SOUTH Shields Town Hall is flying the rainbow flag to wave off the current Mr Gay World on his journey to judge this year’s contest.
Stuart Hatton is travelling from his home in South Tyneside to South Africa at the weekend to hand over the title.
To know that South Tyneside Council is supporting equality for the LGBT community it fantastic and I hope that the young gay people in our town know that there is support out there for them.Stuart Hatton
To celebrate all he’s done to tackle homophobia, South Tyneside Council bosses flew the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community flag’s above the building in Westoe Road, South Shields.
The 29-year-old, co-principal at his family’s dance studio, the Hatton Academy of Dance in South Shields, said: “I’m so excited to go to South Africa.
“I don’t feel so much like I’m handing the crown over but, rather, welcoming another person into the Mr Gay World family.
“I’m really good friends with the winner from the year before me, and it’ll be great to welcome someone else into the gang.
“I’ve never been to South Africa before, so I’m really looking forward to going and to judging the contestants from around the world to find the new Mr Gay World.
“Unfortunately, the title won’t be coming back to the UK this time because I’m still the reigning Mr Gay UK and, because I’m judging this year, I can’t enter.”
Since being named Mr Gay World, Stuart has started his own campaign, We Say So What, to combat homophobic bullying.
The campaign has seen hundreds of people share images of themselves, with the slogan ‘so what?’ written on the palms of their hands, on social media.
Stuart added: “It just felt absolutely lovely walking up towards the town hall and seeing the LGBT flag flying over my home town. It was just overwhelming.
“To know that South Tyneside Council is supporting equality for the LGBT community is fantastic, and I hope that young, gay people in our town know that there is support out there for them.
“I hope that flying the flag proudly above South Shields makes them feel confident that they can be themselves.”
The Mayor of South Tyneside, Coun Fay Cunningham, said: “The Mayoress and I are delighted to send off Stuart on his latest venture by raising the rainbow flag, which is known across the world as a sign of diversity and inclusiveness.
“I am proud to be the first citizen of a borough which values the diversity of its communities so highly.
“Stuart is an excellent role model who has used his success in competitions to combat homophobic bullying, and for this he is to be commended.”