Former Mr Gay UK becomes the Lord Mayor of Manchester

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A former winner of the Mr Gay UK competition is set to be sworn in as the new Lord Mayor of Manchester.

Carl Austin-Behan, now 44, had taken the coveted Mr Gay UK crown back in 2001 while working as an events manager, well before deciding to enter politics.

The former pageant winner later built a career as a Labour councillor on Manchester City Council, and was named earlier this year as the Labour group’s choice to be the city’s new ceremonial Lord Mayor.

Mr Austin-Behan, who was forced out of the RAF in the 1990s because he is openly gay just years before the military ban was lifted, will be the first openly gay person to take on the role when he is sworn in today.

He told the Manchester Evening News: “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.
Former Mr Gay UK becomes the Lord Mayor of Manchester
“It’s not a case of saying everyone needs to be like me, but as part of the diversity of Manchester it should be embraced.

“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.”

The new Lord Mayor tied the knot with his partner Simon last year – after 12 years together.

He said: “We have come such a long way but there are still barriers there. I think people don’t understand [trans issues] 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.

Mr Austin-Behan told the newspaper he will be bringing his own flamboyant twist to the role, adding: “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.”