Gay mayor wants to show queer people they can achieve anything after historic appointment
The first openly gay mayor of Sandwell has grand plans to make his community a better place for LGBTQ+ folk.
Richard Jones was appointed mayor of Sandwell, near Birmingham, on Tuesday (24 May). He’s the youngest and first openly gay man elected to the role, and his partner is the first gay man to serve as mayor’s consort.
History was also made as councillor Jackie Taylor was appointed the first Black woman in the role of deputy mayor of Sandwell.
Jones, who was “born and bred” in Sandwell near Birmingham, said in a speech when he was appointed that it was “especially poignant” to be made mayor in 2022, the 50th anniversary of Pride in the UK.
Speaking to PinkNews, Jones said: “Sandwell is such a diverse place… We have many different minorities living locally, and I think to have representation for one of those minorities is brilliant, especially to be the mayor.
“We’ve [Jones and his partner, councillor Richard McVittie] been very adamant that we want to be very visible within within the community, so that we can send those positive images out.”
Though being mayor is an apolitical role, Jones is looking to champion LGBTQ+ rights within his local community, and believes more queer people should get involved with local politics.
“Myself and my partner were the first LGBTQ+ couple to be elected on to Sandwell Council. There are lots of straight married couples already, so it’s not unusual to have a couple,” he said.
“In the past three years we have really championed equality, inclusivity, and diversity within the council. I think coming from that community, we can see the struggles that local people have, and it’s only when you when you experienced those struggles yourself that you can take that back to the council and affect policy.
“One of the things that we’ve looked at recently is the HIV commission, and trying to get to zero transmissions by 2030. One of the things that I’ve gone to the council to speak about is how are we doing this locally? What are we doing locally to make sure that we achieve this?”
Thank you to my partner and consort Cllr Richard McVittie for being so supportive. I am glad that we are able to represent our inclusive and diverse communities of Sandwell. pic.twitter.com/MZMJHcjMta
— Councillor Richard Jones (He/him) (@CllrRichJones) May 24, 2022
Jones said that Sandwell will host its first ever official Pride celebration this June in West Bromwich.
“We’ve got a really good one [Pride celebration] with Birmingham as one of our neighbours; a lot of people – myself included – go and celebrate Pride in Birmingham, but I do think we need to have a bit of Pride in Sandwell as well.
“We’re not having floats or anything like that, although we may we may do in the future… I want it to be led by the community, and if next year the community wants a bigger parade, that’s what we’ll look look towards.”
He added that he hopes around 500 to 1,000 people take part, as around 500 people came to a Pride event in February to mark LGBTQ+ History Month.
“But then again, I’m hoping that it will be really community-led, so if there’s only 100 people but they’re all from the local community, then I’m happy,” he said. “I just think it’s amazing that we’re taking these positive step steps forward.”
Jones added that his visibility as mayor of Sandwell will help others in the area to “be their true selves”.
“To have permanent acceptance, you need to have permanent visibility,” he said.
“Part of what myself and my partner want to do is to be visible within the community, so that you can help other people be their true selves as well.”