Local LGBTQ+ businessman Philip Normal is reported to be the first person openly living with HIV to hold the position of mayor in the United Kingdom when he was officially appointed via video conference earlier this week.
"I've spoken before about my HIV status, and it has been suggested that I'm the first openly positive mayor in the country," Normal said in his acceptance speech according to the Wadsworth Guardian. "I don't know if this is true, but if it is, it is something none of us should feel pride in. Rather it highlights the shame and stigma that has been associated with HIV for far too long."
"I moved to Lambeth eight years ago and it is one of the best places in London to live, work, and visit, with diverse and resilient communities, with each of our town centers having its unique character and history," Normal said in his acceptance speech. He also noted that Lambeth is the "borough with the highest proportion of LGBTQ+ residents in the entire country."
Normal dedicated his speech to his chosen charity, the Albert Kennedy Trust, which supports homeless and at-risk LGBTQ+ teens as well as frontline workers.
"It recognizes Lambeth's queer history and the fact that we are the borough with the highest proportion of LGBTQ+ residents in the entire country," he said in his speech or the organization "The Albert Kennedy Trust, founded in 1989, helps young LGBTQ+ people with housing issues, develop life skills, find emergency accommodation, stay safe in a crisis, and access specialist support."
Emergency legislation allowed Lambeth officials to conduct government business online during this time of social distancing restrictions, but one British tradition could not be accommodated; Leaders were unable to deliver and fit Normal with the official mayoral chains, a practice that dates back centuries. That didn't stop Mayor Normal, though, as he put his own fashion skills to good use in creating his own mayoral chains.
"I'll be honest, this is not entirely how I envisaged it happening," he said after the appointment. "But I'm grateful to everyone who has worked so hard to make this evening possible."
Normal plans to sell the one-off necklace at auction, with the proceeds going to the Albert Kennedy Trust to benefit homeless and at-risk LGBTQ+ youth.
"It is vital that they are supported in an environment that is inclusive and celebrates their identities in order to improve their life outcomes.