asked me what it was like to be discriminated against.
“It was such a powerful question from a child.
“It made me realise that until 14 years ago we had Section 28, and we couldn’t have had any of these conversations then.
“These kids were born after that prejudice, and it’s been great to go to schools and events and talk about LGBT issues.”
When one child asked him what his wife was called, he told them: “I don’t have a wife, I have a husband,” to which the child replied, “Well, what’s your husband called then?”
The situation was often repeated with official guests – some assuming the man in his mayoral Christmas card and portrait was the deputy.
Since he was sworn in as Lord Mayor, with an ABBA quote, Carl has undertaken more than 1000 engagements, many of them with his husband, all while maintaining the cleaning he businesses he runs.
And along the way it’s estimated an incredible £500,000 has been raised through the Lord Mayor’s charity.
A highlight, he says, was taking full opportunity of being the first gay Lord Mayor during Manchester’s famous pride parade, marshalling the event in a bright pink cloak.
He told Manchester Evening News: “One of my best moments has to be being the grand marshal for Manchester Pride and wearing the pink robes, promoting the city.
“Going from doing that route 15 years ago in a pair of hot-pants and a sash for Mr Gay UK to then be walking it as one of the most senior people for LGBT within Manchester – that was a real moving moment for me.
“But my best moments have also been the people themselves, how welcome they’ve made me feel.
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“And that’s from every group, from all different faiths, different beliefs, different cultures.”
As he steps down, he’ll be focussing on running the Manchester 10k, alongside his husband, in aid of the Lord Mayor’s chairty, We Love Manchester.
“I think being Lord of Manchester for me was about raising awareness of equality for Manchester,” he told PinkNews.
“We’d led the way for LGBT equality in the 1980s, but it seemed to drift a bit.
“Now it’s back on the agenda in Manchester, and I’m so proud of that and what we’ve achieved.”