Tameside’s first openly gay Mayor says LGBT people still experience discrimination in Greater Manchester – and revealed his partner was recently targeted by homophobic abuse on the street.
Leigh Drennan, who is a councillor in Ashton-under-Lyne, made history this week after being elected Mayor of the borough with his boyfriend as his consort.
Mayor Drennan said it is important to celebrate LGBT people reaching milestones in public office as it shows how society has become more open.
But he told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that homophobia remains an issue, and he and his partner and friends have repeatedly been the target of abuse and hate crimes.
Earlier this month the police were called after his partner, Cory James, was harassed in the street by builders near their home.
“Someone called my partner a f****t in the middle of the street,” Coun Drennan said.
“He started harassing him, making kissing noises and tried to spray water at him.
“This has happened to both of us before.
“But every time we decide to report it, it’s really important that this information is logged otherwise people feel that hate crime is going down.”
In recent years, a friend who is also a councillor in another borough was ‘kicked from one end of a nightclub to another by a group of lads calling him a f****t’, he added.
And his partner Cory was physically attacked leaving the gay village in Manchester just two years ago.
But despite these horrifying incidents, Coun Drennan says he believes things are improving for gay people – although people shouldn’t be complacent.
“I don’t think it’s acceptable to be homophobic over the dinner table anymore,” he said.
“It’s not the same as it was in the 90s or early 2000s. Part of the reason for that is people are coming out more and they feel confident to do it for themselves.
“People who used to make offensive jokes now probably know a friend or family member who is LGBT, which might make them think that the stereotype they are about to portray isn’t fair.”
He added: “I’m very open about it because you want people to see that they know someone who is gay or LGBT and hopefully if they have any prejudice in them at all it wouldn’t stack up with the person they know.
“But the fact that you still have to report hate crimes shows it’s not gone away, it’s getting better but homophobia has not been wiped out.”
Coun Drennan hopes he can help educate and raise awareness of the issues LGBT people face, and help people overcome prejudice in his year as Mayor.
“I didn’t get into politics to wear fancy chains or anything,” he said.
“We live in a society where there are structural inequalities.
“It’s important to celebrate these milestones because it shows how far we have come and how long it’s taken to do that.
“It’s not about gay people ‘shoving it down people’s throats’, we are just being us.
“For an LGBT person to openly hold this office for the first time now in 2019 when the borough was formed in 1974 – it’s about damn time.”
Two other boroughs in the region have had an openly gay Mayor – Bury and Manchester – both in 2016.
GMP confirmed the incident of street harassment was reported to them as a hate crime.
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