The farming community is often viewed upon as a very masculine industry; where many men feel as though they can’t live their authentic life in fear of backlash from other members of their community leaving many men contemplating suicide.
Countryfile is a well-known programme that traditionally covers agricultural and environmental issues found in the UK countryside however, recently the programme chose to cover a much more intimate and personal issue that many people may not be aware of.
On Sunday’s show, presenter Tom Heap introduced the segment with some hard-hitting statistics: “approximately 50 famers a year kill themselves every year” and “1 in 4 gay or bisexual men have attempted suicide”.
The subject of homosexuality within the farming community was put into the spotlight for the first time in the film, God’s Own Country. The movie, that has gained global success, follows the life of a young male sheep farmer that falls in love with a male Romanian migrant worker. Although the film has received numerous accolades for its storyline – the story isn’t as romantic in real life.
Steven Mole, a 52-year-old cattle farmer said: “I’ve never met a gay farmer in my life, well not knowingly anyway. I don’t think I even know of any, it’s never really crossed my mind until you asked”.
Heap investigates the topic further and meets with a Keith Ineson a retired agricultural chaplain and runs the only gay farmers helpline in the UK to discuss why the so many farmers repress their sexuality – only to discover that it mainly because they fear that revealing their true identity will only cast failure and shame upon the family and because they don’t want to let their wives down, revealing that many gay farmers marry into a heterosexual relationship due to tradition and peer pressure.
Andy Moore, a 56-year-old gay retired stud farmer said: “So many of my horsey friends are gay. I think it is much more acceptable to be gay in my old line of work because equestrian based sports and shows are more related to women, aren’t they? When it comes to gay farmers, I really can’t say I know of a single one. They must exist, it just must be harder for them to come out because of the work they do, it’s considered very manly isn’t it.”
One farmer that was brave enough to tell his story that captured the hearts of many viewers watching the show is named Frank. He was indeed one of many farm workers that had reached out to Keith via his hotline.
Frank met with Keith and opened up about his story admitting that he “knew he was gay from very early years” resulting in him getting severe depression and contemplating suicide. When asked why he repressed his sexuality for all these years Frank responded: “In farming, being as macho as it is, who wants a gay, weak, workman?”
For anyone that has been affected by any of these issues please contact Keith Ineson’s Gay Farmer Helpline – not only has he helped Frank that was featured in this episode, he has helped many farmers worldwide with issues about their sexuality.
You can watch this episode on BBC iPlayer.