In some ways Luke Holland is just your average British teenager. But Holland is also an 18-year-old entrepreneur in Birmingham, England, who launched his own environmentally friendly cleaning company when he was just 17 and recently came out as gay despite living in what has been described as one of England's more conservative regions.
That's certainly courageous, but what's newsworthy is that Holland came out in the middle of his political campaign as an independent candidate to be Birmingham's Kings Heath and Mosley's ward councillor. A ward councillor's position is roughly equivalent to a city council member's duties stateside.
If he wins today's election, Holland will be the youngest elected official in the U.K.
Considered a serious candidate, Holland took time during the final hours of campaigning to answer a few questions via email for The Advocate. Find out what motivates this ambitious British teen, who happens to be gay, and why he won't be a career politician -- even if today's election goes in his favor.
The Advocate: To be clear, did you come out during or before your election campaign?
Luke Holland: Yes, I came out during the election campaign, [but it] was nothing to do with the election, though. It was the right time for me in my mind.
How does being gay and out in an election campaign change things compared to being a straight candidate?
Not much, really. A few people will just not vote for you because you're gay -- [because] obviously being gay makes you so different?! That's sadly the fact of life. You just ignore it and move on. At the end of the day, gay, straight, Muslim, Christian, etc., we are all human.
It sounds like your motivation to run is based largely on creating a more equitable local economy. Why is that important to you?
That's not really one of my main reasons, to be honest. My main reason to stand was that I was fed up [with] the Independent line because no one represented me. I had enough, so I thought, What's stopping me? Nothing! Let's stand!
We understand you'll be the youngest councillor elected to office in Britain if you should win; how old are you?
I'm 18 years old, and if elected, yes, I'd be Britain's youngest councillor, a title that doesn't matter to me. Whatever your age, you can do anything you want. Age is not a barrier.
How will you work to help your LGBT constituents if elected?
Hopefully by me being open as gay, people will feel more confident about being gay. When it comes to dealing with LGBT constituents, I'll treat anyone who comes to me with an issue with love and compassion, and will try to resolve their issues.
You've said you don't want to be a career politician. What makes you so sure you won't catch the political bug and want to continue as an elected public servant?
If I believe I can benefit my great city of Birmingham more after my four years, I will re-stand. But I obviously can't make that judgment now!
You've said that if elected, you'll give away your salary. What are some of the projects you'd finance with that donation?
I'm not elected yet, so I've not received a penny yet. I think you mean what I will give away -- there's more info on that here.
Your conservative community's response to you as a young gay man has been largely positive. Why do you think your fears about coming out turned out to be unfounded?
Most of the community was ace, and you get some vile people who are homophobic and proud, but that's life. People really didn't care [that I am gay]. One of my friends said, "You're still Luke, right? What's different?" The reaction of people was an "unshocked vibe" because, to be frank, it was most obvious that I was gay.
I had struggled with being gay for years; I'd spent sleepless nights researching "gay cures" because I was born in an area where being gay just wasn't normal. I moved away and became confident in who I was, and then one day while walking to the bus, I thought enough was enough. I am proud of who I am, I'm not hiding anymore. So I did the 2015 thing and came out through Facebook. [Such] glamour, right?
Any words of advice for LGBT young people who feel isolated?
I'd say just remember that "normal" is not a word -- everyone is completely different, and nothing about being gay is wrong. If you are a boy and fancy half of your male classmates, that's normal. Enjoy the fact you're gay! It's so much fun! Thrive on being gay.
People say vile stuff, but you just ignore it. I've been blamed for all sorts [of things]. I got an email last week blaming me for the fact this guy's bus was late. Ridiculous, right? Laugh off some hate, because it's that stupid. But if it does become serious, get the police onto them.
How about a couple of words of advice for young LGBT entrepreneurs?
[Laughs] It's so weird being called an "entrepreneur." My (lefty hippy) advice: Remember what's happening in the real world. If life were all suits, ties, and posh balls, then why does the word "poverty" exist? I try to be as ethical as I can in my business, environmentally and human-ly. I always remember the fact of why I wanted to set up a business -- not for the money but to make an impact on the environment locally -- a good impact.